My First Time: Austin Film Festival Writer’s Conference Day2

“Seek shelter. You do not want to be going outside to photograph the storm.” These are the words I woke up to Friday morning along with the sound of rain battering the window of the hotel room. Chris was already awake and watching the news. “A tornado touched down in San Marcos,” he informed me. Neither one of us knew how close that was but we could see Austin on the radar map. We were under a flood warning. Shortly after submitting my screenplay to the competition I began listening to KUTX (Austin’s public radio station) via the internet. I was well aware of the disastrous Memorial Day floods and was praying that would not happen again. I received my daily email from AFF stating that “rain or shine the show must go on”, so I knew it couldn’t be that bad. My trusty chauffeur (Chris) took my horrible advice and drove down Guadalupe pretty much the whole way toward the Driskill. I would not recommend this. Perhaps I suggested it so we could see the surrounding area and choose places to check out later, but not on a flood warning day. I had a date (panel with about 100 other folks) at 9AM with Angela Kang of the Walking Dead and Nicole Perlman of Guardians Of The Galaxy to talk about Chicks Who Write Boy Flicks!

By the time we arrived at the Driskill, I was about 15 minutes late. I hate being late. I feel like such a gomer and I think it’s disrespectful to not only the speakers, but also the people who managed to be there on time. Anyway, I walked in 15 minutes late. I can’t say I got anything out of this panel other than putting a face to the name of the woman responsible for killing Dale, Beth, and “many other characters” from the Walking Dead. Not much advice for getting people to notice your work and they also sort of were handed jobs right out of college — not to mention they live on the West coast and well, that’s where the jobs are — but it was cool hearing their experiences and challenges they faced in writing certain characters. I did take about 4 pages of notes so, I guess I did get something out of it.

I decided to skip the next panels to join Chris for lunch. The rain had subsided and would hold off the rest of the day. We thought it would be cool to head up toward the campus of UTX. I found a place called Food Heads.

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As mentioned in my previous post, I don’t take pictures of my food. You just have to take my word on this. It was fantastic. It reminded me of a micro version of this place in Ann Arbor, MI called Zingerman’s. The bread was bakery fresh. I had a half chicken & eggplant sandwich with goat cheese, basil pesto, spinach, tomato, & blackberry balsamic vinaigrette along with a cup of chicken tortilla soup. Chris had the hot pastrami which was AWESOME. Mine was good, but that pastrami was fantastic. The decor was eclectic, re-purposed, and the bathroom was something I hope to achieve at home with lights strung along the ceiling. A+ for Food Heads.

I had also looked up bakeries, because why not? I found Quack’s 43rd St. Bakery but that was closed for some reason. So we hopped on over to this cafe around the corner from Quack’s called Dolce Vita. I originally wanted a scone but was so full from lunch we opted for cappuccinos. The staff was super friendly and the place was really cool inside. Small but plenty of cafe tables, a full bar along with the espresso bar, and it just seemed like the kind of place I’d hit up often if I lived in Austin. We received our cappuccinos, accompanied by a delicious, tiny, complementary piece of chocolate biscotti, and headed out to see the neighborhood. The area we were in was super cute but what is with the “road humps”? We call them speed bumps here in Michigan and they’re usually found in parking lots as opposed to the roads. This sign caught our attention and spawned a juvenile giggle.

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But enough about head-humping roads. I had to get back to my next panel at the Intercontinental — Independent Film-making: Directing Your Own Script. I was only looking at the content of each panel and so I failed to notice one of the panelists was Matt Jones, better known as Badger from Breaking Bad. He along with Dave Hill had a screening of their movie The Night Is Young, which they had written, directed, and starred in. Unfortunately, I was unable to catch the screening. It was interesting as well as frustrating to hear these guys talk about the process of filming their movie because it made me realize how hard it is to get funding for your project. But it was also inspiring because these 2 guys were having a hard time snagging roles so they just created roles for themselves – something I’d hear from the next panel I was going to attend. They did offer some helpful advice (even if they didn’t realize it was advice), for instance, some people are willing to just be in your movie for nothing and there’s nothing wrong with asking if you can film somewhere for nothing. I have nothing so… all set.

