Selling Your Screenplay Podcast – #94
(Typewriter Keys Tapping)
Ashley: Welcome to episode #94 of the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I’m Ashley Scott Meyers Screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today, I’m interviewing Matt Dy, who is the screenplay tele-writer competition director at the Austin film festival. This is a great festival for screenwriters. We talk through the whole process of submitting scripts. What you can expect if you place highly in this contest. And how the festival works. So stay tuned for that.
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A couple of quick notes, any websites or links that I mention in the Podcast can be found in my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode, in case you rather read the show or look up something later on. You can find all the Podcast episode show notes at –
www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast and then just look for episode #94.
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A quick few words about what I’m working on? As I have been mentioning in the last few weeks. We’ve, in the Podcast, I’ve been working on this medical drama script. Originally, I wrote it in one week. But doing some consistent rewrites, I’d say pretty consistently over the last few weeks now. I got a text message from the director yesterday, he wants to meet today. With his brother, who is, also the main actor in it, in the feature film. He’s text was, “Hey, probably the last meeting before we shoot.” So I take it that is a very good sign. So we are meeting today, get some notes, hopefully I’ll do it, those rewrites this week. Then get the script back to them, and then hopefully go into production shortly thereafter? So that looks like it’s going along.
I’m still writing on a spook script, but I talked about last week. Last week I mentioned that I had hoped to get to page 55? By the end of last week, which I did not come close to doing. There was a lot more back and forth with it, producers on the outs. Which was more than I had anticipated. So, I really didn’t get a writing in earnest until Thursday. I wrote a few pages on Tuesday, I wrote a few pages on Wednesday. But we were still bouncing the outline back and forth. So then on Thursday, I really started writing it in earnest. And I think I did about twelve or fifteen pages then. And then twelve or fifteen pages on Friday. As I said, I already had two or three pages on Tuesday and two or three pages Wednesday. So in fact I got updated till page 33. I still think I’m in pretty good shape.
I basically have two weeks to finish this script, so, if I can write ten to twelve pages per day this week. Then that will get me a draft. That’s really my goal this week to get a solid draft by Friday. As I said I’m on page 32-33. So, I think this script should probably be coming in around 80-83 pages, it’s a short script. It’s going to be a low budget movie, so they don’t want 110 page script. They want it closer to 80-85 pages. I’m already on page 33, I’m almost half way done. So, get a draft done by Friday, and then next week I’ll be polishing it up. It’s just a spoof, it’s a comedy. So, there’s definitely going to be some punching up probably after the first draft is put in, but. I’ll spend a week next week punching it up and getting the comedy and just make it, while making the scenes as funny as possible. Because it’s basically due in two weeks. Basically when we start up this assignment. At the beginning I said, I would have it one week from this Friday, so, a little less than two weeks I’ve got to be done with that script and hand it in. Then, you know, I’ll get some notes back once I hand it in, that first draft. It’s, they’ll be some back and forth, it’s like what I’m doing with this medical drama. You know, I’ll meet with the producer. He’ll give me notes, and I’m sure I’ll be rewriting it through most of November, the rest of October, but a good bit of November. I’ll be doing rewrites as well.
The other thing I did actually, yesterday was, I shot the teaser/trailer for the character driven crime action thriller script I’ve been talking about, doing a kick-starter for. And that was a very fun shoot, yesterday. We shot in the garage of my house. Had a couple of actor friends come over, I had another friend over who was a DP. We got a, it’s probably going to be a 20 or 30 second little teaser/trailer. I also did the little kick-starter intro. Thing. Where basically, it’s me talking, and so we did that yesterday. I’ve still got to edit it together. I’ve got to do a little more research, now we’re pushing up, you know, into the deep end of October. So, I’ve got to figure out when’s the best time to launch it? I’m working on these other projects. So, I probably won’t have time to edit for at least a few weeks. And that will put us into November. And then the way it seems, you want to do like a month of ramp up with the kick-starter, before you even launch it. That would like put us into December. I just want to do a little research and see if December is a good month to launch a kick-starter. With the holidays, it might be a good month? But it might be a bad month, so I’ve got to research that a little bit. But it might push it out to the beginning of next year by the time I actually launch the kick-starter campaign. I’m just not sure, I’ve got to get a little bit of research. But I would say that, I should have the thing within the month, I should have a teaser trailer edited and ready to go. And then I’ll start really working it in earnest. And then get the kick-starter campaign going.
Anyway, that’s what I’m working on. So let’s now get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing Matt Dy from the Austin Film Festival, here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Matt to the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I really appreciate you coming on the show.
