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Pitching A Fit

Pitching A Fit

I’ve been spending my time hanging with people this weekend around the Austin Film Festival. For those unaware, AFF is a screenwriters’ conference and in the evening, they screen films. While I haven’t seen that many films, I’ve been running around downtown and catching up with folks.

There have been some nice parties, including the annual Texas Film Commission BBQ, which is where everyone from Robert Rodriguez’s producer/wife Elizabeth Avellan to festival honoree Barry Levinson to Be Here To Love Me director Margaret Brown were hanging out.

Earlier that day (Friday), I ran into Texas screenwriters Mike Jones and Brent Hanley. They were both doing panels for the conference, and it was nice to hang out for a little bit. Brent and I were lamenting the fact that new father Mike is about to move to L.A. with his wife Maya and their son August. He’ll be missed, for sure. Meanwhile, Brent’s working on a Hollywood script for a film about the real-life USS Indianapolis, the legendary naval tragedy that Quint so calmly recalled in Jaws. The spin Brent’s working on with the story sounds intriguing.

Otherwise, I’ve just been hanging with local film people like talent agent Heather Collier or Texas producer Charles Acosta. Last night had an odd detour, when Dear Pillow filmmaker Jake Vaughan and I went party-hopping and wound up at what we thought was supposed to be a shindig. Instead, it was a pitch competition in a bar, in front of about 100 audience members. Bizarre. Basically, envision American Idol auditions but instead with screenwriters pitching their stuff in under one minute. There was even a panel of three judges, offering them feedback. Some of the scripts sounded entertaining enough, but several sounded cringe-worthy. And Jake and I couldn’t leave thanks to a bar tab credit card minimum we weren’t aware of. So we stayed to drink, despite the bitter surprise of what we thought would be an actual party.

The place got better, though, when we ran into Austin screenwriter Joe Conway and his wife Stephanie. Joe’s having a busy month, as he’s the writer of David Gordon Green’s upcoming film Undertow. Jake and I talked to them about an array of topics, from relocating out of Austin to the new R.E.M. record. Meanwhile, more and more aspiring screenwriters pitched their hearts out in front of a drinking crowd. I think I heard the words, “It’s like [insert popular movie title here], but with a different twist” too many times to remember.

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