Shelly Yo
Shelly Yo


AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL (AFF) is celebrating 30 years of supporting storytellers’ contributions to film, television, and new media. Austin Film Festival is committed to supporting creatives at all levels, including our support for the WGA and SAG-AFTRA in their ongoing strike efforts.

AFF announced today three Awardees to be honored as part of its 30th Anniversary Festival and Writers Conference happening October 26 – November 2. The Polly Platt Award for Producing is given annually to producers with a keen sense of story and who have a history of fostering new talent. The 2023 awardee is prolific producer Lauren Shuler Donner.

Lauren Shuler Donner is a renowned film, TV, and theater producer, boasting an impressive array of many credits, including the X-Men franchise, Pretty in Pink, Free Willy, You’ve Got Mail, She’s The Man, Constantine, and The Secret Life of Bees. She has also been EP on five TV shows including Legion. She is currently developing several Broadway musicals based on her and her husband’s films. Lauren serves as Vice President for the Producers’ Guild of America, and is on the Board of The Motion Picture and TV Fund (MPTF), and LUPUSLA. While attending AFF, Donner will host a retrospective screening as well as “A Conversation With” panel to discuss her body of work.

James V. Hart will receive the Heart of Film Award, celebrating his many beloved contributions to film and television, and his invaluable service to the screenwriting community. Hart is the writer of acclaimed films Hook, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Contact. He will host a “On Writing” panel on the latter at the Writer’s Conference.

Hart’s other writing/producing credits include: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Tuck Everlasting, Sahara, Lara Croft: Tombraider – The Cradle Of Life, August Rush, Epic, and the TV series The Hot Zone based on the best seller by Richard Preston. His renowned story mapping tool TheHartChart was launched at the 2015 Austin Film Festival.

AFF is honoring writer/director So Young Shelly Yo with the 2023 New Voice Award for her debut feature, Smoking Tigers, which is screening at the Festival as its regional premiere. Yo will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A, as well as speaking at the Writers Conference. Yo is an alumni of AFF’s film competition, having screened her short films Moonwalk with Me and Soft Sounds of Peeling Fruit in Austin in 2018 and 2021 respectively. Smoking Tigers recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, receiving multiple honors, including Best Screenplay, Best Actor, & Special Jury Mention for the Nora Ephron Prize.

The 2023 Writers Conference, happening October 26 – 29, will again present over 150 panels on the art, craft, and business of storytelling, featuring a slate of prominent industry professionals working in film, television, and new media. The creators of Yellowjackets, Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson, and Jonathan Lisco will be in attendance to discuss their creative process on panel “On Writing: Yellowjackets”. AFF will also host “A Conversation with” Nic Pizzolatto, creator of True Detective. Other confirmed panelists for this year’s Festival include Tracy Oliver (Girls Trip), Gavin O’Connor (Miracle), Dan Erickson (Severance), Pamela Ribon (Nimona), Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine), and Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body), with more panelist announcements to come.

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