Matt: Thanks for having me, it’s a pleasure for sure.
Ashley: To start out with, maybe you can tell us a little bit about the Austin Film Festival? It’s a very, to notice, very, to being a very screenwriting centered festival. So, maybe you can kind of just give us a brief history of it? How it sort of became what it is today?
Matt: Yeah. So we are now in our 22nd year. Basically it got started in 1994, with Barbara Morgan, our Executive Director. And also the other founder Marsha Milum. Just because there was a niche for screenwriters here in Austin. And he also taught that there was a need for a community to develop for screenwriters. And there wasn’t anything like our screenwriters conference at the time. They had to start one, and with the help, actually, of several resources. Actually including the “Nickle Fellowship.” They have actually been a huge support of us, from year one. And basically how we were able to launch our competition, who won there, Greg Beal. Who was a director, it stars the director of the fellowship. He offered his list of screenwriters, and shared it with us. And said, here are people who you should definitely be tied to. That their work, and shared a story with you. And we did that in year one, and we got about a thousand submissions. And in year one, the winner of the script, actually she got her script optioned. I believe I cornered that picture, and used it in a feature film. So that’s what really launched us. And there really weren’t very many competitions at the time. Now others, hundreds of them out there. So, we really have half of the bragging rights of being around for a while, I mean. We try to stay, tried and true to our mission of championing screenwriters and stories. And we’ve done really, really well, and we’ve grown from about a thousand entries to now receiving over eight thousand individual scripts. So it’s insane that we have that many scripts to manage. But it’s also very quieting because we know that people are still feel passionately about a story and they want to share it with us. And we’re up for the best.
Ashley: So the way that you describe it? It almost sounds like it’s a screenwriting competition that has a film festival component. Generally, you know, at the film festival with a screenplay competition component is sort of the opposite. Why were they so focused on screenplays, as opposed to just doing a film festival?
Matt: Well, because there really wasn’t much resource for screenwriters at the time. At the time screenwriters were being short changed in the industry. Much of the, a lot of credit is the stars in the film get a lot of credit. And then prove a screenwriter. We wanted to provide an outlet for screenwriters to get the recognition they deserve and be in that environment where they feel encouraged and richer for doing it. Inspired so that the can continue writing stories. The actual film festival part, I don’t think that has started until year three, or four? I’m not quite sure but, the first few years it was a judged competition and screenwriter’s conference. Those were the two things that really launched us.
Ashley: Okay, okay. So maybe, you can tell us just briefly now? You know, 25 years later. What exactly is the Austin Film Festival and Screenwriters Conference? Just give us a little bit of back story as to what exactly is that? You want to talk about some of them. The various professions people can get in to. And just, and really just help with kind of what it is? So, people can have an idea about, whether to attend or not?
Matt: Oh, sure, of course. Well, also if the base of which starts October 29th and goes through November 6th. That’s 8 full days, of films. And then, you know, like your conference goes on for the first four days. So, I think a lot of misconceptions about first timers. But, they think they have to be there for all eight days of the conference. Of course we would encourage that as much as possible. But really for screenwriters. They should absolutely try and block out their schedule so they can come to the first four days. And so it’s an intense four days of panels, discussions about the business in creative sites. Really what their mission is all about is? Story and missions, you get to hear a lot of the stories from working professionals, writers, producers, agents who works with writers as well. In parting that they look for, script producing as well. I’d say, it’s less of a marketplace than a more of a place where people learn, and network too, of course. A lot of people develop relationships through the festival. A lot of writers meet their agents at the festival. We follow writers as well, who eventually become writers and collaborators for official projects. We can bet we see that all the time. So we are really what separates us from the past news conference, from many other screenwriting conferences. In that, there’s no velvet rope, it’s a great place for writing. It is to feel comfortable in their own skin, and we know that. A lot of writers don’t, but they must feel comfortable with socializing and talking with people. Because they spend so much time with it. They’re writing in the background vacuum, and they just want that whole networking part is formed for them. So, this is a great part and place for writers who are not comfortable being there. To make you feel, I think and they can talk with other people.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. So, let me break down just how it works, like, logistically for someone who wants to attend. Let’s talk about specific prices? The Podcast will be around forever and prices change? But, do you buy a pass for one day? And then four days, can you buy a pass for each individual sessions? Tell us how that works?
