03.20.2013 In anticipation of the Launching Your Writing Career panel in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 30th, we interviewed three of the panelists included in the discussion. The interview features Greg Beal, Director of the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting; Franklin Leonard, Founder of The Black List; and AFF Screenplay Competition Director Matt Dy. For more information about the upcoming event, click here. Q: …
In anticipation of the Launching Your Writing Career panel in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 30th, we interviewed three of the panelists included in the discussion. The interview features Greg Beal, Director of the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting; Franklin Leonard, Founder of The Black List; and AFF Screenplay Competition Director Matt Dy. For more information about the upcoming event, click here.
Q: What do you consider a strong story?
GREG: For me, Graham Parker’s song title “Passion Is No Ordinary Word” should apply to every story. If the writer truly cares about her story, her characters and the moments of true feeling she’s conveying, it appears on the page and on screen. If she can make her characters live and laugh and survive, then I have the opportunity to live through them, feel with them and learn from them.
FRANKLIN: A beginning, middle, and end that keeps the audience interested in what happens next, elicits emotion of some sort of emotion (anything from fear to laughter to awe to sadness), and lives the audience viewing some aspect of their lives – no matter how small – differently than they did before being exposed to it.
MATT: A strong story is one that takes you on a journey without realizing it. When you’re reading a truly engaging script, the words fly off the page and you’re anxious to get to the next scene rather than thumbing through to see how many pages you have left. It’s easier said than done but it’s what every writer should strive for.
Q: What common mistakes do you find when you read a script?
GREG: If we’re talking about well written screenplays featuring intriguing characters and strong dialogue, then the missing ingredient is all too often conflict. Solid but inexperienced writers often suffer from following story templates and guru advice too slavishly, which can suck the life out of a script. If you’re referring to weaker scripts, then the problems run the gamut from poor writing to weak craft and execution to a lack of structure to all too little story.
FRANKLIN: The main (and biggest) mistake a writer can make is forgetting the human element. Emotional resonance, regardless of the genre, is the thing that will distinguish a screenplay (or any sort of storytelling or art more generally.)
MATT: I second Greg in that not establishing conflict is the most common problem with a lot of scripts. Conflict is what drives a story and moves it forward. Without conflict or greater stakes, there is no story. Also, a lot of first-time screenwriters will direct too much in their scripts and include long blocks of scene descriptions. Screenplays are considered the blueprint for a film but it still needs to leave room for the director’s vision.
Q: What’s the best advice you would give to a writer hoping to advance in a competition or make it on The Black List?
GREG: Submit your best work. Prior to uploading your script and paying the entry fee: Read the rules. Make sure you’re submitting an eligible and appropriate script for a particular competition. If you have questions about a competition, shoot an email to its administrators. Don’t trust everything you hear about competitions from online screenwriting forum “experts.”
FRANKLIN: I’m going to paraphrase Hayao Miyazaki’s definition of a popular movie: write something that is “full of true human emotion, no matter how base. The entrance should be low and wide so that everyone can be welcomed in. The exit should be high and purified. It shouldn’t be something that emphasizes or enlarges the lowness.”
MATT: Write something that truly stands out. Write the most daring and uninhibited story you can think of and in the most cinematic way that can draw in an audience. There isn’t a dearth of screenwriters in Hollywood so what the industry needs and is looking for is the next great original voice. Screenplay competitions hope to infuse the industry with new, exciting talent so you should do whatever you can to stand out.
Q: Could you share some success stories?
GREG: We have plenty, but let’s focus on the immediate. Destin Cretton’s “Short Term 12,” which he directed from his 2010 Nicholl Fellowship-winning script, just premiered at SXSW. 2002 fellow Creighton Rothenberg co-wrote “Olympus Has Fallen,” opening in theaters on March 22. 2012 fellow James DiLapo recently signed a two-script deal with Warner Bros. Jason Micallef wrote “Butter,” which opened theatrically in the fall of 2012 after being the opening night film at the 2011 Austin Film Festival; “Butter” was Jason’s 2008 fellowship-winning script. 1992 fellow Andrew Marlowe is the creator and executive producer of the ABC series “Castle.” 1999 fellow Rebecca Sonnenshine is an executive story editor on the WB series “The Vampire Diaries.” 2003 fellow James Mottern is currently in post-production on “God Only Knows,” which he directed. 1998 fellow Karen Moncrieff is currently in post-production on “The Trials of Cate McCall,” which she wrote and directed.
FRANKLIN: The annual Black List has seen its share of success stories, though it’s important to clarify that those who made the movies deserve the credit for the films themselves. It is worth noting however that over 250 scripts on the first seven years of the Black List have been produced. Those films have made over $16 billion in worldwide box office, been nominated for 159 Academy Awards and won 30 of them. Three of the last five Best Pictures were Black List scripts, as were seven of the last twelve screenwriting Oscars. As for the new platform, in just over five months, more than a dozen writers have already found representation with major agencies or management companies. I also believe we’re now up to a half a dozen script sales/options, and one writer – whose name I can’t yet reveal – just closed a two script blind deal at a major studio.
