AFF 2013: Sessions and Panels We Can't Wait to Attend

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It's no secret that Austin Film Festival has a stellar lineup this year. Although we here at Slackerwood are always eager to tell you our top picks for upcoming films, we thought we would switch it up a bit by also telling you a little about the conference panels we are most excited to attend.

AFF left no stone unturned with their lineup of speakers and presenters for this year's 20th anniversary celebration. If you know anyone on the AFF staff, you know how long and hard they worked to bring you these stellar writers, actors and filmmakers. The awardees alone are names to be marveled at: Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad, The X-Files) will receive the Outstanding Television Writer Award; Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) will receive the Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award (to be presented by Paul Thomas Anderson); Callie Khouri (Thelma and Louise, Nashville) will take home the Distinguished Screenwriter Award, and AFF recently announced Susan Sarandon will receive the Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking -- Actor Honoree Award. The fest will also present a special Heart of Film Award to producer Barry Josephson for all of his work with the festival these past 20 years.

With that, here are some panels that a few of us are going to be incorporating into our schedules:

New Media, New Television (Thurs, 10/24 @ 2:45 pm) -- There are so many opportunities for quality storytelling beyond network television. This panel will discuss the changes in the medium (including original programming launching at Netflix and Hulu) and how writers can question the status quo to find success. Panelists include the director of scripted programming at AMC and writers from the Netflix original series Hemlock Grove.  -- Matt Shiverdecker

The State of Independent Film (Fri, 10/25 @ 10:45 am) -- Alvaro Rodriguez moderates this panel that will dig into topics like evolving distribution models and digital filmmaking. Panelists David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints), Jeff Nichols (Mud) and Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) will undoubtedly make this a fascinating conversation.  -- M.S.

Breaking In: Finding Representation (Fri, 10/25 @ 1:30 pm) -- As someone who is quite curious (not to mention anxious) to make a transition into the screenwriting industry, I often hear that the hardest but most necessary step is finding an agent. I have a feeling I'll be taking a lot of notes at this one. 

Veronica Mars: From Small Screen to Silver Screen (Sat, 10/26 @ 12:45 pm) -- I attended the panel a couple of years ago when Rob Thomas screened the pilot of the cult favorite teen detective show and told us behind-the-scenes stories, so I'm eager to see/hear how his film is progressing. -- Elizabeth Stoddard

A Conversation with the 2013 Awardees (Sat, 10/26 @ 2:15 pm) -- During my time at AFF, I always seemed to have a fire to put out when this panel was taking place. I am very much looking forward to hearing from all five of this year's awardees on what makes a good story, and will turn my phone off so as to avoid all contact with the outside world for this hour and 15 minutes.

The Heroine's Journey (Sat, 10/26, 3:45 pm) -- Elizabeth, Caitlin and I all had this one on our list. A conversation with Orange is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan and 2013 Distinguished Screenwriter Awardee Callie Khouri? I have a feeling the three of us will be front row for this one... 
From Elizabeth: Show creators/screenwriters Callie Khouri and Jenji Kohan are set to talk about writing female-led storylines, and I will be there.
From Caitlin: This panel highlights the work of two screenwriters known for creating complicated, kick-ass female characters. Khouri and Kohan will discuss their work and also their own paths to career success in this afternoon session moderated by Kathy Blackwell, a senior editor at the Austin American-Statesman. As someone who thinks the world could use more Nancy Botwin and Rayna Jaymes-types, you can count me in for this one. 

A Conversation with Callie Khouri (Sun, 10/27 @ 12 pm) -- The writer of Thelma and Louise and creator of ABC's Nashville will chat about her past work and current projects. As I am a fan of Nashville, (soapy elements, mumbling actresses and all) I can't wait to sit in on this panel. -- E.S.

The Queer and Now: Challenges and Advantages of LGBT Cinema in 2013 (Mon, 10/28 @ 5 pm) -- For every breakthrough like Weekend, there are plenty of films produced today that struggle to find an audience beyond the festival circuit. This panel discussion, which is presented in conjunction with the Polari Festival, will take a look at the current reality for queer filmmakers. Moderated by Polari's Director of Programming, Curran Nualt. -- M.S.

As you can see, our calendars are filling up quickly with panels to attend. Badges and film passes are still on sale and can be purchased throughout the duration of the festival (October 24 - 31).  With all of these panels and big names coming, why would you want to miss out?

[Photos of awardees and logo are courtesy of Austin Film Festival, used with permission.]