Matt: Oh, yeah, sure. A little bit different levels, for people who just want to see films. We offer a film pass, where you have a pass with access, to second tier priority to get into films. And then we offer something called the, “Loan Star Badge.” Where, if people are on a real budget. A lot of writers are on a real budget. They can only come to the real conference for one day. The “Loan Star Badge” is probably the best bet. And its given access to the conference only on Saturdays. And then we offer a “Weekend Badge,” which of course only gives them access only on Saturday and Sunday conference. With the “Conference Badge” which gives them access to all four days of the conference, all subjects, films, and some of the parts. And then our “Top Dog Badge” which is the “Producers Badge” and that one, that gets you into everything! So that’s the one people want to in debt because afford it if you are a second rounder in the competition. Because this is the top 15%, we offer potential discounts. For the conference “Producers Badge.” For that. And the finalist, pretty good discounts for ”Producers Badge.” And we also program a bunch of the awards and workshops, just for the people who advancement in the competition. So if you are a second rounder this year, or make finalist? You’ll have your own special chocked full paneled, more of a rich environment. Rather than any of the other panels of all registrants. So we help people who have been left at the competition at all levels.
Ashley: Okay, nice. And I will link to the film festival website as well in the show notes. So people can definitely check that out. I’m curious, what is your background? I mean, now you, you’re the director of this level screenwriting competition, correct?
Ashley: So how did you come to start, what is your background, is it in script development? Where you kinda a grew-up around this?
Matt: A, I don’t have any formal experience working, say in ED or production company. I haven’t had anything produced or sold just yet? I intend to have that in the future. Of course I did go to the University of Texas at Austin. And then I got my Bachelors of Science in Radio/Television with an emphasis on screenwriting in producing. And my involvement in this? Goes all the way back to 2003, actually. I was an intern in the screenplay department, working for the Screenplay Competition Director, at the time. And it was only because I had told the guys who were running it – DJ Bird, that I, one day I will take your job. And it was more of a joke. But I talked to how much he did for screenwriters. That’s exactly what I wanted to do for a career, is to help other writers as well. And I basically had been involved with the festival since then. I stayed on after I graduated from college to lead for the festival. As a reader for the early round for the competition. And because I had stayed involved with the festival, I, they put me as the Office Manager. Which, in a lot of different offices, it’s considered, with the exception of the secretary. But for AFF it’s the one, who basically runs the show, other than the Executive Director. So, it’s a huge, huge, project management position. And understanding how all the different aspects of the festival. All the different departments, how they all worked connected together. I think that was perfect training for me to do this job. Having worked with writers. As the office manager, taking care of them, making sure they are accommodated during the festival and all that.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah.
Matt: And I ended up taking over the job as the Lead Production Manager. Trace, even though I was the Office Manager by that time. I also helped read scripts also. I helped set-up the judge for the early rounds as well. And now this is my sixth year, running the screenplay competition. And it’s been great to be really involved this long. But, it’s really great to see how the festival, it’s grown from back in 2003, to the, to now, 2015.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. For sure. Okay, well, I think that’s interesting, because my next question is kind of pertained to screenwriting. Really specifically, the contest, but also just in general. It sounds like you’ve definitely read a lot of scripts, being around these festivals for so long. Let’s talk about some of the common mistakes you guys see. And I’m always curious, you know there’s all this general screenwriting’s text. But maybe there’s even you know, somethings that are specific to content, that the staff can help you. But, let’s just try some common mistakes you see screenwriters make? And maybe some tips on how to not make those mistakes?
Matt: Oh, sure. I don’t even know where to start with that? There’s so many different things that we’ve seen that are a, that writers do, in terms of mistakes? Some of them is clear that, read a script that this is our early draft, it’s their first draft. And I saw a lot of writers don’t submit their first draft. It’s something that you work shop, that you’ve written several times over and over and over. When we say it all the time that writing is rewriting. So, that’s something that we see every year at the competition. You want to have a solid first few pages. Follow first page, of course, but every separate page needs to be truly impressed. And how do we read, a few tips in general, for any competition, production companies, we read hundreds of these scripts. And they don’t have, they don’t really that much time to waste on those. The scripts that are not fully developed yet. Though, got to really impress, got to hold their attention.
And that can be done in different ways. A lot of times scripts before are poorly formatted, the way that they write the description, start them in a very visual way, a lot of internal stuff. Um, what else? Those are the things that pretty much stand out for now. I’m sure there are things that I am blanking on right now because I’m.
Matt: There are a few things that we find in scripts that are somewhat appalling when people enter them.
Ashley: And are there any division that you mentioned? You know, obviously the opening pages are very, very important. Are there any difference, you guys have a T.V., a, tele-play competition as well as a future feature film competition. Are there any differences, or maybe there’s a few things that are specific to tele-plays that maybe you can tell people to avoid?
