WGAW Down In Austin
It’s all about writing during four days of panels, films and camaraderie. At this film festival, the writer rules. 

By Kay S. Wolf, WGAW Independent Film Executive 

(November 6, 2012) 

Photo: Kay S. Wolf
The Creative Career: What You Need to Know panel (L-R): Alec Berg (moderator), Derek Haas, Etan Cohen, Nancy Pimental, James V. Hart  

If you were to poll the entertainment industry on the festival that best spotlights the “Writer,” the Austin Film Festival would come up a winner every time. With a four-day Writers Conference – October 18-21 this year - that runs concurrent with the first days of the Festival, this unique annual event draws experienced and emerging screenwriters in a spirit of camaraderie and learning.

This year, conference speakers John August and Alec Berg represented the WGAW at two AFF events. August greeted nearly 500 people who attended the WGAW’s Late Night Welcome Reception at III Forks Restaurant on the first night of the conference. “At other festivals, screenwriters are an afterthought -- you're lucky to be mentioned in the program,” he said. “The Austin Film Festival is unique in that it really centers around writers, both film and TV. That makes it a perfect fit for the WGA, because nearly everyone there is a member or hopes to become one. It's like selling salsa next to the chips.”

The following day, Berg moderated “The Creative Career: What You Need to Know” featuring panelists Etan Cohen, Derek Haas, Nancy Pimental and James V. Hart at AFF’s main event space, The Driskill Ballroom. The capacity crowd listened as Writers Guild members illustrated how they progressed in their careers and shared some of the pitfalls that are best-avoided by emerging writers. Their tips included maintaining one’s own clear voice in writing, quality over mimicry, breaking the rules sometimes (such as not being afraid to send a script to a number of people ) and seeking good advice and feedback on that “can’t be perfect” first draft. Berg emphasized that learning to take notes means not being “precious” or afraid to cut and refraining from sending a rewrite halfway through the process.

Photo: Arnold Wells
John August stands tall at the WGAW Late Night Welcome event  

In addition to writers’ perspectives, AFF offers “non-creative” yet significant tracks such as “Screenwriters’ Agreements: What to Keep In, and What to Leave Out,” which included practical advice from entertainment attorney Deena Kalai, agent Gayla Nethercott and myself as the Guild's Independent Film Executive."

“I'm sure others have said it, but the great thing about the Austin FF is its focus on writers and writing,” said Berg in summing up the conference. “The fact that there are screenplay, teleplay and pitch competitions in addition to days of panels focused exclusively on screenwriting really sets it apart. I like directors and producers as much as the next guy, but this one is really about us.”

To find out more about the WGAW’s involvement with the Austin Film Festival and Conference, please contact the Member Services & Organizing Department’s Independent Film line: 323-782-4731 or email Independent Film.


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