Monday, July 25, 2011

18 Days of Austin Film Festival Membership

Do you want to see a bunch of free movies year-round? Do you want discount prices on film related events or to this year's festival? Do you want to look cool? Well, an AFF year-round membership can do all of those for you.

And guess what? If you sign up for a membership from now until August 1st, you could win a daily giveaway from Violet Crown Cinemas, Yoga Yoga, Texas Tribune Festival, Uchi/Uchiko, Pearl Brewery, Fun Fun Fun Fest...the list goes on and on. Free stuff is cool!

You can't get an opportunity like this with any other membership in Austin, so take advantage of it while you have the chance.

Upcoming Member Events:
Fright Night (1985)
How to Eat Fried Worms
Friday Night Lights Membership Happy Hour Event
Friday Night Lights (TV Series)
The Debt - Advance Screening
Piranha (1978)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Interview with "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Seinfeld" Writer Alec Berg

It's shaping up to be a great year for TV and screenwriter Alec Berg, with Larry David, Sacha Cohen and Anna Faris all on his production playlist, and we can't wait to hear all about it this October at the Conference. In the meantime, check out the below brief interview we just did with him. But first, some more info on Alec:

Alec Berg’s television credits include "Seinfeld" where he was a writer and executive producer, and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" where he currently serves as a writer, executive producer and director.

His feature film work includes writing the screenplays for The Cat in the Hat (which was made into a terrible film) and Eurotrip (which he produced and co-directed and is excellent.) He is currently writing and producing The Dictator for Sacha Baron Cohen. He has also done extensive rewriting, having worked on films for Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, Will Smith, Ivan Reitman and Robert Zemeckis.

Alec has been nominated for numerous Emmy awards, a WGA Award, a DGA award and a Razzie (yes, for The Cat in the Hat, it’s that bad.)

Austin Film Festival: Tell us about your new feature THE DICTATOR. How did this project come about?

​Alec Berg: It comes out next May. Sacha Baron Cohen is great in it. The longish, slightly boring story of my involvement: years ago my partners (David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer) and I worked with Larry Charles on Seinfeld. Larry went off to direct Borat, and when they were editing he asked us to come in for a day or two to help them come up with a new ending. In the process we got to know Sacha, who hired us to do a lot of work on Bruno. At that point we had Sacha's ear so we came up with a few ideas and pitched him (among other things)the basic character and story of what became The Dictator. And he said no. To everything we pitched him. Then a few days later he called and said that in spite of his better instincts this Dictator idea had been growing on him, and we started to kick it back and forth and kept getting together and it grew and eventually after several months of working it up we set up a bunch of pitch meetings, took it around and eventually sold it to Paramount, who put it into production.

​I don't want to give away too much other than we shot it over the summer in New York and a bit in Spain, it comes out this May and I think it's really really funny and at one point during production I got urinated on by a cow.

AFF: Can you give us some of your background? How you got involved with
the film industry?

​AB: I was a comedy nerd growing up. I listened to stand-up records the way other kids listened to music. When I was ten I could do hours of Bill Cosby and Steve Martin bits word perfect. I went to high-school in Pasadena, so I was show-business adjacent, just close enough to see it as a possible future. Actually a bunch of people I grew up with ended up working in show business, Ted Griffin, Mike White and Sean Bailey among them. In college I did a lot of film-making and wrote forthe college humor magazine, which got me more interested in the writing side of things. I decided I wanted to give writing a shot before I caved in and got a real job, so after I graduated college I spent about six months living with my parents (who had moved to Massachusetts at this point) writing like a fiend, generating a bunch of samples. Eventually it became clear that (as is the case today) you really have to move to L.A. to get started. So I scraped together enough money to last for a few months and headed out to L.A.. I spent those few months relentlessly calling and harassing anyone and everyone I could, asking them to read my stuff or give me thoughts on how to break in. Finally one small thing led to another until after three years of patchwork jobs, none lasting longer than thirteen weeks, I finally got a break and got hired at the brand new Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Then I got Seinfeld, and that became a bit of a calling card.

AFF: Even though Hollywood operates in trends i.e., indie, high concepts, etc. Do you see a common thread in the stories you tell?

Are you asking if my stories fit into a specific genre? I hope the common thread, should there be one, is that they are funny. But just as importantly that they are well written. Most of what I learned about screenwriting I learned from Larry David. He taught me the value of structure. We would spend weeks and weeks, sometimes months, outlining a single "Seinfeld" episode to the point where you could take that outline and write a draft from it in a couple of days (we still write the same way on "Curb"). And it's how I continue to work. Structure, structure, structure. Every single thing in a script must advance the plot or define a character more deeply (ideally both, in a hilarious way) or it will die in the edit. If something doesn't HAVE to be in your script then it shouldn't be. Of course, comedy trumps. If it makes you piss yourself laughing then you figure out a way to keep it.