Matt: Oh, sure, well said. We do accept tele-play specs. And pilots in the competition. We also accept the technical series for the now too. But what we commonly, it’s the main problem that we see with the scripts is, that where we emphasize, particularly for pilots, is that they have to establish a strong franchise. And we’ve seen some before where the ending is very definitive? That the main character dies. Or it feels very like, more of a short film. Those are like the obvious problems that we see. However, I will say that, since we started accepting pilots in the competition? We’ve seen a lot of really good material. Because that’s where a lot of people are writing now? That’s what a lot of agents and some producers who know the festival. That’s what they want to read. And that’s what they are excited about. So, and I know that writers are, they know that. And we’ve seen that with the numbers. This here’s for the numbers for the pilot. The competition has sky-rocketed, we’ve seen quality for over-all with the pilots this year is pretty good. Either you get the form out of it, right? And it’s just a fairly middle ground mediocre, somewhat story? But, it works as a eventually as a TV show, and you get good results that way. Take my advice, for people writing it, a TV pilot. It’s got to be really, really, really good because competition out there is pretty fierce.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Fierce on getting worse here every year.
Ashley: So, let’s talk a little bit about the process? I’m always curious just how screenplay competitions work? So you can just tell us a little bit about the process? As a screenwriter, I used to get my script, what’s the vetting process like? I mean, those early rounds, who are those readers? How many readers, read them, those first scripts. And kind of, how does the script slowly move up a few through the chain?
Matt: Sure. So, I oversee over 200 readers for the competition. And a lot of them have been reading for us for years. I had one, at least one or two, who to say they had read for almost every year for this for us. The nice thing is that, before we went digital, accepting Pdf. All the readers had success in, come here to the office to pick up the scripts that were mailed to us, or bring it here to the office. So we got to know a lot of the readers personally. We have to know what their casework were, what their preferences are? That’s another personality, so that really helped in terms of what scripts they should be reading. And developed a relationship with them. So they got comfortable to talk with us about what’s working in scripts and what’s not working in scripts. And since we went digital? We actually opened it up to readers to be from outside of us, the Austin area. And the first people I reached out to for that was? People who had done well in the competition. People who were winners, finalist, semi-finalist, some who were founders as well in the competition. People who have actually been on, some, you know who have been through the competition. And so really a lot of competitions that are based in L.A. Like basically, they do have a lot of individual tree readers as well. And because we are in Austin? We basically stick with the readers we have. Aren’t working in the industry because they are here in Austin. They are all working film makers, and screenwriters here in the city but necessarily they are any like the scenes of L.A. But the thing that separates us is? That we have readers, who really care about this process, and that we know all of them. And that we know who they are, and what they’re sensibilities are. So, and then, it’s really cool, because been working with a lot of readers who have come to competition and have asked and have had success working in the industry. So, actually we do have a lot of readers who are working in the industry. I’ve had readers who, have been backed, and readers who are there when they are on hiatus, who work for me. And so, it’s nice, that we have really helped our game. And value our readers in the competition.
Hard work in terms of the vetting process. Every script potentially starts in the first round. Each script has to be read at least twice by different readers before it is eliminated from the competition. If you get two reads, then you get notes from each one, then it’s out of the competition. But if you get a “Yes” from one of the readers, essentially it’s moved on for second round consideration. So in the second round, I have a different set of readers for that. These are people who have read several scripts for the competition. They know exactly what follows the second round. Is what something, which can essentially be the top 12-15% of the competition? And so, those readers will read those scripts, score them, on the scoring rubric that we provide. And the ones that score the highest will stay in the second round. And that’s where we’ve kept it, each year for the past round. So if you pass, you are a second rounder? And you’re in the competition, essentially you receive two very positive reviews from our readers. That’s definitely some achievement, for sure.
Then there’s the semi-finalists round. That’s the most substantial cut. It’s essentially the top 1% of the competition in each category. And I have a committee of readers, who help me sift through the top high scoring second round through. And based off of their evaluation? They help me pick the semi-finalist for each category. And then in the semi-finals round, it is primarily judged by critiquing, agents, managers. To be there in the actual industry people. And based off their evaluations they turn in? Which ones will then move on to the final round?
And then in the final round, it’s judged only by established writers. We try to have that balance between the business side, and also the creative side. We want to make sure that when we distribute something that it is, that we feel proud of, in terms of its story telling. The way that it’s written? And there is one winner in each category. So, to win AFF is a long journey. And a, it really takes a strong script to survive going through that gauntlet of cuts for sure.
