The Austin film festival (AFF) is a vibrant long running event, celebrating their 25th festival this year. The AFF prides itself in being a festival “for writers”, showcasing a four day conference consisting of panels and workshops on script writing and everything related to creative process and the business side of getting your film(or idea) out there. Their mission statement is: “[to] further the art and craft of filmmaking by inspiring and championing the work of screenwriters, filmmakers and all artists who use the language of film to tell a story.” As luck would have it, it looks like I moved to town just in time. I bought my “Lonely Star” badge (giving me access to all six days of film showings with priority seating, but only one full day of panels) months ago and waited with anticipation for October to roll around.
Focused in the downtown area, The Driskill Hotel (a Romanesque-style building from the 1800s, also the oldest operating hotel in Austin, Texas) is the central hub of the event. This is where you go to pick up your film pass badge, in my case, and rub shoulders with the industry bigwigs, if you’re into that kind of thing. The lobby of the Driskill was constantly full and bustling with people taking up every corner nook and cranny, all networking looking to meet the right person to help make their silver screen dreams come true. There was also plenty of festival merchandise being sold, the regular posters, T-shirts and mugs, but I hurried out of there to get started on the important task of seeing as many films possible without frying my brain. My first stop was nearby, the legendary Paramount Theater right around the corner. I had actually missed the premiere the night before, Natalie Portman’s latest film VOX LUX (written and directed by Brady Corbet) and over the next couple of days heard from many people who saw it and didn’t like it. The other venues I focused on were the State Theater adjacent to the Paramount and the Hideaway a block down, as well as St. David’s Episcopal Church. A few more venues were participating further away from the crowds, the Alamo Draft Village and Galaxy up North and Rollins Theatre in the South but I couldn’t squander any precious film time driving and looking for parking. In any case all the major attraction films were playing in the downtown area. One last note on logistics, because the lines were so long for some of the movies, it was impossible to see more than three films a day, I spent at least an hour in line for a lot of the films that I saw, which turned out to be quite an experience in itself. Austin is definitely one of the friendliest cities I’ve ever lived in and there wasn’t a line that I stood in that didn’t result in an interesting conversation.