Monday, October 27, 2008

Final Post-AFF Thoughts: It's About The People

As much fun as it is to see great films, and hear interesting panel discussions, far and away the best part of Austin Film Festival was making new friends.

Sure, a few people were laying-on the used car salesman charm as they schmoozed the most important people they could identify in order to "help their careers," but I also met some genuinely nice people who were just interesting to talk to and fun to hang out with.

Ass-kissing the most famous person in the room is par for the course at many film industry events, but at AFF it was refreshingly restrained. As a result most people, even the well known ones, were approachable and willing to engage in actually interesting conversations. And, for the most part, even the neophytes understood that we were all just there to have a good time talking about screenwriting and filmmaking (and politics, philosophy, literature, art, science, sports, and whatever else came up).

Both growing up in one of the playgrounds of the world's rich and famous, East Hampton, NY, and nearly seven years at a hugely successful studio has me accustomed to not giving a damn about status. Such a history sometimes has the opposite effect on people, but in my case it led me to decide that there really are basically two kinds of people: people I can carry on an interesting discussion with and whose company I find pleasant, and those who don't meet that criteria. I don't particularly need to make "contacts" (to use the corporate doublespeak that essentially reduces a person to their profit potential), but it is fun to meet interesting people some of who may become genuine friends.

If sycophants, lunatics, the bitterly belligerent, and the desperate make you as uncomfortable as they do me, AFF is far and away one of the better events out there. Other than the occasional overly aggressive self promoter or bitter defeatist, most of the people at AFF were quite nice and pretty much all were at least well behaved (the at least four different people I observed asking Robert Townsend to read their script because it featured "a black guy" notwithstanding).