AFF: From a writer's perspective, which is easier to break into and establish yourself as a writer, TV or film?​

​AB: I think it depends a lot on your personality as a writer. I always liked writing with other people. TV is more conducive to that, especially comedy. Most TV comedies are written in groups. It's a very collaborative process. But impose that process on a lot of solitary feature writers and they blanch at the idea of having other people question their ideas and paw through their work in progress.On the flipside of that coin, a lot of TV writers would hang themselves if they were locked in a room alone and forced to write for any length of time.

​The key difference breaking in is that TV is about selling yourself and your value as an ongoing contributor to a show, while features are more about selling this specific thing you've written. I'd buy a great script from an asshole, but I wouldn't want to sit in a room with them for fourteen hours a day. And honestly, in terms of which one's easier to break into, I don't have the foggiest idea. I'm fairly certain if I were starting today I'd fail.

AFF: While "Seinfeld" and "Curb" are their own shows in many ways, they ultimately represent a nearly unbroken, two-decade-long streak of observational humor and socially dysfunctional characters that have remained consistently hilarious. Is a "show about nothing" the best bet for longevity?

AB: I think the best bet for longevity is to somehow trick Larry David into hiring you, con him into thinking you're a valuable member of his team, then work really really hard to keep him happy. I don't use the term genius lightly, but I am a genius and I think Larry David is one of the great comedic minds of our time.

AFF: Will this be your first time to Austin? What are you most looking forward to - are there fellow panelists you already know? Anyone you're looking forward to meeting?

AB: I've been to Austin several times but never for the festival. I'm friendly with a number of the panelists, and mortal enemies with one as well (he knows exactly who he is.) It sounds like a lot of fun. And I'm most excited about meeting Barry Manilow. I was told he'd be coming. Was that wrong?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Season Finale of On Story This Saturday

The Season Finale of On Story is this Saturday, July 16th. The episode features two shorts, EULOGY MAKER by Leslie Langee and WEIGHT OF THE WORLD by Jenny Goddard.

On Story is a new series which takes a look at the creative process of filmmaking through the eyes of some of the entertainment industry's most prolific writers, directors and producers. Each episode will also showcase short films from the region's most promising filmmakers. Visit the On Story website to view this week's episode and others from the series.

Thursday, July 07, 2011


Terry Rossio, Academy Award-nominated writer of SHREK, DÉJÀ VU, THE MASK OF ZORRO, and the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films, is one of the many new speakers on board for the October Conference. Terry's attended more Conferences than not in our 18 year history, and always comes with tons of advice, lessons learned, and words of inspiration, which he generously shares with registrants. Often until 2am in the morning at the Driskill Bar. This year, he's proposed a unique workshop: "The Rewrite with Terry Rossio."

In "The Rewrite with Terry Rossio," he will focus on the challenges one faces when they sit down to do a rewrite -- whether of their own work, or of someone else's. Attendees of this special workshop are asked to bring a scene from their script in Final Draft, on a Mac-compatible flash drive. Terry will randomly pick someone, and demonstrate, live, how he would rewrite the scene. He will go through as many as possible in the course of the workshop.

This workshop is open to the first 30 Conference or Producers Badge holders to respond. So, how can you take advantage of this incredible learning experience? (Seriously, you're guaranteed to get invaluable nuggets of applicable wisdom from this even if he doesn't get to your scene.)

If you already have a Producers Badge or Conference Badge, just forward your confirmation e-mail to with the words "The Rewrite with Terry Rossio" in the subject line. Otherwise, you can purchase your Conference/Producers Badge here and then send an e-mail including your name, mailing address and phone number to with the words "The Rewrite with Terry Rossio" in the subject line. And, if you have a Lone Star or a Weekend Badge, you can call our office at 800.310.3378 to upgrade your Badge and then - you guessed it - send an e-mail including your name, mailing address and phone number to with the words "The Rewrite with Terry Rossio" in the subject line.

Again, this workshop is only open to the first 30 Conference and Producers Badge holders to respond, so sign up now!

Please note that all speakers and events are based on permitting schedules and subject to change and/or cancellation without notice.

Interview with Ric Roman Waugh, write of FELON and the new Evel Knievel biopic

Back in March, we received an e-mail from Barry Josephson, AFF board member and producer of such hits as "BONES", ENCHANTED, WILD, WILD WEST, LIKE MIKE and so many more (for the full list, just click on his name.) He wrote that a "brilliant writer/director friend of mine Ric Waugh has moved to your lovely community," and asked if we would make him feel welcome. We invited Ric to our annual spring 'Hair of the Dog Brunch,' where we met him and his beautiful wife Tanya and, as soon as he was comfortable, full and unsuspecting, confirmed him to participate in the coming October Conference. And thank goodness we did it then.

