Friday, August 31, 2007

Creator of "Moonlighting" & "Medium" to receive Outstanding Television Writer Award!

In 1985 Caron created the groundbreaking television phenomenon “Moonlighting.” The series had a cinematic, stylized feel evocative of 1940’s film-noir that transformed what could have been a formulaic storyline into one of the most successful and inventive series of its time.

Caron’s most recent work is as the creator and executive producer of NBC’s Emmy-winning series “Medium” starring Patricia Arquette. The series is based on the true-life story of psychic medium Alison DuBois who uses her psychic abilities to help law enforcement agencies across the country solve crimes.

“We’re honored to recognize Glenn Gordon Caron’s contribution to television writing,” said Barbara Morgan, Austin Film Festival co-founder and executive director. “He’s developed and worked on some of the most popular and important shows in television history and we’re all eager to learn more about the man behind some of TV’s most memorable characters. We couldn’t be more excited that Mr. Caron will join us in our fourteenth year of celebrating writers and their craft.”

Monday, August 20, 2007

Austin Stories: I thought I was getting punk'd!

Here is another installment of an Austin Story by Karl Williams. Karl Williams won 3 awards in 2005 for "Punctured" and "Superego" in the comedy and sci-fi categories. His script "Punctured" is now in production and he will return to the festival this year.

When I got the call from the Austin Film Festival that both of my scripts had made the finals, my heart was in my throat. It stayed there for the next several weeks as we made the courageous (or incredibly dumb, I am not sure there's a difference) decision to bring our five-month-old son Jack with us to the festival.

As we pushed Jack in his stroller down the sunny streets toward the Austin Club, I confided in my wife Lisa that I "knew" I wasn't going to win anything. My elaborate theory included my multiple finalist scripts cancelling each other out, as well as the surely dawning realization all over the state of Texas that I was a no-talent loser. Appalled, Lisa requested I not sit near her and Jack at the awards luncheon, because I was ruining her appetite as well as forcing her to re-evaluate her choice of life mate.

Sandwiched between a legendary Hollywood talent agent and even more legendary writer-director, my wife chit-chatted amiably with her new best friends while I shyly sat frozen in despair, waiting for someone else's name to be called. And then the Sci-Fi Award was announced, and it sounded suspiciously like my name that was being called.

Thinking it would be bad luck to prepare remarks in writing, I had nothing ready, so I winged a standard acceptance speech (at least I remembered to thank Lisa and the AFF). I hustled off stage, relieved. I had won something, making the difficult trip with our baby worth it, my wife was thrilled, and maybe it would do something for my career. Never having won a thing in my life, I knew I'd treasure the AFF's cool bronze typewriter trophy, one of the best-designed awards a writer can hope for. And what's more, I was done – now I could eat, drink, and merrily savor the rest of the luncheon.

As I piled into my salad and chicken, the Comedy Award was announced and my name was read again, for the same script, "Punctured." Stunned and unsure if a mistake was being made, and believing I might have inhaled a crouton, I hesitantly took the stage and accepted.

Having nothing more to say, I mumbled something about needing prescription medication even as I noticed that Harold Ramis and Buck Henry were sitting directly in front me, smiling politely. I can only imagine what they were thinking as they watched some dude in a sweater vest win an award for writing comedy, a subject about which they have certainly forgotten more than I'll ever know.

After having been borne on a makeshift litter back to my seat by a helpful festival staff, an inaugural award from the University of Texas was announced, and my name was read an unbelievable third time. At this point, I was certain that I was being "Punk'd" and suspiciously scanned the room for Ashton Kutcher. I have no clue what I said as I got up on stage yet again, though I wish it was "You like me! You really like me!" The image frozen in my mind from that moment is my wife war-whooping at our table with our son in her arms.

The next night and day were a blur of hearty congratulations, calls from producers and agents as my manager got the word out about my hat trick, and conversations with some amazing people such as Shane Black. And, although it took some time, I ended up with an agent, my double-winning script "Punctured" sold, and it's now in pre-production for a fall shoot.