Ashley: Yeah. So, maybe we can just done talk about, because that’s great process. You know, the interesting things part, you people are getting a pretty fair shake over their scripts. Starting right with the first round with that, you know?
Any competition is always going to be tough. Why don’t you talk about what the leaders are ultimate going to get? You mentioned earlier, second round folks, they get a different dealt with the producers pass. With the semi-finals the bigger discount for the producers pass. With the final round, you know final round people will get, and then the winner.
I had a friend, and I think she got to one of the final round, but I think she was actually flown out there. Do you guys fly people out there? Do you put them up in hotels? So, what are those winners, final round people get?
Matt: Well, those are. We don’t fly people out, it’s like if we have to. But we do reimburse people, it’s like $350.00 for airfare, and say $500.00 for hotel accommodations if they win the competition. It’s only the winner that will get reimbursed for that. But this is, that peak answers for that. When you make it to the final round. It’s really funny, because when it’s a prize, I notify them, really, because the prize, they want to come right away. And then they forget, “Oh, I’ve got a prize package?” It’s just the recognition of being, essentially being in the, in that 1%. For a lot of people, that’s the prize already? And then when they realize that, they’ve won something? Now they’ve got special track of panels just for them. We do that for second rounders as well. But because this, finals and semi-finals are a smaller group. These discussions are so much smaller and more intimate. We can’t take the panels that are going to be a party. So that they know the talking, the people who are really good at, writers on the verge. These are the people who are going to break through and be big in the future. So, and the writers and the panels that we have coming to the festival, we choose them very carefully. You want to choose people who are nurturing, who are supportive of our mission. So if you hear of some people who are finalists? What you will be taking care of them during the festival. In terms of the actual prizes. A, the different prizes, the cash prizes differ for each category: The Drama/Comedy category, they receive the biggest prizes – $5000.00 each. We have sub-categories: for horror, sift, and we have a low budget category, for all of the special effects its – $2500.00, and then all other categories, for shorts, and the tele-play category – $1000.00. So, in comparison to other competitions, that prize maybe seem small? To us, and our people, but the reward of just making the semi-finals like that, the finals I think? I mean, so much more to love the writers. Because we set them up, for great success. And actually this year, we haven’t announced it yet? But we are in, we are currently planning to do readings of certain semi-finalist, and finalist scripts, at the conference. And we are going to invite, such as the panelist to listen to some of these. So, these scripts are going to be workshopped right in front of them. And hopefully they will be attracted and happy to be working with these writers in the future.
Ashley: Okay, thanks. Sounds exciting. I’m curious, Matt, so you announced this thing to the finalist. And then, you announce the finalist, at the competition? Or you announce the winners at the competition? So, people go, and then, how is that announcement made? I mean, does someone go to the film festival, knowing already what they are? Or are they, don’t have a?
Matt: No, yeah. That creates some suspense for them. So, actually as of this week I called all hundred and some odd semi-finalist. To congratulate them personally. And a lot of them have already committed to coming. Regardless if they make the final round? We will know the finalist by early October? So I will give them all a call again. To let them know they’ve made it to the final round. But whether they are coming or not? At that point we still have to let know who the winners are. I don’t know who the winners are, for probably a few more days. Before the awards can switch. The awards are on Halloween. First and a, they don’t know. So, it’s a very stressful time. I have to keep my best poker face on, when I see them walking around. So, at a conference like this. There will be times when, I know who the winners are. And I see them everywhere and they’re just so nervous. And I’m already so happy for them, but I can’t tell them anything. So, they find out at the awards lunch. And it’s so many, and so great to be so responsive, they are just so genuine. Making it unfazed, thinking, people cry, get all emotional, almost done, and speechless. I mean, that’s funny for a writer.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Okay, let’s talk about, you know, just particularly what people can do, and expect? You mentioned to me before the interview that you had a couple of success stories that you wanted to share with someone. Let’s talk about any kind of, we all know what kind of actual real prize is for winning. But, let’s see here, the real goal is to want a screenwriting career. So maybe you can talk a little bit about that? You know, like, what people can get out of it if they become a finalist, even semi-finalist round, or winner?
