So who's going to Austin this year for the big screenwriter's conference?
Friends of mine (shaddup) know how I feel about the AFF—for my money, there's not many more effective ways to do some basic networking and connection-making than with four hard-charging days in October at the Driskill. I already have the usual suspects—that odd gaggle of Austin (ir)regulars who pencil this event in on their calendars first thing every year—but this year I seem to notice a lot more of my online acquaintances announcing that they are finally going to make the trek for the first time.
That's wickedly cool, as a great many of the 2006 rookies are folks whom I already know and (to varying degrees... ahem) like. Some of these folks are committing to this event very much as a leap of faith, based upon the cheerleading and up-talking from folks like me (and others—AFF fans are not hard to find if you frequent any of the usual online screenwriting haunts). For some, it surely feels like it did for me my first year at the conference:
"Is this really worth the time and money?"
"What am I going to **do** there?"
"Am I going to wind up wandering around, alone and pathetic?"
To answer the above: "absolutely," "more than you would probably believe," and "not unless you really want to."
But I was lucky that first year: I wound up under the wing (and sometimes under the skin) of a few great folks who led me around and showed me what was available and who was who and said stuff like that "Yeah, that's Shane Black who claimed your spot on the sofa when you went to buy another beer. Wanna meet him?" and stuff like that. In the two years I've been to AFF, I've made and renewed a great many connections in Austin, including some, which, strange as it sounds, now rate among my favorite and most valued friendships.
I've also watched as some other people show up and do approximately nothing to distill any value from the opportunities presented. Folks who, for whatever reason, seem content to treat the conference almost like an airline flight, where they pay their fare and then just show up and expect everything to be handled for them. These are the folks who come to the conference, attend their daily panels, retreat to their hotel rooms in the afternoon and do... nothing. I find that both sad and confounding, as why in the world would you invest the time and money to make such a trip only to do nothing once you get there?
So I'm saying here, "if you're going to Austin this year, chime in now and start to get a feel for the folks you can and should be looking to meet once you are there.".
Maybe there's some friend of yours already going to Austin and you never realized it.
Maybe someone you've always enjoyed in online form—a chat room pal, perhaps—is headed to AFF and you might finally have a chance to make good on that beer you've long joked about buying.
Maybe there's someone heading to Austin who might be looking to split a hotel room, or a cab fare, or something—something that helps put real dollars back in your pocket today or tomorrow.
Yeah, yeah... there will be the usual impressive roster of name pros from the screenwriting and filmmaking front, but almost as useful from a career-building angle are the fellow aspiring pros who will be there—folks like me, folks like you—folks who are now just struggling nobodies but who might well emerge in a year or two as the very sorts of people you badly wish you knew today. Folks who could give you useful advice. Who might offer a helping hand when you finally make that first trip out to LA to meet and schmooze on foreign territory. Who might one day have a useful contact to toss your way, a friendly agent to send a query to, a cool major player acquaintance to take you skeet shooting with. Whatever. The point is, you never really know who will be a huge player in the near future, so making friends and connections now can only be A Good Thing.
So let's get a head count going to see who might be showing up in the Capitol of Texas in late October this year. I'm not going to organize any sort of group meeting—there are plenty of such events already being set up among those sorts who enjoy such events—but maybe there are some connections waiting to be made now, some mutually beneficial relations which might be found or forged.
Drop a note in the comments section if you are sure (or likely) to attend AFF 2006. We can help one another... so long as we don't just stand around like wallflowers, always waiting for someone else to ask us to dance. Cuz like the man said:
This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. This ain't no foolin' around.
Breaking through to the inside of that wall around Hollywood is serious damned business, my pretties. Let's get to work.
With a purpose in mind, and a beverage in hand.