The best part of the festival wasn't winning, however: it was making a few new friends like Jeremy Wadzinski and Nick Sidorovich, talented writers and all-around great guys with whom I have stayed in touch. Both of them have also parlayed finalist status at Austin into success as screenwriters. To me, that sense of community with other writers is really what the AFF is all about, and the best reason for attending – and it's why I'll be there again in October.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Austin Stories: Back in October

Mary and Jeff from Pirate Radio U.S.A

Austin was awesome! The fact that it is also a writer’s festival is a bonus, because you get to meet lots of cool writers, plus there were panels and a lot of good information being passed along. The first night we were there, we went to a party (with excellent drinks, a sign of good things to come) and ran into some folks we hadn’t seen in about 10 years---and we were all there with our movies! We enjoyed lots of swell parties, fun folks from Austin showing us a good time, and yes, really great films too. Even our friends’ movie was great! There were two screenings of our film at The Hideout, and both were full houses. Lots of publicity----we hung flyers around, but the festival staff arranged for two radio appearances for us too. It was the most mainstream radio press we’d had at that point, which was excellent, especially for a couple of radio pirates doing a movie about pirate radio. And they even liked us! To top it all off, we wound up meeting the folks from B-Side Entertainment who would be distributing our movie. That’s what many people hope to get from their film festival experience, and it’s more than we expected when we got on that plane to Austin back in October.

Early Registration ends on September 17. Purchase your badge and Awards Luncheon Ticket today and save money! For a list of Confirmed Panelist for the 2007 Austin Film Festival check out .

Monday, August 13, 2007

Austin Stories: Movies, Snacks, Hanging out and totally Jazzed about Film

Sate to Stella Panel From Left: David Wain, Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter

I'm really interested in film, but at this point, I haven't been involved in any filmmaking, other than that time I read the school lunch menu on the local news back in '88. Anyway, I got a producer's badge for AFF last year so I could get into any and everything I wanted. I saw lots of great films from all over the world, checked out some fun panels, went to some
fancypants parties, and basically got to be a big shot for five days.

I would flash the badge, step inside. It was great. I really enjoyed the short film groupings because I could see four or five in one sitting, and most of the directors were in attendence for Q/A. I loved seeing "Stories of Disenchantment" (Historias Del Desencanto) at the huge IMAX screen, and seeing the Tenacious D movie before any of my friends was a great in-your-face. The Stella panel was hilarious. It was almost like watching them do a sketch.

Oh! And I saw that guy from that one movie. You know who I'm talking about? Yeah! Movies, snacks, and hanging out in lobbies listening to hungry filmmakers talk to one another about their sceenplays. It's rough out there! When it was all over with, I was totally jazzed about film.

I wrote a screenplay about giant vampire robots that threaten to drink up the world's oil supply. I worked really hard on it and used like 28 sheets of paper (it's a feature). Yeah, it's making the rounds. But, I don't know. Do you want to look it over? Do you know anybody? I'm in trouble here. I took out a third mortgage for this thing.
Find me at the next AFF.

---Travis Nichols, 2006 Austin Film Festival and Conference Registrant

Early Registration ends on September 17. Purchase your badge and Awards Luncheon Ticket today and save money! For a list of Confirmed Panelist for the 2007 Austin Film Festival check out .

Friday, August 10, 2007

Austin Stories: Hope Dickson Leach

Hope Dickson Leach attended the 2006 Austin Film Festival with her short film The Dawn Chorus. Hope was recently listed in Filmmaker's Magazines 25 Faces Of Independant Film. The Dawn Chorus played in Shorts Program 5

I had a terrible cold when I arrived in Austin. The sunshine was a real tonic, but nothing could stop me sneezing.

The night before the awards ceremony I went to bed early, unable to talk to anyone at the parties through my sniffling nose and my red eyes. My producer, however, went off into the night, and returned in the early hours telling me I HAD to go to the Awards luncheon the next day.

So I dressed in something just smarter than pajamas, and shuffled along. When my name was called for the prize for Student Narrative Short, the sneezing stopped and my head cleared. It was a great moment. I'm not sure how much sense I made at the podium, but at least I didn't cover it in snot.

Later that evening, I bumped into one of the jurors who told me that I must keep on making films. That has kept me going - and I have Austin to thank for it.

