Thursday, January 31, 2008

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

Golden Palm winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is finally making it to Austin theaters starting February 15th - mark your film calendars...

Dirt Road to Psychedelia

If you missed it at the Austin Film Festival last October, you can catch Scott Conn's excellent Austin music documentary, Dirt Road to Psychedelia: Austin, Tx during the 1960s, this Monday night - Feb. 4th - at the Alamo Ritz...

Monday, January 28, 2008

AFF @ 15

Join us as we celebrate our 15th anniversary by retelling the greatest moments and success stories from AFF history with new blog posts every Monday! Whether you’ve been year or have yet to come, you’ll get the behind-the-scenes info on the encounters and events still being talked about today. Then come out and make history of your own at the 15th Annual Austin Film Festival, October 16-23, 2008.

Looking back to the 7th annual Austin Film Festival in 2000, this photos is of Scott Rosenberg and Ed Solomon during the panel Uncontested Comedy Champs at the Omni Hotel.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

AFF Films Get Oscar Nominations!

Lots of AFF selections and screenings have received Oscar nominations this year! Congrats to all the filmmakers!

Away From Her (member screening)
Best Adapted Screenplay, Sarah Polley
Best Actress, Julie Christie

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (official selection)
Best Director, Julian Schnabel
Best Adapted Screenplay, Ronald Harwood
Best Cinematography, Janusz Kaminski
Best Editing, Juliette Welfling

I Met the Walrus (official selection)
Best Animated Short

Juno (official selection)
Best Picture
Best Director, Jason Reitman
Best Original Screenplay, Diablo Cody
Best Actress, Ellen Page

The Kite Runner (member screening)
Best Score, Alberto Iglesias

Lars and the Real Girl (official selection)
Best Original Screenplay, Nancy Oliver

Ratatouille (member screening)
Best Animated Feature
Best Original Screenplay, Brad Bird
Best Score, Michael Giacchino
Best Sound Mixing
Best Sound Editing

The Savages (official selection)
Best Actress, Laura Linney
Best Original Screenplay, Tamara Jenkins

Taxi to the Darkside (official selection)
Best Documentary

War/Dance (official selection)
Best Documentary

Monday, January 21, 2008

AFF @ 15

Join us as we celebrate our 15th anniversary by retelling the greatest moments and success stories from AFF history with new blog posts every Monday! Whether you’ve been year or have yet to come, you’ll get the behind-the-scenes info on the encounters and events still being talked about today. Then come out and make history of your own at the 15th Annual Austin Film Festival, October 16-23, 2008.

Since I moved to Austin in 1997 I have never missed an AFF (admittedly, it was easier not to miss once as full time staff) and one of my favorite highlights year after year are always the retrospectives. From Robert Altman presenting Nashville to Buck Henry screening The Graduate to James L. Brooks with Terms of Endearment. But I have to say one of my favorite moments was when the late Joseph Stefano hosted a late night screening of Psycho at the Paramount Theatre in 1999. The Q&A went over time, but Mr. Stefano was not about to end the discussion, he took the Q&A out into the lobby of the theatre and kept taking questions about writing the film and being a young guy working with Hitchcock until late into the night. We missed out on a party, but it did not matter, Joseph Stefano was a great storyteller.

(I was happy to find myself in this photo, wearing a brown shirt, in the top middle of the frame.)

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

AFF 2005 Audience Award Winner Backseat Finds Distribution!

Congratulations to Josh Alexander and the whole team behind Backseat (AFF 2005 Audience Award Winner for Narrative Feature) for receiving distribution through Truly Indie! The film opens in New York on March 28th.

Monday, January 14, 2008

AFF @ 15

Severiano Canales was the 2007 Screenplay Competition winner in the Comedy category. Over the past 15 years AFF has had the pleasure of meeting many talented, young writers and welcoming them to the Austin Film Festival community. Every writer has an interesting story and Seve's story is no exception...

MARY: Seve, you heard about the competition through USC’s writing program. What interested you about AFF’s competition?

