The Austin Film Festival celebrates its 30th year in 2023 and this year’s fest did not disappoint.
Here are our 5 favorite things that happened at Austin Film Festival 2023!
1 – A Conversation with Emerald Fennell, Saltburn
She loves to shock you… and see how much you squirm! Emerald Fennell, writer and director of the infamous Promising Young Woman, and the soon to be released Saltburn, delighted her audience at both “A Conversation with Emerald Fennell” and the screening of Saltburn. The latter opened the Austin Film Festival’s 30th Anniversary. Her talk centered around her debut film Promising Young Woman, touching on how she decided to make people uncomfortable in order to face the issues they would rather sweep under the rug. At the screening of Saltburn later that evening , she once again had people gasping with shock and laughing through the most cringe-worthy scenes. It’s a wild ride!
Fennell enjoyed BBQ at Terry Black’s while the audience watched the film, then watched with a sly smile as audience members processed what they just experienced. Saltburn releases in theaters on November 17. Don’t be surprised if you feel the need to take a bath after watching.
2 – Liz Lachman’s documentary Susan Feniger. FORKED with moderator Trevor Scott
Get ready to fall in love with Susan Feniger! She radiates pure joy and the documentary about her story, Susan Feniger. FORKED, is an energetic journey of success, failure, and the love of sharing good food. Celebrity Chef Feniger is adored by all. With praise coming from Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, and even footage with Julia Child, you’ll wonder how anything could ever go wrong. But life happens, and Feniger handles it with grace. The post film Q&A was moderated by CBS Austin’s Trevor Scott, and the audience was eating up every word! Feniger, spouse and filmmaker Liz Lachman, and producer Lisa Donmall-Reeve engaged in a captivating back and forth with Scott that had the audience salivating, laughing, and dying for her to open a restaurant in Austin! Let’s hope this documentary gets picked up soon.
3 – Meg LeFauve and Jon Forte – What Now?
To close out the Writer’s Conference, beloved producer and writer Meg LeFauve, and her husband and writing partner Joe Forte, teamed up to help conference goers figure out what to do with everything they learned and experienced over the weekend. There was a whole lot of passion in that packed room! The major takeaways were 1) F – It! Don’t doubt yourself. Don’t stall. Just do the thing and then you’ll have something to work with. 2) Community! AFF is a special place where writers from all over can come together, learn from each other, mingle with professionals in a casual setting, and then go home ready to write. 3) Writers are Warriors! They trudge through and tell stories that change people’s lives. It also happened to be Meg and Joe’s 29th wedding anniversary. They showed us how to respectfully challenge your partner while encouraging them to keep growing. It was an inspirational panel for all.
4 – Lena Headey and the World Premiere of The Trap + Post Film Q&A
Lena Headey is a vibe! Her powerful presence, zen demeanor, artistry from head to toe, and intelligent banter had everyone at attention. Her first film as a writer and director, The Trap, had its world premiere on Sunday night followed by a Q&A. The film features incredible performances by Michelle Fairley and James Nelson Joyce. The simplicity of the film was balanced by the natural beauty of the setting and it left the audience wanting more. Headey handled the questions that came up with wit, sharing that this film was about nostalgia for her, connecting to the movies she grew up watching, and beautiful Northern England. Without giving anything away, know that it’s worth seeing and you just might be left with a few questions of your own.
5 – Best Kept Secret!
Each day, I wandered through The Driskill and listened to numerous attendees networking, pitching each other, and having a great time. But I found myself wanting a little bit more solitude after panels and before screenings, so the Happy Hour at Roaring Fork is where I ended up. I could tell you about the great deals on food and drinks, but the best part was striking up a conversation with whomever I was seated next to at the bar. One day it was a well known producer who had several panels at AFF, who I promised not to name. We had a delightful conversation about relationships, passion projects, and even worked on casting his next project. Another time it was an Academy Award winning film director and screenwriter, who also had much to do at the Festival. My favorite though was a professor who decided to get into screenwriting so she could team up with her daughter. I expect to see many films by those two someday. You just never know who you are going to meet at the Austin Film Festival, but I promise you that will be a story in itself!
This article was contributed by Michele Schmidt who has loved film since first seeing The Silence of the Lambs as a teenager. She trained in classical ballet and had a career in dance but worked on films in any capacity every chance she got. From casting, to assisting producers, to writing coverage, you will find Michele at every film and TV festival that Austin has to offer.