Matt: Oh, yeah, sure. So, one of the more recent success stories that we’re just so excited about. Is, last year, there was a winner in the one hour pilot category, his name is Wes Brown. He won the AMC 1 Hour Pilot Category. AMC was the sponsor for that category. They’ve, we’ve narrowed down several scripts through them, review. And then, they determine the semi-finalist. They pick the finalist, and they hand pick the winner. So, Wes won, for his script called, “Ascension” last year for 1 Hour Pilot category. And he happen to also be a finalist in the Comedy category, too as well, two different scripts that made it to the final round. So we were exited to have, we believe he got out on an AMC show. So he’s working on, in the writer’s room for this new show called, “Goliath.” I’m not exactly sure when that would be premiering, but? But they are currently working on developing it right now. So, it’s really great for us, that AMC would sponsor, last year, this is their third year sponsor. And now the winner is working on that AMC Writer’s Room. So, it really can’t get any better than that, for one of our winners. And last year as well, in the Comedy category, Jerod Freeders, he won for his script, “Three Months.” And one of the judges with, “Orange Uzio.” He’s one of the creative writers for,
“21 Jump Street.” He actually just happened to be a former winner of AFF as well here. In fact, he loved the script so much, that he attached himself to it as a producer as well. He actually went up to him after the awards luncheon, took his hand and said, “We’re going to make this together.” And so that was a true testament to other people we had all through the competition/conference, they are so invested in our writers. That they really work to a, set them up for success. And then last year, we presented the world premiere of a film that was produced from a Sue Padman finalist script, called, “Dawn Patrol.” It was produced under “Derby Entertainment?” Which is actually a sponsored script writing competition. And it was directed by Daniel P Junior, who was an under chain screenwriting community, you know who Dan is? Such a great guy. And the film stars – Scott Eastwood, and Rita Wilson; we were so fortunate to have the world premiere of it last year. So, it was a nice home coming for a script that did well and we got to present the awards. So, there are a lot of stories like that. But those are the ones that stand out in recent memory.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. Fantastic. So maybe you can give us just some sort of tips for people who are attending the festival. And in some tips maybe for people who didn’t make the or have plans but maybe interested in going? We kind of at the beginning, might have suggest that “yes” writers they write for themselves in the light, I might consider myself in that. But that group, I’m not particularly out going? The idea of going someplace and networking, never sounded appealing to you? Just because striking up conversation with random strangers. You a couple of particular skills I’m not good at that. Why don’t you give us some tips for people who are, have places in the contest. You know, people who haven’t, what they can do to survive that?
Matt: People ask me that all the time. Like, a, of course Leena, who sent out all the invitations to everyone last week. And there are a lot of people who have Emailed them out, but. Why do we do it in advanced this year? Should I even come? And the thing is, it’s such a great nurturing environment, that it’s perfect for anybody, any stage, any age, any life. They can come stay in their own writing. Of course if you can advance in the competition then you’ll be paying like, a, buying a badge with a lesser discount, than if you were like, a second rounder, or something? Announce your finalist, the thing is? If you can afford it? Like, there’s different price points that we have for people, who would be on a budget. But my best advice, would be, is like, look at the list on the panel that are coming. On your own do your homework, and see who they are? Or that you would want to meet, who your heroes are? But what is so great about a day pass is that a lot of our talents to, is that a lot of these meetings is relationships develop the way relationships do in L.A. Because people are always working. It’s just so hard to get around, to even meet with strangers. People that are, on the panel say that, it’s easier for them to connect with other industry folk and other writers, than during the festival. Than it would be any easier in their own backyard. So, they are absolutely looking for writers. So the thing is? Of course the people who are here are kinda interested in the producers. They want to meet the columnist and make the finals. But that’s such a small group. That they just want to know that you are, a writer, and that you’re not crazy. That you’re somebody who you can, that they feel comfortable with. And can develop a relationship with. We see that all the time. Like, for example, I talked about the world premier? Of the “Dawn Patrol.” Of the finalist script from 2003. Granted that was a finalist script. But, what happened was, Dan Petrie, the reason why the phone got handed? Was because Dan fell through a relationship with those writers. He didn’t even read the script. He didn’t need to know initially, that they were finalist in the competition. They just had a common interest. In surfing coincidentally? Really, even though Dan was not a surfer. But he had the method he could trace in that, sort of in that community. I think he had that growing up I guess? So it’s about developing relationships with the people. And coming to the festival, or in doing that. Even though he didn’t place in that competition, so a great place for networking that happen. Obviously, if you have, you only have one script, that you could talk about with people. You need to have more material to present to people. If no one’s going to want to read your script while at the festival? But, it’s about developing relationships with people that they like, and in all that. So, it really is about developing relationships. So, I just can’t recommend it enough for people to just come to the festival if they can. And take time out from work, and if they can afford it.