MATT: Several of our top writers placing even in the Second Round (top 10%) have found great success after advancing. 2010 Finalist Christopher Cantwell had his script “Halt & Catch Fire” (co-written with partner Chris Rogers) ordered by AMC as one of four projects this year to go to pilot, with filming slated to begin this year. Appearing on the 2012 Black List are 2011 Comedy Screenplay Winner Max Taxe for his winning script “Goodbye, Felix Chester” and 2012 Drama Finalist Austin Reynolds for “From New York to Florida”. 2010 Comedy Winner Julie Howe currently has her winning script “Jasper Milliken” in development with Sony-based Zhiv Productions. Julie will also participate in the panel discussion in LA. 2010 Second Rounder Lee Hoverd had his script “Ex-Men” optioned by Mike Fry (“Over the Hedge”) after hearing Lee’s pitch as a judge in the annual Pitch Competition during the Conference. Kevin Miller, 2010 Comedy Finalist, signed with manager Peter Meyer through a relationship that began at AFF and his script “Mother’s Day” was quickly optioned after placing in AFF by Sony producer Harry Gittes (About Schmidt). VJ Boyd, 2008 Teleplay Finalist, is currently a staff writer on the FX show Justified.
Q: What is the best script you’ve read or best film you’ve seen lately?
GREG: I still have some catching up to do from awards season but I really enjoyed “Argo” and “Lincoln.” Given my daughter’s love of all things animation, I have to mention “Wreck-It Ralph,” which was wonderful and unexpectedly moving. I recently watched four seasons of “Breaking Bad,” two seasons of “Sherlock” and the first season of “House of Lies” and was impressed by those achievements. And whenever I run across “Lawrence of Arabia” on TCM, and I can’t stop watching.
FRANKLIN: Best film I’ve seen lately: THE INTOUCHABLES, if only for Omar Sy’s performance.
MATT: I have two favorite films from last year: “Moonrise Kingdom” for its pure joy and originality and “Perks of Being a Wallflower” for its simple yet eloquent writing. I also read the scripts for both and I particularly loved the interactive storybook version of the script for “Moonrise Kingdom” released by the studio.
Q: Screenplay competitions are obviously not the only way a writer can break in. What other ways can a writer get attention?
GREG: Making short and feature films independently. Working on other filmmakers’ independent shorts and features. Working in Hollywood at an agency, production or managerial company. Working on film and television productions when they shoot in your region. Attending film festivals and screenwriting conferences. Attending film school. Connecting with college alumni in film and television and asking for advice. Targeting well-selected agents and managers with query emails, letters and phone calls. Et cetera. Finally, be persistent – and most importantly, keep writing new screenplays.
FRANKLIN: The Black List (http://www.blcklst.com)
MATT: Writing is such an isolated craft that the mere sound of the word “networking” can make any recluse screenwriter shudder. It’s so important though to meet and work with the right people that can help get your script made or get you hired for a project. I recommend joining a writer’s group and attending screenwriter’s conferences (like AFF of course!) to build a strong network of friends and collaborators. While it’s not entirely necessary, consider working in LA if you’re not already. Get a job working at an agency, production company, or TV studio. In the land of feature films, screenwriters don’t always get their due credit but in the world of TV, the writer is king (or queen). A lot of TV writers get hired to write features. And of course, keep writing and stay persistent.
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By Matt Dy | 03.13.2013 What does John Carpenter’s THE THING have in common with Steven Spielberg’s E.T.? Well, it’s not a cute, cuddly alien that’s for sure. Both were released at the same time but Carpenter’s film took a beating at the box office while up against Spielberg’s behemoth classic. However, over the years THE THING has found renewed appreciation as one of the …
By Matt Dy | 03.13.2013
What does John Carpenter’s THE THING have in common with Steven Spielberg’s E.T.? Well, it’s not a cute, cuddly alien that’s for sure. Both were released at the same time but Carpenter’s film took a beating at the box office while up against Spielberg’s behemoth classic. However, over the years THE THING has found renewed appreciation as one of the greatest horror films of all time.