Outside the Assembly Room, where the panel was held, I was approached by a woman who opened up so naturally to me. She was from Victoria, B.C. and I noticed she was wearing a Producer’s Badge. The Producer’s Badge got you into all the parties, special panels, and extras the Conference had to offer. I thought about purchasing one but thought for the price and the fact that I am a newbie-nobody, the Conference Badge was just fine. I mentioned I was a “Second Rounder” and she grabbed my badge, eyes wide, and said “That’s huge!”

“Why?”, I thought.

I told her she was the first person  to approach me and that I was a wallflower and sort of shy with nothing to say. I explained this was my first time writing a screenplay so I feared no one would take me seriously. She told me to check out the Driskill Bar where she had just finished a liquid lunch. I immediately felt like one of those men who get all excited because a woman approached them at a bar only to find out it’s because she was drunk. I apologise to any men (or women) I may have done this too. She insisted you just walk into that bar and people come right up to you and that she “got a ton of business cards”. I took that tidbit of information and placed it in my back pocket for future reference. We exchanged cards and ventured off to our respected panels.

The next and final panel for the day was In the (Writing) Hand of the Creators. The featured panelists were Phil Rosenthal (creator of Everybody Loves Raymond and most recently I’ll Have What Phil’s Having) and Jack Burditt (writer/producer of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, 30 Rock, and the Mindy Project). I didn’t read enough into this panel and had I done so, most likely would not have attended. I have absolutely no desire to write for television. It just happened to be in the same room as the last panel and I was so indecisive I decided to simply hang around. I’m glad I did though. Phil Rosenthal was so cynical in the best way. I loved him. He recieved a lot of laughs, but toward the end he insisted he was being serious. According to him, the state of the industry sucks. Jack wasn’t so cynical (or at least wasn’t as vocal as Phil) but did offer an instance where he was asked to write in a role for Kim Kardashian. Enough said about the state of the industry. My hat is off to anyone striving for a job in that area. I truly did appreciate Phil’s honesty. It’s how I already felt about “breaking in” and he basically validated that feeling. He also offered the best advice, which I had already heard – do it yourself. With technology and the internet, there’s never been a better time than now to just do it yourself. I can dig that.

Conference over for the day so that means we needed to find a brewery to discuss our dinner plans. This was a challenge. I googled a ton of breweries that stated they had tasting rooms. This was a lie. We drove to a brewery who will not get a shout out because one of their bastard employees made a sexist comment toward me as they kindly informed us they are only a production center. So we headed to 512 on the other side of the city. Same story minus the sexism and they didn’t turn us away. They chatted us up, gave us a quick sample of a couple brews, and explained that Yelp insists they have a tasting room even though they don’t and won’t take it down from their site. So FYI, 512 has great beer, but no tasting room. Get your shit together, Yelp.

We were now off to Hops & Grain and, as they say, third time’s the charm. This place was super cool. They technically couldn’t sell us beer but they could sell us glasses in which they would pour the beer into, if you catch my drift. We bought our glasses for $10 and handed us 3 chips good for 3 more refills. I started with the Pale Mosaic, the Zoe, and one other I cannot remember. They were all very good. We ended up giving back our last chip because 3 was plenty.

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Luke behind the bar was awesome and there was a lady as well but I regretfully never caught her name. We inquired about BBQ and Luke was so helpful, he wrote down a number of places and suggestions. Lockhart was the place to go but we wouldn’t be able to make that happen. We settled for Stubb’s because the evening was winding down and it seemed to be on the way.

Stubb’s was cool and seems as though it would be a great place to check out a band — something we never got around to the entire trip! To get to the bathrooms, you had to walk downstairs where the bands play. It was dark and dingy but not dirty, sort of like a big cellar. The walls on the main floor are covered in concert posters of bands that have played there. Gone are the days of Muddy Waters and Stevie Ray Vaughn, but the atmosphere seems to linger. This was good BBQ and I highly recommend the spinach side. I don’t know what they did to that but it was creamy, spicy, and amazing.

We walked along 6th St. for a bit. It sort of reminded me of Nashville on a smaller scale. They block off the roads to keep people safe, which I thought was pretty cool for bar hoppers but not so much for people trying to get home as this caused a bit of traffic. That’s basically it. I had another early day ahead of me so we drove back to our hotel.

This ends Day 2. I leave you with Apostrophe by the late, great Frank Zappa because he’s my main man.

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