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SE2 D004: The Good, The Bad and the Film Festival

Well, it’s been an interesting start to the new season here at The Screenwriter’s Journey. Let’s take it in the order it happened.

I received notice from the Austin Film Festival that Everyday Clowns did not advance at all in the digital web series competition. It’s both disheartening and a little surprising. The digital competition is a new component of the festival, so there has been a lot of anticipation on how it will be judged and what will win. Everyday Clowns seems to be an ideal comedy for the web, and the feedback from multiple workshops has been nothing short of phenomenal. I’ve even had people contact me over the summer to find out what was up with the clowns, had I done any more work on the series. It’s because of reactions like this that I have decided to give October over to completing the series. It’s unique, original, different and provides plenty of belly laughs. And, apparently, it wasn’t what the Austin Film Festival was looking for.

There is no feedback, so I don’t know what, if anything, was wrong with the scripts I sent in. It could be that they were too different, or that other writers just had superior scripts. We’ll have to wait until the winners are announced and see if we can get a look at the winning scripts.

That disappointing news was followed by rejection from not one, but two different jobs I interviewed for. One of the jobs I had two strong recommendations for from people already working on the show. I knew I was in trouble when the Executive Producer asked for references. I kept thinking ‘you mean the supervising producer’s recommendation isn’t enough?’

So just as I was starting to feel suicidal, I remembered a contest I had entered last spring but hadn’t heard from. I was pretty sure winners should have been announced by now. I checked on their website, and sure enough, there was a winner. And it wasn’t me. BUT. . .I am pleased to point out that “Come Ups” had been selected as one of the finalists in the Breaking Walls Thriller Competition. It wasn’t top dog, but it was close. It’s not a big contest, but it is a marketing point I can add to the résumé. So that’s two scripts that have received acknowledgement this summer (The Calling being the other), so there is that bit of silver lining in an otherwise dreadful week.

I also made contact with one of my mentees, Addison Bevis. We’ve already had a nice correspondence and she has begun asking questions, which I have tried to diligently answer. This could be a fun exercise/project for both of us and I am looking forward to seeing where it goes. The downside is my other mentee, George Glass, has yet to respond to my somewhat lengthy introductory letter that took some time to craft. Yeah, yeah, I know. He’s just a college kid, and I should give him a break. But should I really? Addison responded immediately and she’s in college too. And it doesn’t take a lot of effort to hit reply and say ‘thanks offering to help. Let’s chat later.’ George isn’t starting off on a very good foot, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he hasn’t had a family emergency. Because then I’ll feel like shit.

And finally, let’s end on a high note, I attended a screening of the entire second season of Sessions with Agnes & Estelle, the web series I did some shooting for. The series was accepted by the Action on Film Festival and was nominated for Best LGBT series and Best Pilot (Yay, Laura Black – writer/director/producer). The episodes are very short averaging about 2 – 3 minutes each. I’ve seen them all before but as stand-alones when they were released.

This was the first time I had seen them all together at one time, and the results were amazing. There was a very strong connection between each episode that wasn’t apparent when screening them separately. There was a distinct arc across the series and a character development that was really engaging. We also weren’t sure how the series would look visually on a big screen as they were shot to be played in a small YouTube player. Again, the results were more than could be hoped for. I spoke with Laura afterward and she is considering releasing all the episodes in the future at one time to allow for binge viewing. This, I believe, would help the series gain viewers as they would be given a bigger time frame with which to really develop a personal connection with the characters and their stories that piecemeal viewing in 2-minute increments doesn’t allow.

While at the festival I took in several other submissions, both shorts and features. Some were abysmally awful as can sometimes be expected at a festival, but one particular short stood out, The Boy Who Cried Fish, written and directed by Dalia Musaad and featuring fantastic performances by Breeda Wool as a mom coping with her autistic son played by Jacob Hopkins. Adam, a child living on the spectrum, witnesses a traumatic incident on TV and carries the burden of what he has witnessed with him to school. He is viciously attacked by bullies for being different, and it is left to his mother to find a way to cope when the personal intertwines with the universal. The film nuances the similarities of the intimate against the violence that plays out on the world stage finding hope in despair.

The other films I viewed did not fair so well and the problems with all of them began with the scripts. One made no sense in either its story or its production, while the other beat a dead horse with its take on family dysfunction. The later film was gorgeously produced and well acted, but should have been shot as a short instead of a feature.

The Action on Film Festival is an interesting assortment of short and feature-length films with over 600 entries screening during the course of the festival’s 10-day run. I’m hoping to return later this week to check out Matt Sconce’s found footage horror Altar. Matt says he shot this film in 6 days, so I’m interested in seeing how he did it.

If you get a chance, the Action on Film Festival runs through September 10 in Monrovia, CA. You can learn more by clicking here.

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