THE THING was written by Bill Lancaster and directed by John Carpenter and is considered a remake of THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. The title refers to the not-so-cuddly alien creature that assimilates other organisms (humans, dogs, anything is game) and has the unique ability to imitate them. This serves as an excellent plot device as The Thing terrorizes a research team in the Antarctic and they begin to turn on each other. The paranoia that develops and the slow burn of tension that builds underneath are what make this film as frightening as the fantastically gory transformations by The Thing. The best example of this is in the tension filled scene where all the men are having their blood tested to find out if any of them have been assimilated. In the scene, the men have realized the Thing has an extreme aversion to heat so they all agree to be tied up and have their blood drawn to be tested. MacReady (Kurt Russell) already passed so he administers the test by applying a hot wire to each man’s blood sample. One by one, we nervously wait to find out if the Thing lives in one of them. Suspicions and clues have already been laid throughout the film escalating to this moment. When we do find out who has been assimilated, The Thing reveals itself in the most horrifying way and we see it in all its gruesome transformations. If you haven’t seen it, it’s probably best you discover this for yourself.
Since it’s release, THE THING still holds up well. The movie was considered a mindless gorefest by many critics when it first came out. The perception of the film and horror in general obviously has shifted over the years as it is now embraced as a master class in subtle terror and over-the-top gore and special effects.
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For football fans, the Super Bowl may be over but for me, mine hasn’t started yet. This Sunday is the Academy Awards and the only playbook in sight is the one Harvey Weinstein is pushing hard for. Will it be Silver Lining’s night or Argo’s? This has been the most unpredictable and surprising race in years featuring a stellar line-up of nominees. AFF …
For football fans, the Super Bowl may be over but for me, mine hasn’t started yet. This Sunday is the Academy Awards and the only playbook in sight is the one Harvey Weinstein is pushing hard for. Will it be Silver Lining’s night or Argo’s? This has been the most unpredictable and surprising race in years featuring a stellar line-up of nominees. AFF is represented well here as our 2012 festival line-up included Silver Linings Playbook, Flight, The Sessions, and short film nominees Asad, Buzkashi Boys, and Head Over Heals. I’ve included my predictions below in all 24 categories. I’ll start off with an analysis of my two favorite categories, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay. Click on each of the titles to download the PDF of the script (Lincoln is not available).
Best Adapted Screenplay
Argo by Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild by Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi by David Magee
Lincoln by Tony Kushner
Predicted winner: Argo
Chris Terrio’s tight script never lags and does a phenomenal job of keeping the audience in suspense despite already knowing the outcome. And with tons of smart, funny one-liners, Chris Terrio could be telling the other nominees “Argof*ckyourself” on Sunday. Tony Kushner has enough respectability in the industry to pull off a win but I think Argo will continue its winning streak here.
Best Original Screenplay
Amour by Michael Haneke
Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino
Flight by John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty by Mark Boal
Predicted winner: Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino has already won some key awards so far for original screenplay so I’d say he’s the favorite. I’m sure some residual love from Inglorious Basterds and the box office success of Django can’t hurt either. Mark Boal did win the WGA award but Tarantino wasn’t eligible for a nomination and Michael Haneke could surprise here too.
And here is the full list of my predictions:
Best Picture: Argo
Best Director: Steven Spielberg – Lincoln
Best Adapted Screenplay: Chris Terrio – Argo
Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook
Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables
Best Cinematography: Life of Pi
Best Production Design: Anna Karenina
Best Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Best Hair & Makeup: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Best Visual Effects: Life of Pi
Best Editing: Argo
Best Sound Mixing: Les Miserables
Best Sound Editing: Life of Pi
Best Original Score: Life of Pi
Best Original Song: Skyfall
Best Animated Feature: Brave
Best Documentary Feature: Searching for Sugar Man
Best Foreign Language Film: Amour
Best Live Action Short: Curfew
Best Animated Short: Paperman
Best Documentary Short: Open Heart
Check back after the show on Sunday and see how I did!
–Matt Dy, Screenplay & Teleplay Competition Director
If you think you have what it takes to correctly predict the Oscar winners, take a chance at our Oscars Prediction Contest and you could win a Producers Badge or a Film Pass to the 2013 Austin Film Festival! For more information, click here.
Yesterday, Patrick brought us his take on THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN. Today, Screenplay Department Director Matt Dy brings us back to the pro-love side of the spectrum with his favorite movie for Valentine’s Day, HAROLD AND MAUDE. Considered a flop in the 70’s, HAROLD AND MAUDE has found renewed adoration since its initial release and now sits at #69 on the American Film Institute’s …
Yesterday, Patrick brought us his take on THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN. Today, Screenplay Department Director Matt Dy brings us back to the pro-love side of the spectrum with his favorite movie for Valentine’s Day, HAROLD AND MAUDE.
Considered a flop in the 70’s, HAROLD AND MAUDE has found renewed adoration since its initial release and now sits at #69 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Love Stories of All Time. However, I didn’t know the film existed until I first saw THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY and Cameron Diaz’s titular character cited it as her favorite film. Leave it to the Farrelly Brothers to introduce me to one of the most unconventional and classic love stories ever.