Hope Dickson Leach attended the 2006 Austin Film Festival with her short film The Dawn Chorus. Hope was recently listed in Filmmaker's Magazines 25 Faces Of Independant Film. The Dawn Chorus played in Shorts Program 5.

Early Registration ends on September 17. Purchase your badge and Awards Luncheon Ticket today and save money!

For a list of Confirmed Panelist for the 2007 Austin Film Festival check out .

Monday, August 06, 2007

One-on-One with Scott Alexander

Scott Alexander is best known for the unusual biopics he has written with Larry Karaszewski. Alexander and Karaszewski wrote the highly–acclaimed Ed Wood, which was nominated for Best Screenplay by the Writers Guild. They followed this with The People Vs. Larry Flint, for which they won the Golden Globe Award, as well as the Writers Guild Paul Selvin Award.

Linnea: You recently appeared in Dreams on Spec, a documentary touching on the struggles and triumphs of emerging Hollywood screenwriters. What kind of advice would you offer to new writers? How difficult is it today to get your spec script turned into a film?

My advice to new writers has never changed: Write something unusual. Write something with a striking point-of-view that people will remember. Don't try to break in by jumping on the "hot trend"... that's not the way to get noticed. My partner and I had a middling family comedy career until we wrote ED WOOD, which was anything but commercial. But it was different, and memorable, and it got us noticed.

Most scripts don't get made, but the good ones get passed around. There's a huge community of assistants looking to impress their bosses with the next "find." That doesn't always mean a giant spec sale, but it can mean the writer gets invited in, and soon after that he gets a job! So write something you're passionate about.

Linnea: How did you and Larry Karaszewski end up re-working Matt Greenberg's adaptation of 1408 from Steven King's short story? What was that process like?

We came on 1408 as a 3-week rewrite, and stayed for almost 2 years! We had always wanted to work with the Weinsteins, and we thought the project was a fascinating challenge: Essentially one character in one room. Matt had done a good job of figuring out how to expand a tiny story into a feature structure, and we felt there was limitless potential.

So we met with Bob Weinstein, and he was incredibly encouraging and full of big dreams: He felt the movie could be a classic, if done right. We were a little surprised by these lofty goals, but we took it as a dare and signed up. He encouraged us to be as weird and inexplicable as we wanted, and he told us not to worry about genre expectations -- focus on character.

So we slowed down the script. Matt's draft was a very tight genre piece with scares right from the opening scene. We were encouraged to take our time, and play out a full thirty-minute first act, getting to know Cusack's character. Once we got in the room, we chopped down the flashbacks and really tried to explore the full situation, not being afraid to park in the room. To look for every milkable opportunity. This led to us adding fun additional sequences, such as the doppelganger across the street, or the mints on the pillow, or Mr. Olin inside the fridge. We also enjoyed lacing in numerous visual clues and motifs, which make the film very rewatchable. The film is designed to make you argue with your friends afterwards, dissecting it all.

Bob also encouraged us to drag out the return to California sequence, which was utter madness. It went from 2 pages to 11! Considering it's all a hallucination, this is pretty avant-garde. Though the test audiences went a little nutty there, so we cut it down to 5 or 6 minutes.

We also did more writing during post than we've ever done on any other movie... constantly exploring new approaches through pick-up shots, reshoots, ADR, editing-room reordering. It was utterly fascinating how things evolved. Like being back in film school.

Linnea: Several reviews are calling the psychological thriller 1408 one of the best Steven King films since The Shining. What was it like writing for this type of genre?

Writing this movie was a blast, particularly since nobody asked us to change our style. We like writing very specific characters shaded with lots of comedy. We are incapable of writing serious scenes without incorporating humor -- that's what life is like. And although Mikael Hafstrom initially appeared to be an intimidating Swedish man, he is actually quite playful, with a dark sense of humor. I can't remember one joke that he asked us to take out, because it broke the mood. And that shows a lot of confidence on his part -- many directors are afraid to mix tone.

Our producer, Lorenzo diBonaventura, was a hoot, reveling in the 2001-what-the-hell is-going-on-here of it all. He was gleeful: "I've made 156 movies, and this is the first one without rules! Go for it!" It made for a really fun team: We spent the time talking about Bergman and Polanski movies, then tried to make the flick as bizarre as possible. But -- it was always about Mike Enslin's journey, so that kept us grounded.

