The history of the festival began in 1993. Initially, the event was called the Heart of Film Screenwriters Conference. The conference was designed to launch the careers of screenwriters and to celebrate the role of screenplays and screenwriters in filmmaking. It was the first event of its kind. The inaugural conference brought amateur and professional screenwriters together, giving them an opportunity to exchange experience and ideas. It hosted conversations focusing on craft and networking events for up-and-coming screenwriters.
The Austin Film Festival aims to further the art, craft and business of screenwriting and filmmaking. Today’s Austin Film Festival is a blend of a film festival and a writers conference. The film festival features a program of feature films, documentaries, animated films and short films, including independent films, advance screenings and premieres. The films selected for the program showcase the art and craft of strong narrative storytelling. Film screenings take place at theaters throughout Austin. They are often preceded or followed by Q&A sessions with filmmakers and cast members.
The conference runs during the first four days of the film festival. Its program includes interactive panels, meet & greets and round tables with established screenwriters and filmmakers, workshops on screenwriting, producing indie films and more. All workshops and panels usually end around 5 a.m. so that conference attendees can catch evening screenings. The conference is attended by working screenwriters, filmmakers, producers, managers, agents and development executives.
Since its inception, the Austin Film Festival has been a competitive festival. Known as the “Writers Festival”, the AFF awards films with the best scripts in several categories such as Narrative Feature, Narrative Short, Narrative Student Short Films, Animated Short, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short, Dark Matters Feature, Comedy Vanguard Feature. Since the festival is accredited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, all Animated Short, Narrative Short and Documentary Short films that have won the festival’s award are eligible for an Academy Award. Additionally, there is a Scripted Digital Series competition for serialized content on online platforms.
Photo by Jack Plunkett