Not two months later he has already signed for no less than three new high profile projects, including a new Evel Knievel biopic and a film with one of our favorite actors ever, Dwayne Johnson. Ric and his wife have become fast friends of the Festival and we are so pleased and fortunate to now have them in Austin year-round.

Please check out his full bio here - he was also one of the youngest stunt coordinators in the world at the age of 18 - and read the below interview he so graciously gave us. And by all means introduce yourself to him when you see him at the Conference this October!

AFF: You have two current projects: SNITCH starring Dwayne Johnson, and BOBBY MARTINEZ. What drew you to these particular projects?

RW: SNITCH is the true story of a father whose 18 year old son was wrongly accused of dealing Ecstasy. The son was sentenced to 10 years in prison under the federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws, and under these harsh guidelines, the only way to reduce your sentence is to "snitch" on other potential drug traffickers. When the son knew no one else to snitch on, the father went to the US Attorney and asked, "What if I go into the drug world and get you a bigger bust? Will you reduce my son's sentence?" And that is what happened to this father.

For me, it was the first story post FELON (the film I wrote and directed in 2009) that had a similar first-person POV where the audience can assimilate and compare their own lives with the characters in the story. With SNITCH, it tackles the tough question we all face as parents: how far would we go to protect our own kids? We are scheduled to starting filming this January 2012.

AFF: I understand you're also undertaking Evel Knievel's biopic. How will you approach this project?

RW: Yes, I just signed to write and direct EVEL; a biopic on the life of Evel Knievel based on Leigh Montville's book, "The High-Flying Life of Evel Knievel: American Showman, Daredevil, and Legend." What I love about this project is I get to do an homage to the action world that I come from, but at the same time, it’s about the relevancy of the price of fame and the life that this guy led. His family suffered for it, he suffered for it physically, and yet he became that iconic person we all admired. Evel’s one of the biggest brand names of the last four decades. But what nobody has ever really captured — and maybe it takes an ex-stuntman to understand this — is the sacrifices he made, and the pain. Everybody’s fearless until they get seriously hurt. Trust me, I
(unfortunately) know this firsthand. And there were so many demons behind the man that nobody every discussed. We’re going to tell the real story of who this guy was and understand why the world fell in love with him.

AFF: You have a really impressive resume as a stuntman. Coming from the crew side of the film business, from a very different place from the directors who come from film school and start making independent movies, can you talk a bit about your process? The challenges or advantages you have with your background?

RW: Yes, I was truly blessed to grow up with a father who is a legend in the stunt world. I've been on film sets since I was a baby, and started working as a professional stuntman as a young teenager. I basically got to go to school working with most of the top directors today and study them; Steven Spielberg, Richard Donner, John McTiernan, James Cameron to name a few and especially Tony Scott who I worked with on numerous films. I was able to not only grasp the knowledge of practical film-making from these people I admired, but form my own point of views creatively. From there, I started directing action sequences for various films and television, then went onto direct dozens of commercials.

But what I lacked was having any experience for story structure and script. I had worked with Bruce Evans and Ray Gideon who wrote STAND BY ME and MADE IN HEAVEN (among others) and became friends with them. I asked if they would give me feedback if I wrote a script, and they were generous enough to say yes. After countless drafts of a script, they would give me real "working writers" feedback. The script never sold, but it was an invaluable process. Off that, I wrote a spec that sold to Dreamworks and ended up writing 16 other studios scripts around town before writing and directing FELON. [See above photo from the set!] Working in the development process from idea to actual shooting scripts absolutely helped round out my abilities as a filmmaker. And that's the key I think: to understand and be a part of the FULL process - even if you only write and don't want to pursue directing like I did. And most importantly, to know and be true to your own voice.

AFF: With the success of action adventure films and the progression of technology, do you see the nature of screenwriting changing where multimedia experience is required? What do you think turns on the average American movie-goer today and why? Do you see the direction changing

RW: Obviously technology has constantly evolved since the very beginning. And if we think we're on the cutting edge now, just wait - a decade from now today's technology will be obsolete again. But what hasn't changed and never will is the need for great storytelling.

I think it's a big mistake to "write" for technology. If anything, it's allowing us to paint in a space with zero boundaries. Even the sky isn't the limit anymore. My main rule for writing is be true to the story and genre you are telling. In other words, don't stray from or enhance your story for the sake of technology. Let technology enhance the story you write.

AFF: What's your writing routine?

RW: My writing routine used to be rigid with the hours I'd set aside. But that was when I was single! Now married, raising twin boys and pushing a development slate forward, I write anytime I can. Anywhere. The most important lesson I received was about discipline. Scripts don't write themselves, so I find time and sit in front of that screen regardless of how busy I am.