Written by Collin Higgins and directed by Hal Ashby, the film is a darkly comedic yet romantic portrayal of Harold, a young man obsessed with death and suicide, and Maude, an elderly woman he meets at a random funeral they both attended just for fun. While the setup doesn’t quite seem like the makings of a sweeping Nicholas Sparks romance, the beauty of their love comes from its unconventional and unconditional nature. I researched that more intimate scenes between the two were cut because the studio was afraid they would scare away audiences. Instead, their love is displayed through several sweet moments. The best scene is when Harold gives Maude a souvenir coin that says “Harold Loves Maude” as they sit on the edge of a cliff. She immediately tosses it into the water and states her reason for doing so: “So I’ll always know where it is.”
Harold is an odd fellow who is introduced to us as a young man who goes to extreme lengths to shock his routinely unsurprised mother by staging elaborate suicide attempts including hanging by a noose, drowning as she swims laps around him, and splaying fake blood all over himself. He even stages these suicides for dates that his mother sets him up for through a computer dating service (they had that even back then?). Maude is just as eccentric. At 79 years young, she lives out of a railroad car, enjoys being painted in the nude, has a mission to uproot city trees and return them to nature, and has a penchant for stealing cars. Together, they have the indomitable spirit of two people against the world.
There is an unspoken moment in the film that I won’t give away, but it adds a poignancy that shifts your (and Harold’s) understanding of Maude. Whether or not you’re in the mood for a May/December romance this Valentine’s Day, HAROLD AND MAUDE is hard not to love. Even in its old age, the film still holds up well… just like Maude.
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After several months of sifting through a record number of over 6500 entries involving unique stories, memorable characters, and exemplary dialogue, we have finally narrowed down the field to the celebrated Second Rounders (top 10%) and the Semifinalist scripts that are still in contention. The full results will be posted on our website next week but in the meantime, notification letters should be arriving in …
After several months of sifting through a record number of over 6500 entries involving unique stories, memorable characters, and exemplary dialogue, we have finally narrowed down the field to the celebrated Second Rounders (top 10%) and the Semifinalist scripts that are still in contention. The full results will be posted on our website next week but in the meantime, notification letters should be arriving in mailboxes before then. Regardless of the outcome, you have already taken an admirable step in your writing career by completing a story and putting it through the gauntlet. Evaluating screenplays at this level is a complicated process that is, by nature, extremely subjective. The measure of your success as a writer is not forecasted only by the outcome of a competition. Whether this was your first or nineteenth time submitting in AFF, rejection is never easy but it is an important part of growing as an artist. Without rejection, there would be no incentive to improve and no reason to push further to succeed. And when you do succeed, the rewards are far greater and the experience much sweeter. To those of you who advanced in the competition this year, congratulations on receiving a distinction that is achieved only by few. As a writer, you are of course only as good as your next work. If writing is your passion, please continue to pursue it.
- Matt Dy
Screenplay & Teleplay Competition Director
This is the first year Enderby Entertainment is participating as the sponsored award judge for the AFF Screenplay Competition. The new Enderby Entertainment Award is a sub-category of the Screenplay Competition and is open to feature scripts in all genres with an original concept and distinctive voice that can be independently produced under $5 million. Enderby Entertainment will review the top scripts submitted in this …
This is the first year Enderby Entertainment is participating as the sponsored award judge for the AFF Screenplay Competition. The new Enderby Entertainment Award is a sub-category of the Screenplay Competition and is open to feature scripts in all genres with an original concept and distinctive voice that can be independently produced under $5 million.
Enderby Entertainment will review the top scripts submitted in this category and will determine the Semifinalists, Finalists, and eventual winner. Finalists will be given the opportunity to meet with the production company during the Festival and Conference, which will be held Oct. 18-25, 2012. The winner of the Enderby Entertainment Award will receive a prize package including $2,500, reimbursement for airfare (up to $500) and hotel (up to $500) for attendance to the Festival and Conference, and the bronze AFF Typewriter Award. I was fortunate to interview the founders of Enderby Entertainment, Rick Dugdale and Daniel Petrie, Jr. Read their bios and interview below.
Rick Dugdale is the president of Enderby Entertainment and oversees all aspects of finance and physical production for Enderby. He serves as producer or executive producer on all Enderby Entertainment projects, including Cherry, starring James Franco and Heather Graham. Dugdale also serves as CEO of Tony-Seven Films, Enderby Entertainment’s thriller division; he served as executive producer on The Speak, Vile and 5 Souls and as producer on Silver Falls and No Tell Motel. Dugdale joined Daniel Petrie, Jr. & Company as Vice President, Production in 2003 before becoming a full partner in 2004. He then founded Enderby Entertainment with Petrie in 2006.
