The allure of Hollywood begins to reach us at a young age. Most people will probably experience at least one, perhaps brief, stage in their life where pursuing work in the film industry sounds like a wonderful idea. Bright lights, pretty people, and big paychecks – of course it sounds appealing.
Most people will also grow past the age of ten and decide to move on to a more feasible career. Then, there are the rest of us. The dreamers. The ones who don’t mind the idea of begging our parents for money well into our twenties. The ones who know we may be the “coffee kid” for years and still never get that big-time break as a producer, writer, or actor. We are led to believe that there is something romantic about following our hearts, but is the sacrifice of our morals and pride worth it in the end?
For many of us who had the Hollywood “bug” after graduating high school, going on to study film in college appeared to be a good idea. There was a false security in the thought of “having a degree in film” despite the fact that Hollywood is about who you know, not where you went to college. We spent thousands of dollars to take classes where our professors pounded the idea into us that “networking” will be the key to starting a career in film. Thus, we were told to attend film festivals. What could possibly be a better way to meet people in the industry than to throw yourself into week-long seminars and screenings where you are surrounded by people who might just be the savior for your career?
My first experience attending a legitimate film festival was just this fall in the fantastic city of Austin, Texas. The Austin Film Festival is geared towards professionals and amateurs alike. It is also renowned for creating an atmosphere of accessibility. Unlike festivals such as Sundance, Austin encourages those with experience to mingle with amateurs, students, and fans.
As this is my senior year of college, I felt pressured to gain as much out of this experience as possible. I teamed up with seven other film students and left at five in the morning from our humble town of Norman, Oklahoma, in order to reach Austin by the opening of the festival at noon. We were thrilled to have signed up for the conference part of the festival, which is designed especially for those interested in the art of screenwriting.