I've really pleased that the movie was received as one of the good Stephen King films, because we were all genuinely swinging for the fences. We wanted the movie to be scary and unsettling, but we never wanted to pander to the audience. Plus, because the movie was about an author talking to his recorder, we were able to incorporate a literacy into his dialogue that was quite satisfying to write.

Linnea: 1408 will be released on DVD with an added alternate ending that was said to be "too much of a downer" by the director Mikael Håfström. Without giving anything away, which ending do you prefer/think is more suitable for the movie?

Oh God! What a loaded question. It's hard to answer, considering my DAUGHTER was in one of the deleted endings! In a nutshell, it came down to whether Mike Enslin lived or died. Larry and I felt strongly that we should kill him, that that made for the purist resolution to the tale. Although he didn't die in the short story, or in Matt's draft, this struck us as the logical, most satisfying ending. Mikael completely backed us, and that was the ending of the shooting script. Mike living was a simple alternate that Bob had us put in for protection.

What happened in the test screenings, honestly, was that audiences loved John Cusack in the part. And after all the shit we put him through, they wanted to see him survive. The performance engenders so much empathy that people wanted to see him victorious. Not "heroic," or a "winner," in the hack sense, but they wanted him to earn something for his suffering. And it's certainly not a happy ending -- it has its own dislocation.

After these screening results, everybody on the team was baffled, because killing him was intellectually so superior. Why wasn't it playing better? I actually suggested a theory that we hadn't allowed the audience to grieve, which led to an elaborate reshoot involving a funeral. All of us working on the film were really pleased -- it tied all the story strands together, it had emotion, and it had a jump scare! (Plus, my daughter.) What else could you possibly want from an ending?

And -- the audience surprised us again. They STILL preferred him living! We were mystified, but gave in. It wasn't about us sacrificing our artistic integrity, because we were constantly open to exploring new roads with this project. In the last year, we had 1000s of philosophical arguments about possible conclusions, parsing every conceivable interpretation. But in the end, people identified with Mike, and they wanted him to have a small moment of pleasure with his former wife, and was that asking too much?

Linnea: You are an experienced writer, director and producer with a Golden Globe win and two nominations for your writing. What have been some of the other triumphs in your career?

Easily, the biggest triumph was the fact that ED WOOD got made, exactly as we had hoped and dreamed. It was a perfect experience. Tim Burton was delightful and in-sync with us, Johnny and Martin were fabulous, and being on the set everyday was a joy.

The fact that this incredibly special movie got produced, with Tim shooting our first draft, and a studio financing it, in black-and-white, is like some weird dream. Did it really happen? I sadly can't imagine ever pulling off a feat like that again, particularly in the current Hollywood environment. So I have to cherish the memories, and I'm immensely proud of the result.

The other obvious victory in my career is making LARRY FLYNT, which also turned out terrific. It didn't have the fever-dream quality of ED WOOD, but maybe at that point I was spoiled and didn't realize the incredibly lucky bubble I had created for myself. To look back on it now... to realize that our porn king pitch led to a totally enthusiastic studio, a sizable budget, and Milos Forman directing, is astonishing. Who knew the '90s were such an exciting time for American cinema?

Wow. Looking back, I guess 1994 was the best year of my life. My first child was born, ED WOOD got released, and I was writing LARRY FLYNT. Where's Doc Brown with his time machine? I want to go back!

Linnea: Are you currently working on any projects? Can you tell us anything about them?

Haven't I talked too much already? Go click on someone else's page!

Larry and I are always juggling a few things, but primarily, we're prepping a biopic set in the world of modern art. We've secretly worked on this spec script for four years, and we're currently arranging financing so that we can direct it. The tone is like our other biopics: Funny, strange, and sad. It should be really cool.

I shouldn't chat about other projects, because they'll probably become doomed if I do. Life in Hollywood is completely unpredictable. Every time I think my life is planned out, six months later prove me wrong. Every movie I thought was going dies, and surprise ones come to life instead. So if you want your life to be full of certainty, go sell insurance. Don't become a writer.

Linnea: Scott, thank you so much for answering some questions for us! Can't wait to see you in October!

I'm looking forward to Austin. But no drinking before sundown.