Enderby Entertainment partner Daniel Petrie, Jr. oversees creative affairs for the company. Petrie’s writing credits include Beverly Hills Cop, The Big Easy,Turner & Hooch, and Toy Soldiers. Most recently, Petrie was executive producer, showrunner and co-creator of the 13 episode TV series Combat Hospital, simulcast on ABC and Canada’s Global TV in the summer of 2011. He currently serves as Vice President, Programs of the Writers Guild Foundation and is a former Governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a former Trustee of the American Film Institute. Petrie has also been an active supporter of AFF since 1997.
Matt: Both of you have attended AFF several times in the past. Care to share any memorable experiences from the Conference?
Rick: Well the best way for me to answer that would be The Driskill Bar, only because it encompasses so many memories. You can always find great conversation there at any time of the night….literally.
Dan: I’ve been coming to the Austin Film Festival off and on since 1997 — I hate it when professional obligations prevent me from going. I always have a good time, but more importantly, I always learn something, or am reminded of something, important about screenwriting, both from my fellow panelists and from the up-and-coming writers attending the conference. So my dominant memory is of how I feel when I return to Los Angeles, recharged and revitalized about writing.
Matt: Previous AFF Semifinalists, Rachel Long and Brian Pittman, met the two of you at the Conference and Enderby Entertainment is now working with them on their script, “Stranded”. How did the meeting initially happen and what followed?
Rick: Well as I answered above, it all happened at the Driskill bar. Dan and I were there having a cocktail as Brian Pittman approached us and then when on to tell us about their script Stranded. We agreed to read it. We loved it and then over the course of the next 6 months we developed it with them and agreed to option it and produce it.
Dan: I always suggest to newer screenwriters that, rather than ask someone to read your script, it’s much better if that someone asks you if they can read it. As I remember it, Brian and Rachel handled it in just that way. They weren’t pushy, but they told us enough about the screenplay and how they came to write it that Rick and I asked if we could read it. And of course it didn’t hurt that their screenplay was a Semifinalist.
Matt: What excites you when you read a script and what advice would you give to writers wanting to enter in the Enderby Entertainment Award category?
Rick: I would say a great hook. Something fresh with great characters that we haven’t seen before. As for advice be realistic. It needs to be a makeable film that can be to a wide appeal in order to have options for financing. As much as I love hockey, a small indy drama about a hockey family is going to be a tough film to finance and get distribution. Same could be said for lawn bowling.
Dan: Audiences want to see something they haven’t seen before in quite the same way — that’s true whether the film cost $250 thousand or $250 million to make. I’m excited when I read a script that offers a fresh take, that gives us an original and distinctive voice, that brings to life unexpected characters in novel situations.
Matt: What common mistakes do you find when you read a script?
Rick: No scene headings. EXT. RADIO STATION — NIGHT and then by page 35 we’ve gone through 12 sets and 5 script days with no changes. It’s a script, not a book.
Dan: Screenplays should tell only tell us what we see and hear — and we can’t see or hear the character’s thoughts. Yet I often read description that says something like, “Joe stares out the window, and we can tell he’s thinking of that time in Barcelona…
Matt: Why should someone submit a script to AFF?
Rick: First and foremost, because you should try every angle to get to AFF. We tell every writer we know to submit their scripts to AFF in the hopes that their script will make it through and that we’ll see them there, not to mention the vast learning experience it is for many writers that attend. AFF has always been the best place to go if you’re a screenwriter.
Dan: Screenwriters starting out always have questions about how to get people in the industry to want to read their scripts. Well, one of the best ways is to win or place high in a prestigious screenwriting competition, and the Austin Film Festival’s competition is one of the most prestigious. And besides, as Rick points out, you get to go to the Austin Film Festival’s Screenwriting Conference, an outstanding experience for screenwriters at every career level.
To enter in the Enderby Entertainment Award, you must first enter in the Drama or Comedy screenplay categories. If you have already submitted in the competition but did not opt to be considered for the Enderby Entertainment Award, e-mail Matt at email@example.com to request to have the category added to your entry.
Click HERE to submit your screenplay. June 1st is the FINAL deadline. Good luck!
~Matt Dy, Screenplay & Teleplay Competition Director
We recently announced our full list of industry judges for the Screenplay & Teleplay Competitions (click here for the list). From now through the final June 1st deadline, we’ll post a few interviews from this year’s group of judges. The first interview is with Richard Bever, a Los Angeles-based producer and co-president of Chill Films. Richard has attended AFF as a panelist and judge for …
We recently announced our full list of industry judges for the Screenplay & Teleplay Competitions (click here for the list). From now through the final June 1st deadline, we’ll post a few interviews from this year’s group of judges. The first interview is with Richard Bever, a Los Angeles-based producer and co-president of Chill Films. Richard has attended AFF as a panelist and judge for several years and is an all-around nice guy.
