notes from the Austin Film Festival 2015


I had another wonderful time at the Austin Film Festival. It was 4 days full of panels, roundtables, parties, meeting other writers, hanging out at the bar at the Driskill hotel, and lots of beer and brisket. It would take me too long to write a detailed post about Austin, so here are some bullet points:

Shane Black, writer of Lethal Weapon

It’s all about the material. That’s the most important thing.
Don’t chase the marketplace. By the time you write what’s currently hot, gets sold, and goes into production, people will already be on to the next thing.

Michael Arndt, writer of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Toy Story 3, Little Miss Sunshine

Internal conflicts and obstacles alone aren’t enough. The plot is there to force the character to take action and address their issues.

Adam Kolbrenner, manager, co-founder of Madhouse Entertainment

I asked when he’s considering potential clients, if he’d be more interested in someone who was a just writer, or someone who did multiple things like write TV, write features, direct short films, etc. He said he’d be less interested in someone who did multiple things. “Pick a lane.” Focus on one thing and be good at it. Don’t try to do everything.

Jarrod Murray, manager at Epicenter

Don’t send multiple loglines when querying. Pick one.
For your writing to stand out, make the reader care about the characters.
Keep writing. Generate new material.

Kelly Fullerton, writer on Awkward and The Fosters.

Know your personal story. Know your brand.

Stu Zicherman, writer/co EP on The Americans, Executive Producer on the Amazon show, Casanova.

I asked him what he looked for when staffing Casanova. He told a story of how he hired a playwright because he liked her unique voice and wanted that perspective on his show.

Justin Marks, writer of the upcoming Jungle Book, and Amy Berg, writer of Eureka, The 4400

In two separate panels, both writers had similar stories of how they sort of got stuck writing stuff that they didn’t necessarily want to be writing, and had to write new spec material in order to rebrand themselves and get the writing jobs they wanted.

Michael Botti, manager, Industry Entertainment

What clients shouldn’t do – even after you sell your first feature script, don’t quit your day job.
A bad representative can kill your career

Mark Swift, writer of Freddy vs Jason, upcoming Baywatch

You have to write something “un-put-downable”. Write an original idea in a unique voice. You have to stand out. You have to take a risk.

I don’t remember who said these things:

If you want to be a writer, be in LA. If you’re not, you’re making it more difficult for yourself.

A manager is more interested in you as a person and a writer, than in your specific pitch for a project.

Be a fountain of ideas.

You can teach story structure and scene construction, but you can’t teach the ability to capture the voice of characters. Characters should sound different. You shouldn’t be able to just swap character names in a script.

There’s so much more to write about. If anyone else who went to Austin wants to share their notes, please post in the comments.

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  1. Another great post, Kiyong! I can’t believe we only ran into each other ONCE that entire weekend. It’s an example of just how massive Austin is, huh? I always leave feeling invigorated and inspired, though. I’m glad you got so much out of it, too. 🙂

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