A reader for the Nashville Film Festival screenplay competition, Cheryl Laughlin gophers for indie sets throughout NorCal and performs grass roots marketing for micro-budget documentaries via 20KFilms. Follow Cheryl on Twitter @cheryllaughlin.
After making film-dreams-meet-reality by volunteering at the Sundance Film Fest, I decided to put another mini smackdown on my introverted ways. As a Second Rounder in the Austin Film Fest Screenplay Competition, this was the year for me to venture to the Austin Film Festival and Screenwriter’s Conference.
Turns out, Austin knows how to bring it with amazing panels, films, round tables and networking – oh, and high humidity. (Nice try, Austin. But I grew up in the sweltering temps of Ohio. Austin’s weather just feels like a home-but-not-quite homecoming.)
So, considering many screenwriters share similar soft-spoken genes, thought I’d share my top tips for introverted film fest networking, plus bonus networking tips from two other film fest attendees.
FILM FEST NETWORKING TIPS #1: From Bona Fide Introvert Screenwriter
1. Go to the parties, even if your instincts tell you to flee.
I know, parties notch socializing up to 11, but you gotta go with fight over flight. One foot in front of the other and you’re at the party. For me, that’s half the battle won… then it would be ridiculous to be at a party and not at least try to talk to people, right?
Just head up the steps in the lobby, to bar area on the second floor. If you see the big bull’s head mounted on the wall, you’re in the right place. (Although, in all fairness, this is Texas – there very well may be lots of bars with life-size taxidermy bull’s heads as the décor.) Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and just go with it. Plus, you’ll spot several of your screenwriter heroes wandering about.
3. Follow Austin Film Fest’s Twitter.
Yep, I totally figured this one out after the fact. I didn’t realize how many impromptu meetups, secret panels, and general updates were being tweeted out until I was on the plane heading home. Drats! But I’m paying this one forward and now you all know.
BONUS TIP: More of a packing tip – carry a thin rain coat in your walkabout items.
When Austin weather reports say rain, believe the forecast. Left my coat in the hotel, inviting a 12-block downpour for the midnight walk back. Don’t tempt the Weather Fates, they will spite you.
FILM FEST NETWORKING TIPS #2: From Nashville Film Festival Pro
My friend Cat Stewart, screener for the Nashville Film Festival (NAFF) and Screenwriter Competition, flew in from Nashville to meet up for our first forays into the Austin Film Fest.
Cat definitely isn’t an introvert. With over 20+ years of festival experience at the NAFF and work with film producers, she can free flow through any social situation. She let me ride her extroverted coattails until I finally got my footing.
Cat’s top two networking quick tips:
1. Don’t be afraid to dip into a conversation.
But use your writer skill of observation first. Group of people deep in conversation? Nope. Quiet writers orbiting each other? Yep. Hop in on that conversation.
2. Use a simple but great conversation starter.
“So, what brings you to the Austin Film Festival?” Easy and genuine.
FILM FEST NETWORKING TIPS #3: From Toronto Short Film Writer and Producer
At the first networking party of the fest, discovered the super friendly duo of Canadian writer/producer Clara Altimas and actor/producer Christopher Hayes. They were amp’d for their Austin-selected short film ”Jeremy and Margot Make a Baby.”
Both had a dynamic energy that was uber inclusive… even an introvert like me didn’t have a hard time talking to them.
Clara kindly shared these great Austin Film Fest wrap-up tips:
Ask a lot of questions… to the awesome people who were nice enough to talk to you.
Carry business cards… to make it easy for people to connect with you after the fest.
And, if you’re in Texas, know how to talk football.
Next up, be on the lookout for more lessons learned at the Austin Film Fest including… The RomCom Is Not Dead (Seriously) and Film Unicorns: Interviews with Film Hyphenates Writer-Directors and Writer-Producers.
- More articles by Cheryl Laughlin
- Austin Film Festival 101: Why to Go & How to Plan Your Trip
- Inside Telluride Film Festival: ‘Palo Alto’ Interviews
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