How Internet & TV Have Broadened the Slate for the Austin Film Festival

Oct 29, 2015

The 22nd Annual Austin Film Festival is getting underway. This year’s lineup includes more than 180 films – 20 of which are world or North American premieres.

The film festival and conference is unique because it was founded to recognize some of the less talked about people behind films – screenwriters. And that’s still true after 22 years. But the festival has also evolved a lot in recent years.


One thing that’s changed is just how much of the film festival is actually now dedicated to television.

"Because so many of our writers and honorees are working in TV now, and eventually that may be all there is – is television," AFF co-founder and Executive Director Barbara Morgan says.

Morgan is joking… sort of. It’s true that the way we watch TV has changed a lot because of things like YouTube and Netflix. And that’s one reason why the festival added a new competition category this year – webisodes – basically, TV made for the internet.

"The ones we received were surprisingly good," Morgan says. "I guess in my mind I was guessing them to sort of be everybody and his brother like, ‘We’ll make it in my parents’ barn and my mom will make the costumes,’ you know, I thought that was kind of going to be what we were going to be getting, but not at all actually. There was some really great content, they were thought-out, there were people looking at, 'how long can I make this idea last, how do I develop my story?' And we’ve received some really great ones from here in our own backyard."

But the main event is still film. The headliner opening night is “Legend.” Then, things lighten up with the festival’s centerpiece film – “Burning Bohdi.”

"All the cast is coming in. It’s people from ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and a whole lot of faces people will recognize from television, very funny," Morgan says.

And to cap it off on closing night – a new narrative film that tells one side of the story about the Lance Armstrong cheating scandal. It’s called “The Program.”

One question film festival organizers sort of hate is whether any themes have emerged from their lineup.

"I haven’t really noticed an overt trend. No that’s a lie; I have noticed an overt theme," Morgan says. "We have a lot of docs (documentaries) about very dark themes. Forced sterilization of immigrant women with “No Mas Bebés” and another one, “Of Dogs and Men” which is about the shooting of dogs by police officers all over the country. People’s pets primarily."

But don’t let some of the dark topics scare you off. Morgan says it’s actually a good year for comedies at the festival. She also doesn’t want Austinites to be scared off by the fact that it is a festival with a base downtown. It’s true that a lot of the films are shown at places like the Paramount and State Theatres.

"But then we also have a couple of venues that have parking – which is my favorite thing as an Austinite," Morgan says. "The Long Center and the Bob Bullock, and we have both the Village and the Galaxy Theatre, and we’ve got three screens between those two places, and we’re playing a lot of the films that we’re playing downtown also out there."

Single tickets are sold for screenings as they become available. The Austin Film Festival runs Oct. 29 - Nov. 5.