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Headed to Austin!

September 29, 2019

Over the past few years, I have won thirteen screenwriting contests and placed in a couple of dozen more.  At many festivals and through on-line communications, I have gotten to know fellow writers with whom I placed.  Inevitably, the question of what other contests we had entered would arise, and there one was one festival that always entered the conversation:  the Austin Film Festival.

When it came to Austin, though, the conversation was always one-sided:  my writing colleagues would talk about how they placed in Austin, or had reached the top tier, traveled to the festival, and how great it was.  A few years ago when I was one of the ten screenplay finalists at Cinequest in San Jose, nine of  us had also placed in Austin.

I was the one exception.

And I remained so for years.  I sent all of my scripts to Austin, often more than once.  I never received any reply, outside of the usual polite rejections.  I would improve my scripts, send them again.  They would be winning and placing elsewhere but never in Austin.  I was even a finalist for Table Read My Screenplay at the Sundance Film Festival.  When the same contest was reproduced in Austin, I submitted again. No love from Texas.

I had finally decided that for whatever reason, the Austin Film Festival and I were not meant to be.  I had given up trying to figure out why other writers who were receiving similar accolades as I were also hopping on a plane to Texas every October. I started to think it would be easier for me to be elected governor of Texas than place in the AFF contest.  No explanation would ever be forthcoming–that’s just how it is.


Thus, it was really little more than a whim that prompted me to enter their play writing contest this year.  It was only the second year of the contest for plays; for many years, the word was that if you wanted to be a screenwriter, you focused on that medium.  Show runners and film producers didn’t take playwrights seriously–unless you were David Hare or David Mamet.  This perspective was emphasized to me in my MFA program.

The winds, however, had begun to change, and playwrights were starting to be viewed as a good talent pool for writers rooms or writers for hire.  The AFF, which always tries to be ahead of the cinematic curve, identified this shift in trends and created a play writing competition.  So, I took a shot and sent them “Invincible Summer.”

To be honest, I almost forgot about it (or perhaps tried to) until two weeks ago.  It was then that I received a call from the festival informing me that my script had reached the upper tier, and I was invited to Austin! (You can see the handwritten note on my notification letter in the photo above).  A whirlwind of travel arrangements and exchanged emails followed.  In just a few frantic days, I had managed to put everything I needed in place.  I even had the days off approved by my principal and superintendent. 

So there will be panel discussions, round table discussions, writer only parties, winner only parties, a chance to meet contest judges, filmmakers, and producers. I’ll receive my prize, and I’ll even get to see some films!

Good things come to those who wait.   And become playwrights.

You can view my schedule here.


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