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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Austin Film Festival leaves Texas State film students inspired


Screenwriters Lorna Clarke Osunsanmi (left) and Jameel Saleem answer audience questions during the “Navigating the Writers Room” panel, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, at The Austin Club.

With hopes of learning how to refine their skills and start their careers, Texas State filmmakers attended the 28th annual Austin Film Festival from Oct. 21-28.
Since 1994, Austin has hosted the annual film festival and largest writers conference in the world. This year, the event featured producers, directors and various film and television writers. It also included a variety of panels, roundtables, competitions and film screenings for filmmakers to grow and connect with one another.
Texas State film students and faculty were among some of the filmmakers in attendance. On Oct. 22, “Taking Note: How Our Lives Inspire Us,” was an exclusive panel held for Texas State students. The event was hosted by Johnny McAllister, an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance and the head of film production at Texas State. The panel featured professional screenwriter William Broyles Jr., also known as Bill Broyles. Broyles is originally from Houston and has been screenwriting for decades. His work includes “Apollo 13,” “The Polar Express” and “Castaway.”
Robert Morris, a film production senior and Texas State Film Club president, attended the panel and said he enjoyed the unique experience of getting to hear about one of his favorite films from the screenwriter himself.
“Bill Broyles definitely had his own unique story,” Morris said. “Definitely it was a cool insight into one of my favorite films of all time, which was ‘Castaway’. [I] got to ask a question about my favorite scene and hear something from him that I hadn’t heard anywhere.”
Broyles and McAllister met in August at a writers’ retreat hosted by the Austin Film Festival at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. After getting to know each other at the retreat, McAllister wanted Broyles to speak to his students at the festival.
“He talked about inspiration when we were at Ghost Ranch,” McAllister said. “It was a message about just how events in our lives just sort of resonate in ways we may not be aware of and works its way into our writing. It was a message that resonated for me, and it was a kind of message that I thought would be really valuable for other writers at Texas State and the film program to hear.”
Outside of the exclusive Texas State event, students also took advantage of the festival’s panels where writers shared with audience members their experiences in the entertainment industry followed by Q&A sessions.
Jade Ware, a film production senior and Texas State Film Club secretary, attended panels throughout the festival and said she enjoyed learning from professional screenwriters she could relate to.
“I got to meet so many writers, especially Black writers who look like me and think like me,” Ware said. “Just have that overall sense of connection with them and just learn how they, as people of color, have made it in the industry.”
The Austin Film Festival provides many opportunities to network with other artists who travel from all around the country to attend the event. Ware said she was able to capitalize on the networking opportunities and get personal advice from industry professionals.
“They talked to me, you know, on a personal level,” Ware said. “Like ‘okay, here’s how I’m gonna tell you what you need to do as somebody in this industry who’s a person of color and how to navigate that.’ It felt like just a personal connection with them; like getting to connect with these people and just learning about the TV shows that I used to watch or that I still watch today.”
The film festival included other panels for other types of new media and storytelling such as animation and short filmmaking.
On Oct. 24, a panel called “The Animation Process” featured Ashley Miller, a writer and producer who has written a multitude of films including “Thor” and “X-Men: First Class.” Most recently, Miller has been the executive producer on Netflix’s “Dota: Dragon’s Blood.” In the animation panel, Miller detailed the animation process behind “Dota: Dragon’s Blood” and how it differs from live-action productions.
Andrew Hodge, a creative writing and communication studies junior, was in the audience during Miller’s panel. After hearing him break down the animation process, Hodge was reminded about his passion for the craft.
“He broke down the process from beginning to end and it reminded me of why I love animation so much and why I want to go into that industry,” Hodge said. “I was absolutely blown away by it and I left wanting more than ever to work in that field.”
The student badge for the Austin Film Festival cost $225, a deal compared to the $425 conference badge and the $650 producer badge. Yet, not all students can afford the price of the student badge. In the future, McAllister hopes all Texas State film students can attend the festival for free so they can gain a unique experience and participate in networking opportunities.
“It’s such a wonderful resource that I’d certainly want all the film students to get one,” McAllister said. “It’s probably something we need to find through a donor at this point. There’s going to be a lot of costs moving to [Live Oak Hall] but definitely at some point down the road.”
To learn more about the Austin Film Festival, visit its website.

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  • Screenwriter William Broyles Jr. speaks to Texas State students, Friday, Oct. 22, 2021, at the Driskill Hotel in Austin.

  • Writer and producer Ashley Miller presents at “The Animation Process” panel, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, at The Austin Club.

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