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Austin Film Festival Journal, Part Four

December 27, 2019

Yes, there was a long gap in between the entries, but finally here’s part four.

This was my final day at the festival–I had a very early flight the next morning, but there was a lot on the agenda today–particularly my first sessions with the other playwrights. I decided to start the day with an impov class, taught by Second City veteran Dave Buckman.  It was a great way to start the day–nothing gets your brain going in the morning like having to think on your feet, improv style.  It was also a great reminder for writers, because improv teaches you the importance of listening.  Instead of thinking of the next thing you want to say, the process works best when you are listening to the other person in your scene.  Excellent to keep in mind while writing dialogue.

After the improv class, I headed to my first playwright’s panel discussion.  The three playwrights/screenwriters were extremely impressive:  Sofia Alvarez, Laura Eason, and Bekah Brunsetter.  They had great insight and stories, and their career arcs were very inspirational–especially for this east coast based playwright.  I also met very talented and intelligent Sarah Maraniss Vander Schaaf, a fellow playwright and second rounder.  She has also written many articles for the Washington Post, so she was awfully nice for being an “Enemy of the People. ”

After a quick lunch, I had the first of my two round table discussions.  A group of second rounders are seated in a round table, and various industry pros are cycled through for us to ask questions.  The first person I met was a development executive with a production company–a company with a development deal with Warner Brothers.  The discussion of the projects he was searching for prompted my to suggest one of my scripts–which he ended up requesting. That was two, so far…

The next professionals who cycled through were husband and wife writers Carolyn Stotesberry and Philip Levens.  Carolyn and Philip write together, live together and somehow manage to stay married–perhaps the most impressive feat I encountered my entire time in Texas.  I also met screenwriter Mikki Daughtry, whose career took off after winning the screenwriting competition at the Austin Film Festival.

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I had no idea Chuck Norris sold artesian water.  It was ubiquitous in Austin.

The second round table was for the playwrights–and here I met Sofia and Laura from earlier in the day.  I also met Elizabeth Newman, who runs the Filigree Theatre in Austin.  She requested a copy of “Invincible Summer,” since the Filigree devotes an entire season each year to the development of new plays.  That’s three…

After the round tables, Nickelodeon had a party just for the writers.  It was great to catch up with many new friends.  The food was pretty good, and aside from pads, pens, and Rubik’s Cubes they rechristened “Writers Blocks,” they provided us with writing prompt cards several of us figured out could be adapted into a Cards Against Humanity-style game.  I also met another playwright, Charlotte Murphy Giles, and reconnected with the awesome CJ Bratton–who discovered that night her new HBO series had just been picked up!

I finished the evening seeing a film–“A Patient Man.”  This was the slow-burn, intense story of a man patiently, methodically plotting his revenge against the man who killed his wife in a car accident.  Very well executed and acted–and enjoyed meeting members of the cast and crew after the screening.

It was late, so I headed back to my hotel, since it was only a few hours before the airport shuttle would arrive.  It was hard to believe that my time in Austin was finally at an end.

For Part Five, I will write my final reflections on the entire experience.

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