UT at 2023 Austin Film Festival

October 26–November 2, 2023 • Austin, TX
RTF at AFF 2023


Dedicated to promoting writers' creative contributions to film, the Austin Film Festival (AFF) is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year! Over these past three decades, UT faculty, students, and alumni have influenced all aspects of the festival—as screenwriters, filmmakers, panelists, organizers, conference directors, volunteers, script competitors, videographers, readers, and moderators.

This year's festival kicks off on Thursday, October 26. Among its opening night features is the World Premiere of I’ll Be There, written and produced by RTF Interim Chair Cindy McCreery and directed and produced by Professor Andrew Shea.  Shot with the help of many UT students and alumni, I'll Be There revolves around Grace, whose estranged blended family is thrown together unexpectedly when her older brother is diagnosed with cancer. Learn more about the making of the feature in this Moody College story.

Another feature to look out for is Home Free, an indie comedy made by UT alumni, Aaron Brown and Lenny Barszap, based on experiences they had with a homeless professor when they were UT students. The filmmakers workshopped the script with students in the RTF Script-to-Screen class, and some UT students appear in the film. 

The festival also showcases short films from several current students and alumni, including Kathryn Van Buren’s graduate thesis film The Third Bedroom, RTF Lecturer Cristin Stephens’s MFA thesis Black Magic, MFA Production student Chase Musslewhite’s Cowgirl, BS alum Sharon Arteaga’s IN TOW,  BS alum Austin Culp’s Titty Boy, India Opzoomer's Ick (cowritten with Lindsay Howard), Emily Potter's Freaks (codirected with Grace Potter), and (Dis)Connected, written by BS alum Hussain Pirani.

As part of AFF’s writers’ conference, many of our alumni and faculty are also participating in and moderating panels. The RTF department's MFA in Screenwriting Program is hosting a special panel on Saturday, October 28, at 10 am on "Launching a Screenwriting Career." RTF Interim Chair Cindy McCreery will moderate the panel with RTF screenwriting area head Maya Perez and RTF alumni, Alison Eakle (Shondaland co-executive producer, Bridgerton, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, Inventing Anna) and Davia Carter (writer, Tulsa King, Snowfall, Queen of the South).

Please see the RTF at AFF schedule on the festival's site (and below) to learn about UT-related events at the 2023 Austin Film Festival. 

Note: if you're an RTF or UT affiliate whose work is showcased in this year's AFF, please reach out and let us know!    





(USA, 97 MIN)    
Writer/Producer: Cindy McCreery    
Director/Producer: Andrew Shea    
Key Cast: Jasmine Batchelor, Ryan Cooper, Dorien Wilson, Victoria Kelleher, Celestina Harris

As the youngest of five children, Grace’s blended family was never easy to explain to her friends. As soon as graduation came around, she left the confusion and rawness of her home life behind. When the film finds her more than a decade later, she has built a new life for herself in Los Angeles and cemented her place as the outsider of the family. But her new life is upended when she learns that her older brother AJ has cancer and her now estranged family comes to town to support him. The film is set during the days after Michael Jackson’s death in the Los Angeles hospital that is next door to the L.A. Coroner’s Office, where the King of Pop was autopsied. As we unravel the family’s traumatic past, the pivotal role AJ played as Grace’s protector, and the chasm that now exists between them as adults, Grace comes to terms with the ghosts of her past and her former role as the family’s “Golden Child.” Michael Jackson played an important role in the siblings' childhoods and the irony of the timing isn’t lost on Grace. As she tries to reconcile her complicated relationships with her siblings, she’s also saying goodbye to the icon who was the soundtrack to that chapter of her life.

Screening Times: 

Still I'll Be There



(USA, 98 MIN)    
Writer: Lenny Barszap    
Director: Aaron Brown    
Key Cast: Ryan Cownie, John Karna, Jashawn Lee Annie Fox, Chau Long, Joe Hart    

In 1997, a group of college misfits invite an unhoused professor to crash on their porch.

Screening Times:

Home Free



Shorts Program 9: Best Lil Shorts in Texas 1 


(USA, 14 MIN)    
Writer/Director: Austin Ford Franklin Culp    
Key Cast: Anthony Ezell, Anna Schatte, Joel Keith, Jake Ryan, Ryan Muenzler    
When a teenage boy with gynecomastia (aka "man boobs") finds out his family can’t afford to pay for surgery to correct the issue, he takes the matter into his own hands.    