SEVE: I was actually attracted to AFF’s competition because of the TV categories. Specs are such weird things. I mean, they can get you a job or maybe representation, but they’re mostly just un-produceable, un-sellable exercises. I was proud of my BATTLESTAR GALACTICA spec and eager to share it. The AFF is one of the few places, apart from network fellowships, that cares about TV specs. So, I jumped at the chance of sending it to the AFF. I only sent POCKET PROTECTOR as an afterthought because there was still money left over in USC’s contest fund. I didn’t think I had much of a chance because I figured the field would be a lot bigger. So, it was just dumb luck, but as a rule, I try to take advantage of every opportunity to send my scripts to fellowships and contests. The Austin Film Festival stands out because it is a legitimate film festival that recognizes the importance of writers, which is an

MARY: You weren’t always at USC and on the road to becoming a screenwriter. You were first studying at MIT. What happened that made you make that great change?

SEVE: I was very good at math and science growing up, and I loved taking things apart. So, from a very young age, it was pretty much a given that I would study engineering. When I got into MIT, I had to go. It was a no-brainer. And, I loved it. That’s something people don’t understand. I didn’t switch because I hated engineering. I just don’t love it as much as movies. I’m obsessed with movies. And, in an environment where most people were obsessed with coding, it was easy to see I was different.

But, it was at MIT that I first seriously studied film. They make it mandatory to take a lot of humanities classes (they fear that most of the students wouldn’t take any if not forced and they’re probably right). I decided to concentrate in media studies and took as many film classes as I could. In fact, I was one class away from a media studies minor (something I found out much too late in my senior year). Boston really refined my movie taste and knowledge. Growing up in Miami, I didn’t really have access to any independent movies. At MIT, I had an indie movie theater within walking distance. Writing scripts stemmed from my love of movies. I always wanted to shoot some films but in those pre-YouTube days there wasn’t a lot of places to exhibit them or any interest from my friends. I started writing as a way to get these ideas out. I just write down the movie I see in my head. During the summer of my Junior year, I finished an embarrassingly autobiographic screenplay that – while very rough – convinced me I could actually do it.

After I got an A+ in my product design class solely because I shot an admittedly kick-ass commercial for the product, I decided to apply to screenwriting grad programs. I got accepted to the two I applied for but was rejected by the majority of engineering schools. This I took as a sign. So, I turned down a job at a Georgia Tech lab specializing in robots for the poultry industry and I moved to LA. Two years later, I’m still here.

But, I really should point out that in my mind the basics of design – what I was always most interested – and screenwriting are the same. They come to me from the same place. They both have to meet certain technical requirements. The components must come together to form a whole. You have to know what your customer (or audience) wants and you gotta give it to them. There is a lot of creativity involved in engineering, which is something that may not be immediately apparent. And, in turn, screenwriting is basically one giant problem-solving exercise. I think about it as coming up with an interesting problem and then solving it in the craziest, most exciting way.

MARY: What are you up to now?

SEVE: I just finished the National Hispanic Media Coalition’s TV Writer’s program, which is sponsored by NBC and ABC. In the five-week program, I wrote a RESCUE ME spec. It was kinda crazy because I found out I was a finalist for the program at Austin, and I had to interview between panels.

Now, I’m working as an assistant at a production company and on a big superhero script on the side. I’m a huge geek, obviously, and I’m really interested in writing for comics and video games. So, I‘m supplementing the hours of HALO 3 and GUITAR HERO with, what I think will be, a pretty cool sample.

MARY:Any advice to other students out there looking at competitions?

SEVE: Just do it. (Do I have to pay Nike something now?) I never imagined anyone would ever even get POCKET PROTECTOR, much less like it, but here I am. With competitions, there is no barrier between you and the people reading the scripts. You don’t need to know anyone to get it read. You just have to pay a nominal fee and it’s definitely worth it because you never know. It’s not even the possibility of money that makes it worth it. It’s all about meeting others in the same boat. Writing can be a very lonely pursuit, but competitions can make it less so by connecting you to people with the same goals and interests, which I found surprising and extremely inspiring. Obviously, there are a lot of dubious competitions out there and winning some obscure online contest probably won’t make much of a difference. But, there are plenty of great fellowships out there and, of course, there’s the Austin Film Festival, which I cannot recommend enough. As a screenwriter, I’ve never felt so welcomed and loved as in Austin, which is an incredibly rare feeling in our business. You guys should be commended and recognized for striving to help screenwriters and really treating everybody, from second rounders on up, the same. Austin is a competition where you don’t have to win to be part of the community and that makes it absolutely essential.

