October 15 — Michael Hauge Michael Hauge Writers resist the idea of following a formula for creating emotion and telling a story.
The brainchild of Barbara Morgan, a fiercely determined force of nature and Austinite, it was to be a film festival for Writers…. No movie stars, no black tie VIP parties, no big Hollywood studio premieres …nobody here but us writers.
Now, who is in this vintage photo, taken with a pre-digital age camera from the looks of the print? JV Hart, who, after 20 years in the business, had 2 scripts that for years nobody wanted, Hook and Dracula, now be directed by both Stephen Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola that same year.
I still could not believe it — but was even more wowed by the company I was sitting with at this first incarnation of the AFF.
If Towne had stopped there that would have been enough to earn him permanent legend status in the annals of writerdom. And, yes, we are man heavy in this group, which would not be the case today, but sitting by Mardik is Janet Roach.
And finally, Kurt Ludtke, a prize winning journalist turned screenwriter who had already given us Out of Africa, collaborating with another early supporter of the AFF, Sid Pollack.
So, cut to 25 years later and the 25thAFF and I am still here, year after year, unable to resist, nor wanting to resist, this unique gravitational pull of the AFF to spend 5 days in the company of writers.
Writers at the top of their game and in demand, writers on their way up, writers on their way down, threshold writers who just want that chance to congregate with the pros and talk story.
Ed Solomon [Men In Black, Bill and Ted], my friend and fellow 25 year AFF veteran, pointed to the absence of professional competition for industry gigs, and the absence of deal making that boosts the atmosphere for an open and genuine opportunity to see and catchup with your colleagues as friends, not competitors.
The ever present force that gathers us with other writers is the empathy we have for each other. We know how lonely, and painful, and all-consuming the act of writing is — no matter where you are in your career. Writers should make this effort to come together as colleagues and members of the collective force that drives this industry.
In our professional lives, the studios and networks divide us and oftenforce us to compete with each other for our livelihoods and careers. At the AFF, we are joined together in our craft, our desires, our wants, our validation at being members of a vast community of life lines and friends.
Ask any attendee looking for that first break, or that contest nomination [which is a win], or that first trophy, who come to the fest and discover they can hang with Shane Black, Tony Gilroy, Nicole Perlman, Linda Woolverton, Bill Wittliff, Noah Hawley, Christina Hodson, or the amazing Lindsay Doran, the likes of which attending threshold writers would never have a chance to encounter in LA or NY, as agents, managers, andstudio execs, would make it impossible for such meetings to take place.
Her script, a jarring,unnerving, riveting story about human trafficking in the Native American community has earned her representation by a major agency. The mentoring she received from the professional writing community, and her recognition by the Academy in the Nicholls Fellowship, and the AFF win, gave her a huge boost.
She approached me in the lobby of the festival hotel as I was checking out to thank me [and the entire community in my mind] for the recognition and the inspiration and generosity she had experienced at the AFF.
She felt the same energy and inspiration we all feel in the community of writers who have gathered for 25 years at the Austin Film Festival — The Festival for Writers!! We all breath the same rarified, privileged air, whether we are together or in our own personal writing zone.
I remember the moment this photograph captures and how terrified I was to speak, so as not to embarrass myself with these legends. Frank PIerson is in the midst of telling one of his many many stories as I sweat on the other end. I was completelydis-combobulatedat how any story I could tell about my adventures in the screentrade could hold a candle to these giants.
And then, suddenly it was my turn. I told a story about my son, Jake, who was embarrassed when asked by his classmates what his father did for a living.
Hard to explain to a 6-year-old what all those scripts were on my shelf, since they were not movies. Jake may have decided to remedy that when, at 6, he asked the question at the dinner table that changed my career: To Writers everywhere, if you are looking for a community that nourishes you and your ideas, come join us next year art The Austin Film Festival — The Festival for Writers!About the Author Lee Jessup is a career coach for professional and emerging screenwriters, a twice-published, best-selling author, and consultant whose expertise .
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