Richard Bever’s Bio
Richard is the former Head of Development and Production at Andrew Lauren Productions, which produced the Oscar-nominated film The Squid and the Whale during his tenure. Among his producing credits are In Memory of My Father; Audrey; and Against the Current (Sundance 2009). Richard and his partners at Chill Films are currently packaging: the horror project Blood Letter to be directed by David A. Armstrong (Saw I-VI); the crime drama NUM to be directed by veteran actor Brian Cox and starring Kiefer Sutherland; the sports drama Slugger (2007 AFF Winner) with director Mark Robert Ellis and producers Tamer Howard and G.Mac Brown (Men in Black; The Departed); the drama The Gardener’s Daughter by writer Steven Peros (Cat’s Meow; Footprints), to be directed by Dean Pollack (Audrey; Show and Tell) Richard recently executive produced the documentary Wish Me Away (Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at Los Angeles Film Festival) and he is currently working on the documentary Rebels of the Third Age.
Matt: What excites you most when you read a script?
Richard: Succinct, realistic dialogue; well-thought out characters; and unforeseen events – and all within the first act.
Matt: What common mistakes do you find when you read a script?
Richard: Scenes that start too soon and end too late. Writers should look at their scenes and see if they can enter the scene a line or two later and then leave as soon as the goal of the scene is accomplished.
Matt: What’s the best advice you would give to a writer wanting to break out?
Richard: Know what types of stories the industry is hungry for and put your stamp on those genres.
Matt: Having judged for AFF previously, were there any writers that you connected with from the competition?
Richard: I’ve connected w/ countless writers from AFF – keeping in touch w/ writers from outside of my area and reconnecting in person with writers who are nearby. Every year I attend I see face after face, writers whom I know by name and know their work.
Matt: What is the best script you’ve read and/or best film you’ve seen lately?
Richard: Adam Gyngell and Fred Fernandez-Armesto’s “Deep Burial”, which was a winner at AFF in 2011.
Matt: Why should someone submit a script to AFF?
Richard: Every year I meet writers who have made their virgin AFF trek and they are universally amazed at the opportunities the festival provides for them and they vow to make it an annual journey. And this is why every year I know more and more of the writers.
June 1st is the final deadline for submissions. Enter your script for the opportunity to have your script read by our industry judges. To submit your entry, click here.
With the regular deadline for screenplays approaching next week on May 15th, I can only imagine the anxiety many of you are currently experiencing if you are planning on submitting. The typical neurotic questions that plague all writers are probably reaching a cacophony at this moment including: “Am I ready to send my baby out into the world?!”, “Will they like it?!!”, “Do I need …
With the regular deadline for screenplays approaching next week on May 15th, I can only imagine the anxiety many of you are currently experiencing if you are planning on submitting. The typical neurotic questions that plague all writers are probably reaching a cacophony at this moment including: “Am I ready to send my baby out into the world?!”, “Will they like it?!!”, “Do I need to do a 34th rewrite on my script?!!!” Unfortunately, these questions aren’t addressed in our Frequently Asked Questions page for the competition. However, you may be able to find answers to other questions and mitigate any other concerns you might have if you take a look at this page.
Lately, we’ve been receiving more and more calls and e-mails regarding the same questions. I’ve made a list of very frequently asked questions that may help you and make your submission process much easier.
Q: Do you accept international submissions?
- A: Yes we do! Each year we receive many submissions internationally including ones from Canada, Japan, and Ireland. Submissions, of course, must be written in the English language.
Q: I’m having issues submitting online and I keep getting an error message. What should I do?
- A: Due to possible high traffic on the website, you may need to wait a few minutes and try again. If you continue to have problems, try another web browser (Firefox or Explorer) or try submitting from a different computer. Double-check that the file is in a .pdf format and under 5MB. If you still cannot submit, contact the Screenplay Competition Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at 512-478-4795.
Q: Did you receive my submission?
- A: As long as you paid through PayPal and have an e-mail receipt, then we have received your online entry form, script PDF, and payment. A separate e-mail confirmation from AFF is sent out at least within 5 business days. If you submitted through the mail, you will only receive confirmation if you included a SASE which we will send back to you.
Q: Who are this year’s judges?
- A: Many judges have already been confirmed and we will announce the list of confirmed judges very soon. Just a few already confirmed include Joyce San Pedro (Creative Executive for Alex Siskin and Escape Artists at Sony), Melissa Breaux (Manager, Washington Square Arts), Richard Bever (Co-President, Chill Entertainment), and Kyle Killen (showrunner, Awake and Lonestar).
Q: Do you accept scripts for animated features and television shows?
- A: Yes we do! Any teleplays for animated shows should be for primetime (i.e. The Simpsons, Family Guy, etc.).
Q: When are the deadlines?
