Duck-duck-goose, Austin Film Fest, and pep talks from the Universe

Drought, drought, drought, drought—monsoon!

It’s sorta like duck-duck-goose, being a spec writer waiting for feedback and opportunity. Whole gaggle of us on the floor in a circle. Nervously anticipating that shoulder tap.

The false starts. The sweaty armpits. All that awful nervous flatulence.

And then BAMN!

Producer or director calls you “goose” and bolts, cackling like a gleeful toddler heading for the highway during a family picnic.

While the rest of the group just stands there screaming “NOOOOO!”

You’d better be fleet of foot or smart with a lasso.

I’m slow of pencil but judicious with eraser, and that’ll have to do.

Anyway … after a couple years of crickets, this week’s been rife with news ranging from good to tear-your-clothes-off-at-a-soccer-match-and-run-onto-the-field-naked.

OK, maybe not that good. But super definitely an OK+.

First, I received encouraging feedback on a couple scripts from some serious individuals, applied for a promising-looking writers room position, found out one of my short spec scripts is planned for production, and came very close to making the finals of a certain Australian horror film festival screenplay competition. GOOOOOSE!

Of course, anything short of “don’t quit your day job” is going to be considered a win at the moment.

I’m trying not to rate the importance of the screenwriting competitions I enter because, frankly, while Nicholl may be considered the very best in the world in terms of prize moneys and networking opportunities, Mammoth Pictures is straight-up offering to make their winner’s script into a movie.

And they’re not the only ones.

In fact, I’ve got my fingers crossed on two submissions I sent to a production company I won’t name here for fear of jinxing things—I know, I don’t believe in that stuff. But, like Ralphie says in A Christmas Story: you can never be too careful.

All caveats aside, Austin Film Festival (AFF), the reason we’ve gathered here this morning, is in the tippy-top category of screenplay contests.

So, it was a kinda sorta big deal—to me, anyway—to make any headway there.

This was my first year entering AFF, so my hopes were guarded. But, I felt like I had a pretty strong entry.

And, I found out last night I made it to the second round.

My humorous dystopian drama didn’t advance to the semi-finals but at least one AFF script reader thought it good enough to make the initial cut.

And that’s something. A little nudge from the Universe saying, “you’re on the right track, kid.” Right before it tells you to go get it a beer. And to not tell your mother about the strange lady it had over to the garage for 45 minutes last weekend.

I don’t know what they were doing in there but she sure does have bad asthma.

Any-hoo … I’ve got a pile of work to get back to, including a short film script I’m preparing for a competition and the super-dark incredibly weird one-location dialogue movie I’ve always wanted to write.

Like Hank says: see ya at Santa Anita!

Following is the notification from AFF:

Congrats Benjamin, You’re A 2nd Rounder!
Dear Benjamin,
Thank you for submitting … to the 2022 Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition. We are pleased to inform you that your script advanced to the Second Round in the Drama Feature category!

Though it did not advance to the Semifinalist Round, please keep in mind that your placement represents a distinction only achieved by approximately 20% of this year’s submissions.

We consider this an incredible accomplishment, and you should take pride in your script’s recognition!

This year’s entries proved to be competitive and featured a high standard of exemplary stories, including your own.

We were very impressed with the quality of this year’s submissions, and our readers returned many positive evaluations, making for an extremely tough judging process.

On behalf of the Austin Film Festival, we congratulate you on your script’s recognition and hope to celebrate with you in October at this year’s Conference.

We look forward to reading more of your work in the future!

AFF sent another brief email a few days later—not sure why—but it was likewise encouraging:

“Though your script … was ultimately judged a Second Rounder, it was in consideration for Semifinalist status. While we can’t provide any special designation for this, we hope this provides you with further encouragement as only about 2% of all entries make it to the Semifinals in our Screenplay Competition. Congratulations again on placing in the Second Round and we encourage you to keep working at it!”