AFF: Do you have a dream project that got away? One you wish you'd written, or been asked to do? How would you have done it differently?

RW: Yeah, there are a few stories I'm dying to tell, but someone always seems to beat me to the punch. Example: I'd love to do a film about Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. And yes, there's been countless versions. But one day, there will be room for another, and hopefully my version. So if your dream project keeps getting bumped by a crowded space? Be patient, because I know I am.

Interview with ZOMBIELAND and DEADPOOL writer Rhett Reese!

In between writing what seems like a million different projects, Rhett Reese very generously took the time to sit down and answer a few questions for us in advance of his attendance at the October Conference.

First, a little background on Reese:

Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick wrote and executive-produced Zombieland for Columbia Pictures. They first collaborated by creating, writing, and executive-producing The Joe Schmo Show for Spike TV. The series drew Spike’s highest ratings in history. Joe Schmo was named to numerous Best Of lists, including TIME Magazine’s Top 10 TV Shows of 2003 and Entertainment Weekly’s 50 Best TV Shows Ever on DVD. Reese and Wernick followed up with Joe Schmo 2, and then Invasion Iowa, a high-concept comedy hybrid starring William Shatner.

Reese and Wernick currently have projects in development at Twentieth Century Fox (Deadpool), Universal Pictures (Earth vs. Moon), Columbia Pictures (Zombieland 2), Paramount Pictures (G.I. Joe 2), HBO (Watch), and Walt Disney Pictures (Cowboy Ninja Viking).

Reese has written screenplays for Pixar Animation Studios (Monsters, Inc.), Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Feature Animation (Dinosaur), Warner Brothers (Clifford’s Really Big Movie), and Nickelodeon, among others. His first novel, Anxiety, is now available for Kindle and iPad.

AFF: You and Paul Wernick have a load of projects in development currently. What is the process like, juggling all these different projects?

RR: An old friend of mine once called his job a nervous breakdown with a paycheck. Does that apply? In all seriousness, we do our best to schedule our jobs to minimize overlap between projects. Occasionally you'll have to do a quick rewrite while you're working on a first draft of something else, but we take pains to make sure we're not writing two first drafts at once. There's a real danger in spreading yourself too thin.

AFF: Ryan Reynold's has been the keeper of the DEADPOOL flame for many
years. What is it like working with him on this project? With his knowledge
and passion for Deadpool, is it a blessing or a hindrance?

Ryan is a joy to work with. He's my favorite famous person because you would never, ever, ever know it by how he acts. He's thoughtful and selfless and responsive and kind. He makes me want to cut myself. With regard to Deadpool, he's the perfect keeper of the flame, because the tone and sense of humor of the comic are in his DNA. He just knows WWDD (what would Deadpool do) in any given situation, which is invaluable. We trust his story instincts completely.

AFF: What do you do with a character who's beloved for being "in the now"
- in that you don't care how he came to be, or where he goes after this, you
just love following him around. How do you create an arc for that character,
given that his chief lure is his total shallowness?

RR: Our script actually is an origin story. We were adamant that it not be your father's origin story, however, so it jumps back and forth between past and present. We spent hours upon hours trying to find interesting ways to jump from the present, which feels very much 'in the now,' to the past and back again. Deadpool seems shallow, but in fact, he's pretty deep. His trauma is visible in the scars on his skin, but it also comes through less obviously in the way he talks, the way he acts, the relationships he has. Shallowness can be a defense against depth, does that make sense?

AFF: You originally wrote Zombieland as a TV series. Following the success of the movie, would you like to return to that idea, and if so, how would it differ from the movies?

RR: We would love for Zombieland to be a TV series someday! There are vestiges of the serialized nature of the planned television show on display in the movie (the Rules for Surviving Zombieland , the Zombie Kill of the Week, etc.). The movie doesn't really 'end' as much as it does suggest new adventures on the way. We'd love to go to those new places!

AFF: With the success of action adventure films and the progression of technology, do you see the nature of screenwriting changing where multimedia experience is required?

RR: I don't think screenwriting will change much at all due to advances in technology. Back in the late nineties, I was told not to worry about technology - to write big and let the VFX guys sort it all out. That would still be good advice today.

AFF: Will this be your first time to Austin? What are you most looking forward to - are there fellow panelists you already know? Anyone you're looking forward to meeting?

RR: I have never been to Austin, but I've heard many terrific things. This should be a blast! I've been friends with Rita Hsiao and Glenn Berger for years... hope to be able to spend a lot of time with them. I don't know many others in attendance. Feature writers tend to be solitary beasts. You can go years and years hearing the name of another writer and never come across him/her. So this is a tremendous opportunity to place faces and personalities with names. And find whole new reasons to be jealous of others!