Ashley: Yeah. And I’m just curious again, just grinding down just a little bit more on that question? What exactly does that mean? I mean, you get the brochure, you know, ahead of time and look at the panel. And see who is speaking on the panel. And you search around Google, if you know what they look like. And then as your passing them in the hallway, you just strike up a conversation with them. What exactly, I mean, when I first make the effort to go to some of these networking events? I’m almost 99.9999% want to be screenwriters. And it was difficult often, to even find the people that you wanted to talk to.
Matt: Yeah. So, you definitely want to do your homework. And you definitely want to know what they look like, as well also. If you see somebody in passing, or like, if you happened to be in the elevator with someone who maybe? You don’t just gloss over them, like, oh, that, that’s somebody I should talk to. So, definitely doing that, for sure. But in terms of like, educate? People that are like, coming to the festival, like I said, we’ve vetted them. We carefully choose people who are regulated. People who are knowledgeable, other writers who have done well in competitions who have placed somewhere around: finals, semi-finals, winners, now they are working in the industry, and they want to give back. That’s what’s so great about the screenwriting community. Because our thing, we know how hard it is to break in, and they want to give, they want to give back. So, we choose people specifically for that. So I encourage anybody who wants to talk for years? Don’t be, intimidated to talk to them, because they are here to help. So I would say, go to panels, a lot of them are panelist. If they aren’t talking to another panel, party or meeting? I say it many times, for a lot of counsels, be walking with registrants, talking with them in between panels. Just chatting with them, getting to know their information. They are still getting there, a lot of people are coming this year that are? Even if you’re not a rounder or semi-finalist that you’re going to be taken care of for sure if you can check and make good relations with them.
You also have a number of opportunities for all, I think I forgot to talk about the “Roundtable discussions?” Those are, if you are a first time attendee for AFF? It’s something you don’t quite realize until you arrive at the platform and it’s already starting, too late? So, it’s probably one of the most popular things for our registrants. And you have to do it at the festival. We have a number of roundtable discussions that you sign-up for the different topics. And there’s several panelist in each roundtable discussion. And the way that it works? I guess the best way for me to describe it? Is dating for a speed records. And basically, you’re put in one giant room, with several tables, there are about six to seven seats at each table. One is reserved for a panelist, and these are smaller tables. Smaller discussions, and each person can go around and ask their questions? And participate in this discussion, it’s really great. Because you get your questions answered. And you get to have that face-to-face time with the panelist. And the panelist will, after fifteen minutes will end up and then rotate. At different times so you get see and meet different people, talk with them. That’s probably one of the most best kept secrets for newbies coming to the festival.
Ashley: And you can work, once you’ve met, in a situation like that is much easier to?
Matt: Absolutely. I recommend to, business cards are not a bad thing. It’s kind of a cheesy thing, but? It’s so easy to get somebody’s info. other than having to wait for them to pull out their phone. Okay, yeah, sure, what’s your number? And all that? When you have their business card. Obviously, if you are, you are a writer, writer network. It would be, your goal is to receive more business cards, than giving yours out. But it is helpful to have a lot as well. And because you have a, the time at roundtable discussions. Because if you see that panelist around at parties, you can bring that up. I was at the roundtable discussion, we talked about, what a great way to talk about the conversational.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah, perfect. I wonder if you could just talk about sort of the deadlines or anything? In this Podcast is gonna be around for years to come, so, we don’t need to mention any specific deadlines, but just roughly? When are the deadlines? So people can next year, they will know, okay, may?
Matt: Okay, we haven’t locked in the dates for next year, but. Normally the final deadline is in May? We have an early deadline in April, and then June and July. We haven’t quite locked these dates yet. But, we will open the position in early December. We like to open up a little bit early for people who are ready to commit.
Ashley: Wow, okay. Good to know. So, I don’t end any interview just by asking the guests to tell us how people can kinda contact them or keep up with them. If you are on Twitter? You can mention a Twitter handle, or a Facebook page, or whatever? If you feel comfortable, and also I would be to mention the film festival, Twitter handle, Facebook page. I’ll let you know as well, around, find all that stuff in the show notes. So, fire away with that stuff, you know, if you can.
