By Christine Thompson

Writing can be a lonely process for some.  But one of the only festivals in the world centered around writers, The Austin Film Festival, has brought together those who practice the craft of writing for films by hosting informative panels  described variously as “therapeutic, rehabilitative, and a strong social and learning experience by Alvaro Rodriguez (Machete) and Director/Writer Robin Swicord (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) .  They are two of the writers whose curated panels at Austin Film Festival became part of the new book “On Story: Screenwriters, Filmmakers and their Iconic Films.”

Edited by AFF Founder Barbara Morgan and Maya Perez, producer of the Emmy-winning PBS series Austin Film Festival’s On-Story, the book is an amalgamation of some of these amazing panels from previous years, preserved for posterity for future writers.

Rodriguez, who has been attending the conference since 2009, explains that the AFF is the writer’s ultimate conference and one of his favorites in the city of many festivals centered around artists. He said “it’s a great way to meet other writers, get in on the early stages of the collaborations processes and listen to the writers describe their experiences.” He added, there are “no velvet ropes, where you are given front line, front row access to writers who have won academy awards.

Similarly, director and screenwriter Robin Swicord, who was nominated for Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons,” has been coming to the festival almost since the festival’s second year. She is a self-described cinephile and the panels have “really enriched her life.” She added “Directing is an interpretive art.”

Directors can be put on a pedestal but a film is a creative effort, with many moving parts. Film’s unique medium presents different types of challenges for the writer, and the desire of the the Festival to share the writer’s experiences working within this medium sheds light to to creatives at all levels of the film community, from beginner to academy award-winner.  With no sign of slowing down anytime soon, On-Story is accruing a massive amount of intelligence for a previously underserved community.  The book is available HERE NOW and is $20, a great Christmas gift for the writer in your life.

 Robin Swicord Has Great Advice For Emerging Screenwriters

Shouldn’t do:

Robin Swicord

Robin Swicord

Don’t compare yourself to others, or to your imaginary timetable, as in “I’m 29, and I still haven’t sold a screenplay.”   You are right where you need to be.   Beating up on yourself is counterproductive.

Don’t write the movie you think will sell — write the movie you’re yearning to see.

Don’t wait for inspiration before you write.  Teach yourself to create the inner state that makes you want to sit and write.  This is something you deserve to have every day, for whatever amount of time you can spare, despite the demands of your day job/school/household.

Should do:

Write every day, preferably at the same time, in the same place, so that giving yourself writing time becomes absolutely automatic.   This is what makes you a writer.   Selling the screenplay you’re writing is gravy.

Write your script, put it away for 6 weeks, and start writing another.   Then return to the first screenplay and rewrite it to make it better.    Put it away and take up the second screenplay until you finish it, and rinse and repeat.   Putting a manuscript away for six weeks, and then returning to it when you’re ready to see it anew is the author Stephen King’s advice – and it’s partly why he’s so prolific.

Be entrepreneurial.    Free yourself of the idea that someone is going to “discover “ your work as a screenwriter – and seek out the strong allies in your peer group who will help you produce your work on screen.  Thanks to current technology, the means of production and distribution are in your hands.  Go make your movie.

On Story – Screenwriters and Filmmakers on Their Iconic Films presents renowned, award-winning screenwriters and filmmakers discussing their careers and the stories behind the production of their iconic films such as L.A. ConfidentialThelma & LouiseGroundhog DayGuardians of the GalaxyThe Silence of the LambsIn the Name of the FatherApollo 13, and more. In their own lively words transcribed from interviews and panel discussions, Ron Howard, Callie Khouri, Jonathan Demme, Ted Tally, Jenny Lumet, Harold Ramis, and others talk about creating stories that resonate with one’s life experiences or topical social issues, as well as how to create appealing characters and bring them to life. Their insights, production tales, and fresh, practical, and proven advice make this book ideal for film lovers, screenwriting students, and filmmakers and screenwriters seeking inspiration.
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