This was the first time we’ve been to the Austin Film Festival and we really enjoyed it and we’re looking forward to attending next year’s festival. Billed as the “writer’s festival,” the Austin Film Festival was eight days of films, parties, panels, conferences, and round tables. The films showcase bold and moving stories on the screen. While the parties and events showered the attendees with southern hospitality and an opportunity to exchange cards as well as ideas and stories. The panels examined the art, craft, and business of storytelling through narrative media. The Austin Film Festival is an opportunity for film fans to enjoy a wide variety of unique and interesting firms and for film makers and writers to share ideas, network, and check out some of their peers films.
Austin Film Festival Parties
The Austin Film Festival kicked off with the Film & Food Fundraising Party at the renowned and historic Driskill Hotel and the Party was open to anyone with a ticket or badge. There were a variety of tickets and badges for purchase, some of which include: weekend, film, party, or conference passes plus producers and press badges. For each film, the badge holders got priority entrance to the venue, followed by the film pass holders, and then the rest of the film fans.
According to the Festival, “Our nightly parties are an excellent wind-down from our jam-packed days of panels, roundtables and film screenings. These casual gatherings offer the opportunity to mingle, meet, and conspire with other writers with a big fat martini or brewsky in hand. The seeds to many a Hollywood deal have been planted at one of our late night parties.”
We had a pass which entitled us to attend all of the films plus the opening Film & Food Fundraising Party and the Film Pass Party, which we, unfortunately, missed. As a food connoisseur, I loved the Fundraising Party because the cocktails were flowing and there was lots of inventive cuisine from over 20 of Austin’s most notable chefs from restaurants like: The Driskill, Enoteca Vespato, Perry’s Steakhouse & Grill, Mattie’s, Moonshine, Sweet Chive, and South Congress Cafe. The chefs were serving small samples of some of their creative appetizers – and I sampled every one of them and some of them more than once! Some of what I sampled included: pork belly, BBQ brisket empanadas, deviled eggs, Thai noodles, beef tenderloin and mashed potatoes, dessert pastries, and lots more – all of which were delicious.
In addition to the food, there was a full bar, a silent auction, a guest speaker, and a masquerade costume photo shoot.
Austin Film Festival Conference Panels
The conference panels examined the art, craft, and business of storytelling through narrative media. Multiple award winners for screen writing, films, writers, television writers, producers, and more were guest speakers or on discussion panels and roundtables throughout the Festival. Some of the roundtables included topics like the “Art, Craft, and Business of Television, Play writing, and Film.” Numerous conferences covered things like: the First Three Pages; On Writing Beverly Hills Cop; Inside the Development Process; Ideas to Story; Making a TV Show; and Learning from Screw-ups Past and Present. There were seven to twelve conferences each day of the festival.
Films At The Austin Film Festival
Every day of the film festival was packed with a wide variety of films at seven different venues spread throughout downtown and central Austin – Paramount Theater, State Theater, Hideout Theater, Rollins Theater, St. David’s Episcopal Church, Alamo Drafthouse Village Theater, and Galaxy Highland Theater. The films ranged from shorts of 3 to 21 minutes to full length feature films. The short films included groupings of four to eight films that ranged from documentaries, animated, and young filmmakers films to films about Texas, family, freedom, getting old, post mortem, basic needs, escapades, and morel The short films ranged from morbid to off the wall to funny, thoughtful, tender, and tear jerkers. We saw fifteen different short films and enjoyed all of them.
Although the Film Festival Program, which was huge, includes a brief description of all of the conferences and panels plus over 60 feature films and over 50 short films, it was challenging trying to decide which films at which venue to see. Each day, each venue had one to four films showing at that venue. A handful of films were shown more than once and at a different venue than the first showing. The full length feature films were grouped into categories that included: opening, centerpiece, and closing films; marquee films; TV programming; narrative features; comedy and dark matters; documentary features; family film; and Texas independents. There is something for every film buff. Our favorite feature films included:
- Noise – a man deafened by an accident begins to hear the thoughts of other people and uses that ability to investigate the disappearance of a missing girl
- The Kill Team – a young soldier in the Afghanistan war witnesses other soldiers killing innocent civilians under the direction of a sadistic team leader and becomes the target of a violent platoon that is suspicious that someone has turned on them
- Honey Boy – a story about a young actor’s stormy childhood and early adult years and his struggles to reconcile with his father and deal with his mental health
- Scandalous – the sensational true story of the National Enquirer and a probing look at how one newspaper’s prescient grasp on it’s readers darkest curiosities led to massive profits and influence
- Making Apes – a look back at how the special effects team responsible for creating the makeup for Planet of the Apes revolutionized the film industry
After most of the films, the actors, writers, or producers would come on stage for an interesting question and answer session. And after that was over, you could chat with them in the lobby. And prior to each film showing, a brief description of a lot of the films was displayed on the screen giving us a good opportunity to learn a little bit more about some the films and make some decisions on which film we wanted to view.
What a fun filled week! If you like films, then you should plan on attending the 27th annual Austin Film Festival next year – see you there!