TVWriter.Com’s Kelly Jo Brick was a panelist at the Austin Film Festival this year and returns to this very site bringing some of the insights she gathered while attending the event.
In the words of Larry Brody, “Welcome back, Kelly Jo! Boy, do we ever hope you’re going to stay.”
by Kelly Jo Brick
Every year the Austin Film Festival and Screenwriting Conference puts together a jam-packed event, filled with films, panels and parties as writers gather to celebrate a shared love for story.
From television to film, playwriting to podcasting and scripted digital to young filmmakers programs, the festival offers an atmosphere rich in education, information and inspiration like these:
DEVELOPING YOUR CRAFT
- Writing is understanding how you process the world and learning to work within that. – ED SOLOMON, BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE
- We can only judge our work with the skills we have. It takes people pushing you and telling you the hard truth for you to grow.
- Put forward the thing you love the most with the spec you’re writing. – LAURA EASON, THE LOUDEST VOICE
- Get hold of scripts that you like. Read, learn, be inspired.
- Find a writers group. Help each other out. Rise up together.
- Look to trauma and personal connection as a driving force when you build characters.
- Identify your characters’ fears, what shuts them down emotionally. – JAMES V. HART, HOOK, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA
- Fear can point to your nemesis. Put that power into that character.
- Go as deep as you can with backstory. It doesn’t need to be on the page, but you need to know it to better inform your writing.
- If you don’t believe your characters are real, no one else will. – BEN CORY JONES, BOOMERANG, INSECURE
- The name is super important. It’s your first introduction to a character. – ERIKA L. JOHNSON, THE VILLAGE, QUEEN SUGAR
- When writing real life people, there’s an added pressure to get the story right, but at some point you do need to treat them as characters. You can’t be so reverent that you lose the storytelling. – CARLY WRAY, WESTWORLD, MAD MEN
ON WRITING DIALOGUE
- Dialogue can be used to both reveal and conceal.
- What you don’t say is just as important as what is said.
- Some of the best things can come from a small exchange. – TESS MORRIS, MAN UP, CASUAL
- Read your dialogue out loud to make sure it works.
- All your characters in a scene want something slightly different, use dialogue to express the thoughts behind their thoughts.
- Feeling stuck? Listen to the speech patterns of others. Observe their rhythms and expressions.
- Give yourself the freedom to be dialogue heavy in your first draft and streamline it in later drafts. – TESS MORRIS
YOUR FIRST DRAFT
- First drafts, they all suck. – MEG LeFAUVE, INSIDE OUT, CAPTAIN MARVEL
- There’s no excuse to not start writing, it doesn’t have to be good from the beginning. Just sit down and write.
- If you struggle to get started, find the thing you love the most, like dialogue or action, and begin there.
- Look at problems in your script as disease versus symptoms. You’ll tend to see symptoms in acts two and three, but the real problem is often in act one.
- You’ve got to finish. Then you can rewrite, but it can’t happen if you don’t first finish.
- I’m still terrified every single time before I start a script. You fight your way through it. – SCOTT ROSENBERG, VENOM, CON AIR
STRUCTURING A SERIES
- People tune in for characters and relationships. There needs to be road built to drive that, challenges that put characters through an emotional journey.
- How many episodes will be in each season? This sets a guide for shaping the overall season.
- What is the question that’s central to your season?
- Who is your big bad for the season?
- Try not to box yourself in as you start to brainstorm and break episodes. Let the beats grow and evolve.
THE BUSINESS OF WRITING
- If you find yourself viewed as one type of writer, you can write yourself out of that impression by stepping out of that wheelhouse with a new spec script in a new genre.
- If you write in partnership with someone, never get off a point without you both being happy. – RON BASS, RAIN MAN
- Writers don’t really have power, you have to persuade.
GROWING YOUR WRITING CAREER
- The role of failure isn’t discussed enough. There are erasers on pencils for a reason. – NICOLE PERLMAN, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, CAPTAIN MARVEL
- Don’t use judgment as a hammer to knock yourself down. – MEG LeFAUVE
- Try to find ways to make writing fun. – ROCHÉE JEFFREY, BEVERLY HILLS 90210, SMILF
- Don’t feel guilty for protecting your writing time. Whether it’s putting a snooze on your email, having to pass on an event or coffee with a friend, you’ve got to prioritize your writing.
- If you’re having a hard time sitting down and getting things done, find an accountability buddy, someone with whom you communicate regularly to keep you on task and on schedule.
- The genius is in the mistake, the failure. That’s where the great ideas are from. You’re digging and excavating. You are on the hero’s journey as you write.
Kelly Jo Brick is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. She’s a television and documentary writer and producer, as well as a winner of Scriptapalooza TV and a Sundance Fellow. Read more about her HERE.