- A: Postmarked or submitted online by Friday, June 1st 11:59PM PST ($50 for screenplay entries and $30 for teleplay entries). Regular screenplay submission closes on Tuesday, May 15th 11:59PM PST ($40 fee).
Read through the entire FAQ page if you have questions. If you don’t find the answer you are looking for, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at email@example.com or call our office at 512-478-4795.
If you’re submitting this year, you are taking a brave step in growing as a writer. You’ve got 8 days for the regular deadline and 25 days for the final deadline. Are you ready?
–Matt Dy, Screenplay & Teleplay Competition Director
I recently read Gavin Polone’s article, “Who Really Determines the Fates of Aspiring Screenwriters?” If you haven’t read it yet, definitely take a look at his insightful piece. Gavin Polone is a film and television producer whose credits include Zombieland and Curb Your Enthusiasm. The titular question that Polone answers in his article got me thinking about the importance of screenplay competitions. With the current …
I recently read Gavin Polone’s article, “Who Really Determines the Fates of Aspiring Screenwriters?” If you haven’t read it yet, definitely take a look at his insightful piece. Gavin Polone is a film and television producer whose credits include Zombieland and Curb Your Enthusiasm. The titular question that Polone answers in his article got me thinking about the importance of screenplay competitions. With the current state of the studio system and the deluge of scripts in agency offices, it has become increasingly difficult for aspiring writers to break out. Winning or advancing in a screenplay competition may be more relevant than ever and could be what alters your fate as a writer.
With increasing numbers of submissions to agencies and production offices, it’s no surprise that the agents that Polone refers to don’t actually have the time to read everything. In screenplay competitions, EVERYTHING is read (or should be if you’re paying an entry fee). At AFF, each script is given careful consideration with each one read at least twice by two different readers before being eliminated. The readers we use are also carefully selected and interviewed in person and closely monitored during the reading process. In an agency or production office, it seems unlikely that there would be a consistent and efficient process for combing for quality material. Also, many screenplay competitions now provide constructive feedback for submissions which you almost never get from an agency.
Screenplay competitions have been around for a long time (AFF is now in its 19th year) and it’s nothing new that if you win or advance in a competition, the likelihood of your script moving up to the top of the stack in an agent’s office would be greater. Many success stories have come out recently from previous alumni of the AFF Screenplay Competition who are now signed with an agency or in production on their script. Some of those include:
- Christopher Cantwell, a 2010 Semifinalist, recently had his script “Off the Grid” optioned by Indian Paintbrush (Jeff Who Lives at Home). Christopher e-mailed me a few months ago to tell me that his current agent at ICM first reached out to him literally as his plane was landing upon returning from the AFF Conference. He credits this to placing in AFF. His script also ended up on the 2011 Black List.
- Julie Howe, the 2010 Comedy Screenplay Winner, signed an exclusive deal with Experience Media Studios last year to produce her screenplay, and has since expanded the team to include Sony Pictures Entertainment-based producers Alex Siskin (Big Daddy, Mr. Deeds) and Joyce San Pedro (an AFF judge and panelist).
- Rachel Long and Brian Pittman’s 2008 Finalist script “Stranded” was previously acquired by Rick Dugdale and Daniel Petrie Jr’s production company Enderby Entertainment (this year’s sponsored award judge). The project is currently set to go into production this June with Petrie set to direct.
Other screenplay competitions also have had great success in helping their writers. The BlueCat Screenplay Competition has had similar success with getting their top writers signed with top agencies. The Nicholl Fellowship of course has always had a great track record with their finalists and winners each year. Many of our previous winners have also been Nicholl winners including last year’s winner, Dion Cook, and the 2010 winner, Andrew Lanham. If you’ve got the funds, submit to as many competitions as you can.
Submitting to screenplay competitions is a great start but don’t stop there; create a webisode series, adapt your story into a book or stage play, or even take the initiative and shoot the script yourself. The bottom line is: if someone at an agency doesn’t take notice of your script, make them take notice. Or make them wish they had if you succeed elsewhere. At the end of Polone’s article, there is a silver lining when he states, “Fear not, since, in my experience, truly good writing always finds its way to the decision-makers…” It’s nice to know we can still remain optimistic.
–Matt Dy, Screenplay & Teleplay Competition Director
Even with some last minute changes to the predictions I initially posted, I still ended up predicting only 17 out of 24 categories last night. Not my best by any means but alas, there’s always next year when the Dark Knight Rises will sweep the 2013 Oscars (one can still dream I guess). It’s funny how obvious the outcome seems now in retrospect. In this …
- I realized I was born the same year Meryl Streep won her last Oscar for Sophie’s Choice. I can’t wait to see her win another 29 years later when she won’t need makeup to play Margaret Thatcher again in The Iron Lady 2.
- The telecast was rather dull and I wonder what Eddie Murphy would have brought to the show if he had hosted. Heck, Ellen DeGeneres’ JC Penney commercials were considerably funnier.
