Screen Play

What to do at the writers' conference

Matthew Weiner will receive AFF's Outstanding Television Writer award this year for his work 
on the seminal <b><i>Mad Men</i></b> (pictured).
Matthew Weiner will receive AFF's Outstanding Television Writer award this year for his work on the seminal Mad Men (pictured).

The Austin Film Festival's annual screenwriting conference entails four days of panels, workshops, pitch sessions, special events, and epic schmoozing. It takes place Thursday, Oct. 23 through Sunday, Oct. 26 at the Driskill Hotel & InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel. Badges range from $150-675; see for more info.

The Golden Age of Television ... Now Even Goldener?

There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. ... This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone. So went, in part, the intro to one of the flagship shows of the first Golden Age of Television, Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone. It's well-established we're in a second Golden Age right now, and AFF's programming is a terrific showcase of the medium and its master practitioners.

Name a buzz project of the past few years, and you'll likely find it repped here, from one-hour dramas True Detective (director Cary Fukunaga), Masters of Sex (show creator Michelle Ashford), Orange Is the New Black (writer Lauren Morelli), and Fargo (show creator Noah Hawley) to half-hour standouts You're the Worst (show creator Stephen Falk) and Transparent (costar Jay Duplass). They're all the benefactors of a major breakthrough in TV that happened in the mid-Aughties, when shows like The Sopranos and The Wire blew out TV's surge protector, fried all the wires, and electrified audiences with startling advances in storytelling. Then Matthew Weiner, a Sopranos vet, kept us all juiced with Mad Men, which ends its eight-year run in 2015. Weiner will receive this year's Outstanding Television Writer award; in addition to appearing on several panels, Weiner will screen a few classic episodes of The Twilight Zone. Some gold never tarnishes.

Road Map to Writing

<b><i>Guardians of the Galaxy</i></b>
Guardians of the Galaxy

The Writers Guild Foundation returns with their Scribble to Screen track, which asks professional writers to walk the audience through the process, from first inspiration to final shooting script. Saturday's five panels skip between industry vets Winnie Holzman (My So-Called Life), Marti Noxon (Mad Men, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the upcoming Bravo series Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce), and Disney scribe Linda Woolverton (The Lion King, Maleficent) and new talents like Lizzie and Wendy Molyneux of Bob's Burgers and Nicole Perlman, who went all smash! blashh! kerrassshh! with the glass ceiling this summer when she became the first woman to receive a writing credit on a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. Guardians of the Galaxy – maybe you've heard of it?

Flesh and Blood (Fewer Blood Squibs)

Script readings require a little extra imagination on the part of the audience – your mind's eye provides the special effects, not some digital wiz in a Burbank studio – but proximity to real people has its rewards, too. On Sunday, AFF and the Black List will present a staged script reading at the Stateside Theatre of writer/director Dan Sterling's unproduced comedy Flarsky featuring actors Mike Birbiglia, Sarah Chalke, Jason Ritter, and Austin Nichols. You might not know Sterling's name, but you know his shows – he's worked on Girls, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, and The Office. He's also the guy to blame if North Korea launches an attack this Christmas; Sterling wrote the upcoming comedy The Interview, wherein Seth Rogen and James Franco play celebrity journalists tapped to assassinate Kim Jong-un.

Breaking Down Fiddle-Dee-Dee

For all the transitoriness of its title, Gone With the Wind sure has staying power. In this, the film's 75th anniversary year, the Harry Ransom Center unveiled a world-class exhibit of its vast GWTW holdings. (Out-of-towners, be sure to work a visit in; it's a 15-minute walk from AFF HQ.) On Thursday, HRC curator Steve Wilson will join screenwriter Ashley Miller (Thor) and Paramount Theatre film programmer Stephen Jannise to "deconstruct" the film and help find inspiration for contemporary writers of romantic drama.

Follow the Funny People

There's only so much information badgeholders can glean from a panel description; it's always a roll of the dice. Our advice? Find the funny guys. You might not learn how to sell your script or land an agent, but at least you'll be entertained. Whit Stillman – a perennial panelist (and AFF board member) – is a reliable raconteur, and he probably has some interesting things to say about working with a streaming service (his pilot The Cosmopolitans debuted on Amazon Prime). Thursday's panel "Using Improv to Improve Your Comedy" corrals TV and film writers from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, and 22 Jump Street, while Saturday's panel "Stop, Collaborate, and Listen" pairs two writing partnerships with comedic chops: Molyneux sisters Wendy and Lizzie of Bob's Burgers, and Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who've locked down that delicate teeter-totter between I'm laughing/I'm crying with scripts like The Spectacular Now, The Fault in Our Stars, and (500) Days of Summer.

Art and Artifact

Stowed away in the Citadel Club on the second floor of the Driskill Hotel all day Saturday, the Writers Guild Foundation Exhibit shows off some of the fascinating writers' ephemera housed by this important film archival institution. The exhibit is packed with early production materials and handwritten drafts from epochal works like Lawrence Kasdan's The Empire Strikes Back, Matthew Weiner's "Unidentified Black Males" episode of The Sopranos, Winnie Holzman's My So-Called Life, and more.

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Austin Film Festival, Austin Film Festival 2014, AFF 2014, Cary Fukunaga, Michelle Ashford, Lauren Morelli, Noah Hawley, Stephen Falk, Jay Duplass, Matthew Weiner, Scribble to Screen, Dan Sterling, Flarsky, Gone With the Wind, Whit Stillman, Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber, Writers Guild Foundation Exhibit, Wendy Molyneux, Lizzie Molyneux

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