Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Larry Wilmore Confirmed Panelist for 2007 AFF

Larry Wilmore will attend this year's AFF as a panelist (schedule permitting). Larry has written for several sitcoms, including In Living Color, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and The Jaime Foxx Show. Wimore won an Emmy, a Peabody, and a Humanitas Award for his outstanding work as creator and executive producer of The Bernie Mac Show. He is currently a correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Pictured: Larry Wilmore at the Young Filmmakers Roundtable during the 2006 AFF and Coference.

Austin Stories

We are already gearing up for the 2007 Austin Film Festival and with every confirmed panelist I get more excited about the Conference!

For the past three years, I have been able to attend the festival, typically working for the festival in some capacity and whenever I could spare a few minutes, I would sneak into a panel that I was dying to see, or a movie that I was desperate to watch before I had to get back to work. And every year there is a favorite memory or moment that I end up always thinking of. Here are two personal memories from my past years at AFF.

In 2005 screenwriter/director Judd Apatow was a panelist. He was on several panels two of which I got to see. The first was a screening called “Judd Apatow Presents” and the second being the Up Close and Personal with Harold Ramis panel, which Judd moderated. At the time I was the Production Manager for the Film Festival and usually I was fluttering between venues making sure things were good to go. Friday night of the Festival, “Judd Apatow Presents” a retrospective/interactive screening with dialogue from Judd Apatow about his North Hollywood pilot and unseen dailies and outtakes of 40 Year Old Virgin was happening at the SFA Theater. Once I got to the SFA Theater Judd Apatow was there with a bottle of wine and three glasses – one for him, one for our Film Program Director, Kelly Williams, and one for me. I typically don’t drink red wine but I was offered a glass a wine from Judd Apatow! How could I turn it down? Needless to say once the theater was set and the Theater Manager was ready to let guests in- I ended up moving on to the next theater to check in with staff and volunteers.

Another one of those unforgettable memories was last year the night before the Film Festival started at our Film and Food fundraiser. A retrospective screening of The Black Stallion had just finished at the Paramount and it was raining pretty hard. I was standing outside the Driskill when Steve Faber, co-writer of Wedding Crashers, stopped and started to talk to me before heading inside. We some how got onto the topic of documentaries - the best documentaries, the must see of all time documentary, etc. As we chatted we were interrupted by a film print being hand delivered to me. We continued to talk, but now with two film canisters at my feet. Before I realized what was going on Steve Faber picked up a film canister and asked me where we were taking it. Steve and I then carried the film to the Film Festival’s Tech Center a couple blocks away and continued our documentary conversation. From then on out at the festival, if I randomly ran into Steve – a new documentary film title was blurted out between the two of us – “Hey Steve, Hoop Dreams!” would be met with, “Thin Blue Line!”

AFF is interested in hearing your story. Please feel free to email them to me at linnea (@) and we will post them on the AFF blog!

Register Now during Early Registration for a Producers Badge and get entered into a raffle for a One Night Free stay at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel during the 2007 Austin Film Festival. Winner will be announced June 1st.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Checking in with 2006 Teleplay Sitcom Winner Todd Linden

This week we decided to check in with last year’s Sitcom Teleplay Competition Winner Todd Linden. Todd won with his spec script “My Name is Earl.” We thought we would check in with him and see what he is up to now.

Mary: How did you hear about the Austin Film Festival Teleplay Competition? Why did you enter?

Todd: I first found out that the Austin Film Festival had a Teleplay Category after applying the year before to the Warner Bros. Writers Workshop. The director of that program informed us about it. I went online that night and read all about the competition on the AFF website, knowing immediately that I would be submitting my specs there. I submit my spec scripts to as many legit contests and fellowships that I can find, because the more places that read my stuff, the more chances I have to get noticed. The Austin Film Festival gave me that chance to be noticed.

Mary: The AFF Teleplay Competition only accepts specs for currently airing cable and network television shows. Has having a spec for "My Name is Earl" been helpful when pursuing work?

Todd: Well you're not going to get a writing job without examples of your writing to show, so having an "Earl" spec, as well as several other specs, has been a key part of my search for that first staff writing position. But you have to stay current so people know you're in a constant state of writing. Showing a Friends spec you might have written five years ago is going to seem recycled and lazy. Just like AFF, the industry wants to read spec scripts of existing shows to judge your understanding of character voices and ability to come up with creative and solid storylines. I write my specs with that in mind, and then look to contests like AFF to help promote the scripts I've written. Now that my "Earl" spec won AFF, I can send showrunners and studios a critically acclaimed script, which may give it a boost over the competition.

Mary: Since the festival, what have you been up to?

Todd: Writing, and writing a lot. I wrote a spec pilot. Currently I'm working on a couple of different scripts including a "How I Met Your Mother" spec. When I was in Austin I met Brant Rose of the Brant Rose Agency. After winning the sitcom category, he showed interest in meeting me. I met Brant and his partner, Toochis, back in L.A. a couple of months later, and I have since signed with the Brant Rose Agency. I'm still looking for that first professional writing opportunity, but it is such a weight off my back and an added motivation knowing that everything I write now has the ability to be seen all around town with help from my agents. Along with all the writing, of course, I still have to make money, so I continue working in television production. There are pros and cons to working in TV Production as a writer: the main con is you work long hours and have less personal time to write, but the main pro is you meet so many people in the industry who might be able to help you down the road. With all the talent you may have, this is still a profession based on connections.

Mary: Would you encourage others to enter the Teleplay Competition?