- I did not realize Twilight belonged in the pantheon of great movie moments.
- Comedic anecdotes from presenters are almost never funny unless you can speak Mandarin like Sandra Bullock, or your names are Will Ferrell and Mack Zalifigakas.
- My thoughts from watching the In Memoriam montage: “All those people are dead???”
- I would like to play a drinking game with the Bridesmaids. “Scorsese!”
- Viola Davis is gorgeous. I’ll predict she’ll win an Oscar in the future or at least end up on Joan Rivers’ best dressed list.
- Never underestimate the power of Harvey Weinstein. Three of his films won Oscars (The Artist, The Iron Lady, and Undefeated)
- The Academy really needs to reevaluate its voting process for Best Original Song. Only two nominees this year? And it was a crime The Muppets didn’t get to perform the winning song, “Man or Muppet”!
- Christopher Plummer is just two years younger than the Academy Awards?
- Billy Crystal can read minds. I’m glad we all finally know what goes on in Marty Scorsese’s and Nick Nolte’s heads. AND…
- I need to stop obsessing over the Oscars and get back to writing my script!
–Matt Dy, Screenplay & Teleplay Competition Director
Will The Artist sweep the Oscars? Will Meryl Streep FINALLY win a long overdue second Oscar for lead actress? All will be answered this Sunday night when the awards will be handed out. The real question is… will people really care? Compared to last year, most of the films nominated this year haven’t really polarized the general public as much while the current frontrunner is …
And… to make a shameless plug, we have a special promotion in honor of the Oscars. Anyone who purchases a Producers Badge to the 2012 Austin Film Festival & Conference by Sunday, February 26th will be entered for a chance to win a copy of the screenplay of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, signed by Academy Award®-winning writer Steven Zaillian!
Zaillian, who was awarded with the Distinguished Screenwriter Award at the 2009 Austin Film Festival, wrote both THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and MONEYBALL, each earning a handful of Oscar nominations.
And everyone who has purchased a Conference Badge or below by February 26th will be entered in a raffle to win an upgrade to a Producers Badge! Click here to buy your Badge.
–Matt Dy, Screenplay & Teleplay Competition Director
Proper grammer and speling is important for writers of allages and levels if they want to be more better writers. If you aspire to be a professional writer anddidn’t notice the errors in the previous sentence, you’ve got a problem (or youbetter have a good copy editor). Thisweek’s blog entry is not so much a lesson in grammar and dusting off your copyof Strunk & …
A friend recently asked mewho I think will win the Super Bowl. Myresponse was: “The Super Bowl? It’s thisSunday? Are the Cowboys playing?” Obviously, I am not planning to watch thegame on Sunday (although I heard Madonna will be performing). Lately, my focus has been diverted to my ownversion of the Super Bowl: the Oscars. Some guys are into fantasy football; I’m into predicting the Oscars. …
At a New Year’s Eve dinner with friends, we all took turns proclaiming what our New Year’s resolutions are.While I don’t think I need to lose weight, don’t smoke (regularly), and certainly don’t want to stop drinking, I decided my resolution is to make 2012 the year I finish the screenplay that has remained in my head for so long. What inspired me to make …
At a New Year’s Eve dinner with friends, we all took turns proclaiming what our New Year’s resolutions are.While I don’t think I need to lose weight, don’t smoke (regularly), and certainly don’t want to stop drinking, I decided my resolution is to make 2012 the year I finish the screenplay that has remained in my head for so long.
What inspired me to make this resolution is my coworker who just recently finished her first screenplay.This time last year, I playfully made fun of her when she said she finished her 50 page feature script which is now a much more polished 89 pages.She has the last laugh now and I admire her for her persistence to finish her script.It has been nearly 3 years since I have completed a feature screenplay.I have another story that I am passionate about sharing, but all this time, I’ve only jotted down random thoughts and ideas in notebooks without any real focus.I can blame the long stressful hours working at AFF and the numerous amount of amazing scripts that I have to read (that not only put my previous work to shame), but who needs to make excuses?I know there are writers who probably work two jobs with families to raise and they still make time to write and are more prolific in one year than I’ve been in 3 years.I have a story; I just need to write the damn thing!For all us who are writers, this is a plight we all share.There never seems to be enough hours in the day to write but if we budget our time well, turn off the TV (except for Modern Family and Breaking Bad), and dedicate at least one hour a day to write, we can all have a polished screenplay by this time next year or sooner just like my coworker.
Even if the Mayans are right and this will indeed be our last year of life on Earth, what have we got to lose? Our stories may be all that remain anyway just like the ancient hieroglyphics of cave men.If you have a story you’re itching to share, join me and make 2012 your year to finish that screenplay.
-Matt Dy, Screenplay & Teleplay Competition Director