My favorite one-liners from this year's Austin Film Festival (2023).
We all love a good one-liner, and this year at Austin Film Festival ‘23, the panelists SPIT GOLD. Through one-on-one interviews, casual coffee chats and public panels, I collected tips from several talented, successful writers on their career growth, their creative development, and their thoughts on the art of television writing.
Before we start, here's something I feel touches at the heart of what Austin Film Festival is all about...
At AFF, the best of the best are just up and walking around like they're not incredibly inspiring and cool. In the Omni hotel, I saw Greg Kwedar, the director/co-writer of SING SING (2023), and I approached him to say hello and geek out about the movie. Greg asked if I'm a writer, and I said, "Yes, I want to be." In response, he said, “No, you are a writer.”
This little moment of encouragement meant the world to me, and it's not an unusual find at this festival. Over my three years attending so far, I've seen how AFF allows writers at all stages of their careers to connect and share stories. I've made some great friends at the festival, and it makes my nerdy heart so full!
Here are a few personal and actionable lessons from the conference, and individual interviews to come!
On Success as an Assistant:
“You have to trust the process because this bad part is part of it.” - Joanna Calo (The Bear, Beef, Hacks, The Baby-Sitters Club, Undone, BoJack Horseman).
“Every no you get is closer to a yes.” - Dan Robert (The Baby-Sitter’s Club, former assistant to Shonda Rhimes).
“You have two ears and one mouth and that means you listen more than you talk.” - Amy Aniobi, discussing her mother's advice (Insecure, Rap Shit, Survival of the Thickest).
“Not all the relationships last, but the ones that do are valuable.” - Joanna Calo.
“You have to really want it. We’d write while our bosses were in the bathroom.” - Joanna Calo.
“My bad scripts did nothing for me except raise the bar for what ‘bad’ is.” - Amy Aniobi.
“Trust the process and try to turn that trust into love.” - Dan Robert.
On World Building:
“Don’t get so caught up in the mythology. Focus on: what do the characters know, and what do the characters need to learn?” - Damon Lindelof (Lost, Star Trek, Prometheus, World War Z, Tomorrowland, The Leftovers, Watchmen).
“How long can you hold something before you give it to the audience? When you give it to the audience, it has to be better than you ever thought it was.” - Justin Boyd (Fear the Walking Dead, Sweet Tooth, Reprisal, Channel Zero).
“You have to kind of make a decision and not waffle, and those decisions become rules.” - Damon Lindelof.
“Everything has to have a reason, even if you’re the only ones to ever know it.” - Dan Erickson (Severance).
On Vulnerability in Writing:
“Therapy is getting to know the number one character, YOU.” - Amy Aniobi.
“You can’t be too easy on your main characters. You have to beat the shit out of them.” - Meg LeFauve (Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur, My Father’s Dragon, Captain Marvel).
“People don’t change without a kick to the head.” - Meg LeFauve.
“There’s a voice in my head that says, ‘Step Back, step back, step back.’ Tell it thank you, but take a seat, and watch! I didn’t die.” - Meg LeFauve.
“Writing is not a place to disappear.” - Meg LeFauve.
“What’s the big, beautiful idea here?” - Jodie Foster (via Meg LeFauve).
“How do we tell this story without it feeling like medicine?” - Joanna Calo.
“You’re supposed to fail. Dare to be bad.” - Meg LeFauve.