The Screenplay and Teleplay Competitions are now open. You can learn more about this year's competition and download your 2008 entry form at

Friday, January 11, 2008

Filmmakers in Action.

One of the best blogs on the net is run by Tom Sutpen and company over at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats. Every day they post some of the finest photographs of the 20th century, from high brow to pop culture. There most recent post is a fantastic collection of filmmakers in action.

Keep up the great work guys!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

new Starting Out In The Evening site

Speaking of Andrew Wagner and AFF 07 selection Starting Out In The Evening, we just got an e-mail from Andrew letting us know about the film's new website. Be sure to check it out to find out when this great film will be screening in your town...

Roadside Attractions is proud to announce the release of the website for the critically acclaimed, award winning film, “Starting Out In The Evening” starring Frank Langella.

To view the trailer, reviews, awards, and theater locations please click

Monday, January 07, 2008


Join us as we celebrate our 15th anniversary by retelling the greatest moments and success stories from AFF history with new blog posts every Monday! Whether you’ve been to every festival or have yet to come, you’ll get the behind-the-scenes info on the encounters and events still being talked about today. Then come out and make history of your own at the 15th Annual Austin Film Festival, October 16-23, 2008.

This photo was taken at this past year’s festival at the screening of STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING. Andrew Wagner (Writer/Director) and Fred Parnes (Writer) attended the festival with the film and participated on the panel BOTTOM LINE: Writing As A Team.

During the panel Andrew discussed what the writing process was like when writing with a partner.

“In our case, I’ll just start from my own personal experience I have been writing for almost 25 years. I’d always written alone and it was a really compelling experience to collaborate writing together. It was almost 2 years and really ended up being an extraordinary experience. And I agree with Fred- that when there is 2 people in a room together you can really push an idea to its depth, to its roots, to its source- to where you can really to find the truth of the scene.”

made several critics favorite films of 2007. Including The New York Times, The Washington Post and AP’s David Germain’s top 10 list.

2007: The Year in Docs

Newly minted Austinite Agnes Varnum has a great new column on Indiewire about the state of the documentary in 2007, and includes an update on AFF 2007 selection Mississippi Chicken.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Letterman's Top Ten Demands of the Striking Writers.

David Letterman(left, with a stylish if slightly crazy beard) returned to the airwaves last night (with a WGA sanctioned deal for his writers to start working again). His first top ten, delivered by some top comedy writers, is below.

Top 10 Demands of the Striking Writers

10. The Daily Show's Tim Carvell: Complimentary tote bag with next insulting contract offer.

9. The Colbert Report's Laura Kraft: No rollbacks in health benefits, so I can treat the hypothermia I caught on the picket lines.

8. Soap writer Melissa Salmons: Full salary and benefits for my imaginary writing partner, Lester.

7. Law & Order: Criminal Intent's Warren Leight: Members of the AMPTP must explain what the hell AMPTP stands for.

6. The Colbert Report's Jay Katsir: No disciplinary action taken against any writer caught having inappropriate relationship with a copier.

5. The Daily Show's Steve Bodow: I’d like a date with a woman.

4. Writer/director Nora Ephron: Hazard pay for breaking up fights on The View.

3. Law & Order's Gina Gionfriddo: I’m no accountant, but instead of us getting four cents for a $20 DVD, how about we get $20 for a four cent DVD?

2. Late Night's Chris Albers: I don’t have a joke – I just want to remind everyone that we’re on strike, so none of us are responsible for this lame list.

1. Writer Alan Zwiebel: Producers must immediately remove their heads from their asses.