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Our picks for the can’t-miss panels at AFF

Matthew Odam

“The Shawshank Redemption.” “Forrest Gump.” “The X-Files.”

They are names almost everyone knows.

Frank Darabont, Eric Roth and Chris Carter? Likely only serious film and television fans know the names of these men. But they are the type of artists who drive the Austin Film Festival and Conference.

Now in its 19th year, AFF has distinguished itself from other festivals of its size around the country by championing the folks in the filmmaking world who often go underappreciated – screenwriters.

The three men will all receive awards for their outstanding contributions to the craft and appear in conversation at the festival.

But AFF is not just about the seasoned and accomplished writers. Many of the panels and conversations are geared toward offering instruction to nascent and aspiring screenwriters looking for tips on how to break into and stay in this very competitive industry.

Below we take a look at 10 intriguing panels and conversations that will take place over the next few days. Times and locations are subject to change, so check for up-to-the-minute information.

Breaking onto the Scene

Hollywood can often feel like it has an impenetrable force field surrounding it. While the ways to break into the business can feel mysterious, they are not state secrets. Three successful young screenwriters — Evan Daugherty (“Snow White and the Huntsman”), Max Landis (“Chronicle”) and Olivia Milch (writer on HBO’s upcoming Faulkner adaptation “Light in August”) – will share their stories on how they got noticed in the business and how they are staying in it. (2:45 p.m. Thursday. Driskill Hotel, Maximilian Room)

A Conversation with David Chase

Chase created one of the most memorable and influential television shows in history with “The Sopranos.” Now he’s gotten into the feature film game with his directorial debut, “Not Fade Away,” which serves as AFF’s opening night film. Chase will discuss his career that dates back 40 years and includes work on titles such as the original “Rockford Files.” (3 p.m. Thursday. Driskill Hotel Ballroom)


Some people roll their eyes when they see their favorite book has been mutated into a feature film, but adaptations are an ever-growing part of the film world and will continue to be so. Alex Litvak (“The Three Misketeers”), Abby Kohn and Mark Silverstein (“He’s Just Not that Into You”) and Jerry Stahl, who adapted his own memoir, “Permanent Midnight,” into a movie will discuss the process of trimming and sculpting a story to take it from source material to screen. (9 a.m. Friday. Driskill Hotel, Maximilian Room)

The Black List 2.0

Each year people buzz over the studio executive and AFF regular Franklin Leonard’s Black List. The list, which Leonard compiles by surveying industry insiders, includes the unproduced screenplays garnering the most heat in Hollywood. Five of the last 10 screenwriting Oscars went to screenplays featured on the list. Black will appear to discuss the list and make an announcement regarding new interactive Web features and upgrades to the list. (10:45 a.m. Friday. Driskill Hotel, Maximilian Room)

DC vs. Marvel

A clash of the graphic-novel-adapting titans, as writers for the two comic powerhouses responsible for such titles as “Thor,” “The Avengers,” “Superman Returns,” and “X-Men: First Class” meet to discuss how they bring the original characters from page to screen while imbuing the stories with their own voices. (3:15 p.m. Friday. Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental, Ballroom)

Independent Filmmaking - Getting Started

You’ve spent countless hours writing, editing and rewriting your screenplay. Now that that’s done, it’s time for the hard work – getting the movie made. Austinite Jeff Nichols made himself one-to-watch when he won a grand jury prize at AFF in 2007 for his first film, “Shotgun Stories,” and has since gone on to astound with last year’s “Take Shelter.” Nichols joins AFF veteran Amy Talkington, who has written the remakes of “Valley Girl” and “Private Benjamin.” (9 a.m. Saturday. Stephen F. Austin Assembly Room)

Scriptnotes: Live! With John August and Craig Mazin

Tim Burton collaborator John August (“Frankenweenie,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Facotry”) and “The Hangover II” screenwriter Craig Mazin have a popular podcast in which, according to August, they discuss “screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.” Sounds like they’re in the right place. The two men will tape one of their entertaining podcasts in front of a crowd and be joined by “The Devil Wears Prada” screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna to discuss craft and take questions from the audience. (9 a.m. Saturday. Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental, Ballroom)

George Lucas in Love: Finding Inspiration for Your Short Film

“George Lucas in Love” entertained the festival circuit in 2000 with its inspired idea of how the poofy-haired filmmaker developed the idea for “Star Wars.” Producer Joseph Levy and writer Tim Dowling discuss how they developed the idea and used their short film as a calling card for their work. The two will also screen a never-before-seen remastered version of the short. (1:45 p.m. Saturday. Austin Convention Center, Room 18)

A Conversation with Damon Lindelof

With “Prometheus” and “Cowboys and Aliens” under his belt and the next “Star Trek” movie on the horizon, “Lost” co-creator Damon Lindelof is riding quite the hot streak. The writer-producer also knows how to handle and deflect criticism on Twitter. In what is sure to be an animated and insightful conversation, Lindelof will discuss his career and likely be asked to defend and explain the mysteries of “Lost” … again. (3:45 p.m. Saturday. Driskill Hotel Ballroom)

A Conversation with Paul Feig

Creator of “Freaks and Geeks.” Director of “Bridesmaids” and episodes of “Arrested Development,” “The Office,” “Bored to Death,” “Weeds,” “30 Rock,” and “Mad Men.” Yea, Paul Feig has done some things. The affable and humble AFF fan-favorite will likely discuss his time on at least some of those projects and hopefully give the audience a taste of what’s next. (11:30 a.m. Sunday. Stephen F. Austin Ballroom)