An Insider’s Guide to Austin Film Festival 2014

Last year, I shared the dos and don’ts of the Austin Film Festival. This year is a little different for me: instead of being an attendee, I’m behind the scenes again working as the Conference Coordinator. This entails working closely with AFF’s Creative Director, Erin Hallagan, to not only create a solid schedule for guests and panelists alike, but to shape a unique conference experience for each and every filmgoer. Whether it’s veteran badge-holders or first-time writers, we want to make sure the festival is one you’ll remember for years to come — maybe as you walk away with that first Emmy or Academy Award (just remember us in the speech, yeah?)

Whenever I have someone ask me what to attend, my first question is always “What interests you? What do you want to learn more about?” So this year, I decided to answer my own question and shed some light on some panels and films that I think are worth checking out.


If you’re looking for…

Chicks with Bics
Fri, 10/24, 3:15pm
This is one panel that I’ve always wanted to attend. Comprised entirely of female writers, this panel examines the craft from a different perspective, and discusses what it means to be a woman in the industry. Don’t worry — boys are allowed, too!

A Conversation with Susannah Grant
Sun, 10/26, 11:30am
Grant is one of those great writers that manages to fly under the radar. Having a resume of work that ranges from Pocahontas to Erin Brockovich, she can craft a story for TV and film, young and old alike. Come hear what her process entails, and how she tackles telling a compelling story.

If you’re looking for…

• The Indie Film Track Series
Sat & Sun, 10/25 & 10/26
If you’re not quite wanting to travel to Hollywood to make films, fear not: our Independent Filmmaking Track panels are just for you. Featuring panelists whose work has been on the film festival, independent and/or VOD scene, these filmmakers will share their stories of what it took to bring their films to life.

If you’re looking to…

Heroes, Villains, and Happily Ever After
Sat, 10/25, 12:30pm
Linda Woolverton, writer of Disney classics such as Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Maleficent, sits down with Pixar’s Mary Coleman to discuss the complexities of having to create good and evil, hero and villain alike. How do you create a villain with depth? Furthermore, how do you create a hero worth standing behind? If any of you attend this panel, could you please ask these questions and let me know?

If you’re looking to…

The Ten Hour Movie: Anthology Television
Thurs, 10/23, 2:45pm
As a huge True Detective fan, I for one am curious to know what writing an extended story is like. 90 pages is one thing… but several hundred? How do you know what to put in each episode? And how do you know if that idea should be a film, or a television show? Cary Fukunaga (director of True Detective) and Noah Hawley (creator of FX’s Fargo) will fill you in.


If you’re looking for…

AFF 2014 Preview

The Humbling

Starring Al Pacino, Kyra Sedgwick

The Last Five Years

Starring Anna Kendrick


Writer/Director: Jon Stewart (in attendance), Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Kim Bodnia

We’ve got a big line-up in store for 2014, and are continuing to work hard in bringing some recognizable names to Austin. Although I can’t quite reveal everyone we have in store to attend, I can tell you that a Film Pass is 100% worth every penny. ($65, on sale online or at Waterloo Records)

If you’re looking for…

Terrible Love

Writer/co-producer Luke Helmer, along with director Christopher Thomas and the rest of his crew, bring this world premiere to Austin. Focusing on a military couple’s struggle with the effects of PTSD, this story is thought-provoking, heartbreaking, and incredibly moving. It truly blew me away and has quickly become one of my biggest film recommendations of the festival.

The Suicide Theory

This ended up being my AFF Staff Pick after a co-worker recommended it to me. Following the theory of fate and karma, this film follows an unlikely duo: a hit man, hired to kill a man who literally cannot kill himself. What unravels is an unusual friendship, tied together by two broken pasts. The crew is coming all the way from Australia for this, so be sure to check it out and say hello!

If you’re looking for…

Popovich and the Voice of the Fabled American West

Rarely have I seen a film that put a smile on my face the whole time; this is one of those rare times. The story of a struggling ex-circus legend, Popovich and his misfit gang of cats and dogs perform street tricks to entertain tourists. But when the city threatens to take away all of his furry friends, Popovich must pull out all the stops to save his friends and, ultimately, his livelihood. Our Film Department has let me know that Popovich himself, as well as his pet performers, will be in attendance for questions, answers, and a few tricks! A great family film for a Sunday afternoon.

The Austin Film Festival runs for a full week from October 23rd – October 30th. Not sure which badge to get? Remember that only badge holders are allowed to attend the panels, and there’s a great variety for every schedule and price budget. If you can only make it on Saturday, try the Lone Star Badge ($150). And if in Austin for the weekend, try the Weekend badge ($300). For more info on these, other ticket options and the most up-to-date schedule, visit

Guest article by:
Mayhorn Marcie

Marcelena Mayhorn

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Marcelena Mayhorn is a writer based here in Austin, TX. She balances her time between screenwriting, film festivals, film reviews, screenwriting, nannying, and eating. She still enjoys Juiceland smoothies and yoga (when she makes herself do it).
Photos: courtesy of Austin Film Festival


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  • David Strong says:

    Hi there,

    What a great article. I’m coming to Austin from New Zealand for the festival. My short film, The Last Night, is screening on opening night in Shorts 2, 9.40 at The Hideout. Come along, it would be great to meet you.

    It’s about an Army officer on his last night in Afghanistan as he tries to negotiate with a warlord not to massacre a village. It’s inspired by true events that I experienced while serving overseas and we’re humbled that we were selected by Austin.


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