Todd: Absolutely. This competition got me my first agent! If you've written a spec script, submit it to as many contests as you can. And if you haven't written a script yet but you want to be a writer, use AFF's deadline as the motivation to start writing. We're all fighting to get noticed, so why not get your stuff out there to as many outlets as possible. By entering the competition I gave myself a chance. By becoming a finalist, I got a free pass to all of the screenings and panels the festival had to offer, which was amazing. And by winning, I have grown more confident in myself as a writer and I have found an agent to get my material out there. Winning that competition was an honor I'll never forget. All you have to lose is a few bucks, but what you have to potentially gain is a chance to launch your writing career.

The Austin Film Festival Teleplay Competition deadline is June 1st. We accept any spec for a currently airing network or cable television program. For more information on this year's Teleplay Competition check out

Monday, April 16, 2007

One on One with Curtis Burch and Latitude Productions

This year the Austin Film Festival added a new category sponsored by a growing company, Latitude Productions. We thought we would take some time to learn a little more about Latitude by asking the President of the company, Curtis Burch to share with us his background and to discuss what Latitude Productions is all about.

Mary: What is Latitude Productions?
Curtis: Latitude Productions was created to provide an experience for writers and filmmakers different than the one most often provided by the studio-based system that I have observed first hand for the last twenty years. What the studios do clearly works on it’s own terms and the studios are powerfully successful entities. Latitude exists, however, as a place where smart, creative people who love and know movies can work in a climate of trust and dignity, where there is no attention given to power politics or to what’s “hot” and what’s not “hot”. It’s the kind of place that I imagined existed when I was a kid and I dreamed about being in the movie business. I was disillusioned when I finally got into it and now I’m trying to rectify the situation for myself and for others whose work I admire. Already, having just gotten started putting together my first slate of development projects, I have found that I am able to create a different relationship with writers than I was able to create when I worked in the system. By that I mean direct and honest “one-on-one” communication, without any attention to how it’s going to play to some kind of higher corporate entity.

Mary: What are you looking for in a script/and or writer?
Curtis: I’m interested in writers who would never think to write something just to sell it. I’m looking for writers who love story and who haven’t been overly influenced by other movies that are currently being produced by the system. I respond to writers that have respect for the great stories that have come before them and who care about character and theme over structural paradigms. As for the type of script, I have no preconceived notions, and certainly not any particular genres in mind. Whatever it is, it must be smart and have about it a joyful expression of the form.

Mary: Your website discusses a "void that exists in today's movie business." What is this void and how does Latitude Productions hope to fill it?

Curtis: I have this belief, which is by no means original, that when the “American Independent” movie was created in the early Eighties, as a response to the “Popcorn/Comic Book/Exploitation” trend that the studios adopted in the late seventies, that it ended up being an over-correction. And that what it left was a state of polarization. Practically everything that is made today is considered either “commerce” or “art”. The void I refer to is that state in the middle, the kind of movies the studios used to make that were both artistic and commercial. Occasionally, the system will make something that falls in between, but it’s often by accident. I’m interested in filling that void with movies that are the best of both worlds.

For more information about Curtis Burch and Latitude Productions visit The Latitude Productions award Looking for adult/character driven scripts with a budget of under 10 million dollars. For a list of this year's complete Screenplay and Teleplay Competition rules please visit our website at Early deadline is May 15th and late deadline is June 1st.

We are looking forward to another year of inspiring entries!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Roadside Attractions takes COLMA

Congrats to Richard Wong and the entire COLMA team! The musical indie which played the Austin Film Festival in October has been picked up by Roadside Attractions. We'll let you know when this amazing indie hits Austin again. From the Hollywood Reporter:

'Colma' in tune with Roadside Attractions
By Gregg Goldstein

April 6, 2007
NEW YORK -- Roadside Attractions has nabbed all worldwide rights to the irreverent indie "Colma: The Musical."

Richard Wong's first feature follows three rebellious high school grads on a voyage of self discovery in Colma, the San Francisco suburb known for its many cemeteries. The gloomy environment provides the backdrop for more than a dozen musical numbers shot in digital video.

"That someone can go out and make an accomplished, full-blown musical on their own is a giant evolution in independent film," said Roadside co-president Eric d'Arbeloff. The distributor plans a domestic theatrical release of "Colma" this summer.

"Colma" earned an IFP Gotham Award nomination for "Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You" last fall and an Independent Spirit Award "Someone to Watch" nom for Wong earlier this year. The film won special jury prizes during its debut at the San Francisco International Asian-American Film Festival and at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

Wong co-wrote the project with H.P. Mendoza, who composed the score and stars in the film with Jake Moreno and L.A. Renigen.

The deal was negotiated by Roadside's d'Arbeloff with Nguyen "Wyn" Tran of sales agent The Institution on behalf of the filmmakers.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Satire 'MILITARY' screens Thursday 4/5 at Lake Creek Drafthouse

Buy tickets now or sign up for free screenings all year by becoming a friend of the Austin Film Festival.

Watch the trailer

Pollack to direct film about 2000 elections

2006 AFF Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking award winner, Sydney Pollack has set his sights on the 2000 elections and the subsequent recounts for his next project.

From The Guardian:

Pollack to lead Recount

Staff and agencies
Tuesday April 3, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

Aftermath of US election 2000
The morning after... competing headlines the day after the 2000 US election. Photograph: Henny Ray Abrams/AFP/Getty

Sydney Pollack, the Oscar-winning director of Three Days of the Condor and Out of Africa, is to direct a film about the 2000 US elections that controversially brought George W Bush to power.

Entitled Recount, the movie will chronicle the month-long storm that followed election day seven years ago, when the results of the poll - which made famous hanging chads and butterfly ballots - hung on a recount of votes in Florida.

Read the full article