(USA, 14 MIN)    
Writer/Director: Cristin Stephens    
Key Cast: Cortney Gift, Lea’h Sampson, Robert Fuller, Avery Merrifield    
A diversity hire in a writer's room contends with the expectations of her boss at the cost of her identity.    

(USA, 15 MIN)    
Writer/Director: Chase Musslewhite    
Hailing from a long line of cowboys and cowgirls, Krishaun Adair has paved her own way in the rodeo world as both a competitor and a rodeo host. We follow her and her daughter, a barrel racing duo, as they prepare for an upcoming competition.    

IN TOW    
(USA, 21 MIN)    
Writer/Director: Sharon Arteaga    
Key Cast: Katy Atkinson, Sandy Avila, Alec Franco    
The morning of her senior homecoming game, a self-involved high school cheerleader and her overworked single mom wake up to find that their mobile home is being towed away ... with them inside of it!

Shorts Program 4: Strangers in a Strange Land    

Screening Times:

(USA, 23 MIN)    
Writer/Director: Kathryn Van Buren    
Key Cast: Ava Torres, Ruben Caballero, Paul Michael Bloodgood    
On a gloomy winter trip to help her father prepare their ancestral beach house for sale, little Isla illuminates some of the darkness that haunts the family tree.

(USA, 7 MIN)    
Writer: Hussain Pirani    
Director: Karl Stelter    
Key Cast: Jessica Morris, Matthew Pohlkamp, Aria Starnes    
When a mother’s AI-generated memories clash with reality, she must confront her past for the sake of her future.

Shorts Program 10: Best Lil Shorts in Texas 2

Screening Times:

(USA, 11 MIN) 
Writer: Grace Potter 
Director: Grace Potter, Emily Potter 
Key Cast: Courtney Parchman, Sean Koetting, Monica Broccolo, Kayla Rainey, Will Tranfo 
When your ex boyfriend shows up to your party with a girl who looks just like you and has the same name as you, chaos is sure to follow. 
(Canada, 11 MIN) 
Writer: India Opzoomer, Lindsay Howard 
Director: India Opzoomer 
Key Cast: Sydney Estella, Jakob Jankowski, Mia King, Collin Brown 
Anais is determined to lose her virginity on prom night but mishap after mishap forces her to question her relationship. And even her own desires.  

Shorts Program 2: Love, Complicated 


(USA, 6 MIN)    
Writer: Jon Fortenbury    
Director: Samantha Ireland

Cinematographer: Nate Locklear    
Key Cast: John Valley, Ryan Sterling Smith, Samantha Ireland    
After finding out his girlfriend committed a heinous act, a thirty-something romantic who’s been single most of his life must decide between dating someone with a dark past and being alone forever.


Launching a Screenwriting Career presented by The University of Texas Radio-Television-Film MFA in Screenwriting Program 

Join this special morning session to learn about the educational and networking opportunities afforded to grad school students in The University of Texas Austin's Radio-Television-Film Program. Hear from alumni on how living in Austin and studying media at UT gave their careers a boost.



  • Maya Perez, AFF Moderator
    UT Radio-Television-Film Screenwriting Area Head
    A television producer and screenwriter, Maya Perez was most recently a co-producer on a romantic drama series starring Joshua Jackson and Lauren Ridloff for Starz. Prior to that, she was an executive story editor on Showtime’s American Rust S2 and an executive producer on the unscripted... Read More .
  • Alison Eakle
    co-executive producer, Bridgerton, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, Inventing Anna
    Alison Eakle oversees the development team at Shondaland and has helped develop a plethora of series for the company. Since the banner’s move to Netflix in 2017, Eakle has gone on to develop and produce the company’s first scripted series for the streamer, “Bridgerton,” the... Read More. 
  • Davia Carter
    writer, Tulsa King, Snowfall, Queen of the South
    Davia Carter discovered her passion for writing while growing up in a military town nestled in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks. Much of her writing pays homage to her small-town upbringing. Carter has an affinity for stories about people exploring their identity and coming of age... Read More.





Elana Wakeman
Sr. Programs and Communications Coordinator