Cassidy Louwerse recently attended the 25th anniversary of the Austin Film Festival as a Second Rounder in the screenplay competition. Known for its unparalleled access to industry professionals, the festival has four days of panels, and a week of films. Cassidy talks about her experience:
Is it worth attending the festival?
It’s absolutely worth attending without submitting to the festival, but being in the script competition afforded me several opportunities – I was invited to parties, roundtable discussions, and panels only open to those with scripts in the festival. I got to sit down with the writers of Chappaquiddick for forty minutes, and pick their brains on everything from craft to business. A Second Rounder friend went to breakfast with Nicole Perlman. Lindsay Doran held a workshop where she read and discussed the first ten pages of several Second Rounder screenplays.
The days were packed with panels, whose speakers ranged from George Pelecanos to Christina Hodson, and topics ranging from How to Craft a Perfect Pilot to Screenwriters’ Agreements. In the evening, films such as Vox Lux (with Natalie Portman in attendance) and Boy Erased screened, along with a plethora of shorts and independent features. Many of the filmmakers stuck around the festival and hung out – I ran into Brady Corbet at a party, and met some great independent cinematographers and directors.
Share a festival highlight:
At night, panelists and attendees flocked to the unofficial headquarters, The Driskill. The atmosphere there is worth going for all on its own – I’m sure there’s not another place in the world where I can exchange cards with the VFX supervisor from Westworld, sit next to John August and three Marvel writers, or see Tony Gilroy at the bar. One night, I chatted with one of the founders of Twitter. Another, I talked about Justin Bieber and burritos with a pair of comedy writing panelists.
Share a takeaway from the festival:
While all this access, advice, and inspiration was incredible, the most valuable thing I gained from the festival was the friendships I developed with other attendees. Most are from LA, and many already work in various parts of the industry. My first night there, I was able to band together with several other solo Second Rounders, all LA-based. After five days together, I had a new writing group, earned the (unfortunate) nickname “Michigan,” and had open invitations to crash on their couches when I made it out there. The biggest piece of advice I’d give, is pay attention to the person next to you – they could be the next big thing.
Final words of advice:
Don’t be afraid to tell panelists when they’ve inspired you – writers love to talk about themselves. Attend anything and everything Lindsay Doran. Thank your writing teacher who’s taught you the exact things Carly Wray tells you when you nervously ask her a craft question. And, don’t eat the tacos unless you’re prepared to spend the rest of your life searching for something half as good.