AFF One: In the beginning there is the web

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For all of you going to the Austin Film Festival. I’ve gone to AFF the last two years and have some tips for you.

A small prologue, if you’re still debating on what badge to get. Upgrade to a Producer’s Badge if you can afford it, if not, a Conference Badge gives you all the same things except access to most of the parties and free drinks. So, if you’re a big drinker the extra 225 bucks is saving you money.

Now that that’s done let’s talk AFF schedule.

As far as the film festival part of AFF I recommend going to as many films as possible. Especially, if you are going to be in Austin past Sunday. I’ve watched many great gems over the years and only one dud. However, if you are only going Thursday through Sunday and your goal is to learn and network, skip most of the films. Go to at least one shorts program, there are a lot of filmmakers there. One might be your kindred spirit. Go to other films only if you have met, or want to meet, the filmmakers and want to support their work.

For the conference schedule, go over it with an eye on not only where you are, but where you intend on going. Get it out of your head that the only reason you’re there is to sell your script or get representation. Take a hard look at where you are as a writer and what you need work on. What is the common note from your readers regarding your scripts. Do they need more tension, better dialogue, surprises? Find the panels that discuss those things and take notes.  What do you do well that takes the most effort? Go to those panels too because even though you know how to make it work they might have something that makes it easier for you.

The most important tip I can give, is be flexible. If you have had it in your head all day that you’re going to see “A Conversation With…” panel because you liked his last movie and want to hear what he has to say but you’re in a great conversation with a fellow screenwriter who is willing to help you with your bad third act, forget the Q&A. Within the coming months, the On Story podcast will air the most informative parts of what that person had to say. The person you’re talking to right now might be the key that unlocks the blocks in your head. Or he or she might be a new friend with the same passion as you.

Never underestimate the power of a fellow human being that likes you and wants to help.

If there is an advanced sign-up that you weren’t able to register for but desperately want to attend, get there 20 minutes ahead of time and wait. They will have a few seats open after the people on the list are in. Conversely, if you want to get into a panel reserved for second rounders or semi-finalists and you are not one, don’t try. You’re wasting your time. I know.

Finally, mark all the options you had for the given time frame. Your first choice might be full. Or if you run late talking to someone you might want to have a secondary panel in mind that’s closer. No need to miss ten minutes of a panel across the street if there’s one down the hall you’d like as well.

No matter what, relax. Have a good time. You are surrounded by writers and people who love writers. That’s awesome.

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