Matt: Oh, sure. It’s like the best resources of course, the website – www.austinfilmfestival.com, our Twitter handle is – @austinfilmfest, I have my own Twitter handle, but if people call me? It’s kinda pointless because I’m not very active on Twitter, but I will respond to messages. Because if I get them on Twitter. But I direct people directly to the @austinfilmfest. I also highly encourage them to apply for the new book, or see, they go on the website, that’s how they’ll find out about the dates that we have for the conference. It would be too advanced sign-up as well. I believe we did one, and I believe we did one last week. Or the writer course seven, who is going to do a screen of that. That should be really exciting, because that script is so good. And also something executive about that as well. I hear it’s going to be fit for a screen. And I’m talking about their different writing journey and then writing this. And then having how it got developed and what we now know on. These are very popular animals so we kinda have to put them in advanced. So, the new better, so if you kinda want to see that, sign-up better.
Ashely: Well, okay, perfect, perfect. Matt, this has been a great interview, lots of great information, got it all. I’ve never been there and I’ve always wanted to be there. So, at some point I want to make it now. It sounds like a lot of fun. Perfect, well Matt, thanks for coming on.
Matt: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Ashley: Thanks, we’ll talk to ya later.
Matt: Alright, take care.
Ashely: A quick plug for the SYS Screenwriting Analysis Service. It’s a really economical way to get a high quality professional evaluation on your screenplay. When you buy off the three pack, you get evaluations, it’s $67.00 per script for future films, and just $59.00 per tele-play. All the readers have professional experience reading for studios, production companies, contests, and agencies. You can read a short bio on each reader on our website, and you can pick the one you think is the best fit for your script. Turn-around-time, is usually just a few days but rarely more than a week. The readers will evaluate your script on six key factors –
- Over all Craft – Which includes: Formatting, spelling, typos, grammar
Each script will get a grade of: Pass, Consider, or Recommend.
Which should help you roughly understand where your script might rank? If you were to submit it to a production company, or agency. We provide analysis on features and television scripts. And we also do proofreading. So if you want, if you don’t want an analysis, but would like some proofread of your script, we now offer that as well. We also look at a treatment or outline and give you the same analysis on it. So, if you’re looking to vet some of your project ideas? This is a great way to do it. We will also write your log-on and synapsis for you. I know a lot of writers struggle with this. What I’m finding with this service too, is? A lot of writers haven’t even written a log-on written synapsis. And what they want is? They want someone else to do it, and write one for them. And then they can kind of rewrite their own. Or, incorporate parts of our version into their version. And tweak then just to make them a little bit stronger. So we are getting quite a few orders on that service as well. And that service is, our reader will read your entire screenplay, and then write an entire log-on, write a synapsis for you. And you can also order that on as an-add on, in addition to the analysis. So you can order like, an analysis and then you can add the log-on and synapsis. As a bonus, if your script gets a recommend, from a reader, you get a free Email and Fax Blast to my industry contacts. This is the exact same Blast Service I use myself to promote my own scripts. And it is the same service I sell on the website. It’s a great way to get your script into the hands of producers who are looking for material. So, if you want a professional evaluation of your screenplay, at a very reasonable price, check out –
In the next episode of the Podcast, I’m going to be interviewing screenwriter –
Gordie Hoffman. He is also the founder of the, “Blue Cat Screenplay Competition.” He recently did a short film called, “Dog Bowl” which she wrote and directed. The film got into Sundance, and he raised the money to shoot it through Kick-Starter. So, we talk a bit about that. As I mentioned earlier, I just shot my own teaser/trailer on my own promo video for Kick-Starter. So, this is something I’m doing. So I pepper him with a lot of questions, just about how he approached it, how he was able to put away and raise the money? So, if this is something you’re considering I’d say this is definitely a good episode for you to check out. We also just cover a variety of other screenwriting related topics I mean. Gordie’s been a screenwriter and a screen write teacher for many, many years. So we have a good vast talk about a lot of different things. And so, keep and eye out for that episode next week.
Okay, just to wrap things up. I just want to talk a little bit about the Austin Film Festival, and other contests in general. I mentioned this before on other Podcasts, but I created a list a few months ago. I created a list of screenplay writing contests. I highly recommend that you check that out. It’s just a list of all the contests, it’s not an exhaustive list. Just because you’re not on this, just because the contest is not on there? Doesn’t mean it’s not a good contest. But I’ve basically took, what I consider, ten or eleven contests on that list. It’s kinda the major contests. And I would take all the contests listed on this list. They are pretty well received in the industry, pretty well known in the industry. So, you can expect that some moderate heat on you. If you were to place high or win it, win them. A lot of the people on the list are interviewed. Screen crafted, John Roads, John Roads has been on the Podcast a couple of times. Gordie, as I’ve said, I’m interviewing next week. He the “Blue Cat Screenwriting Contest” now that I would just talk to. The Austin Film Festival, Scriptpalooza was on there. So, there is a bunch of the contests that are fairly well regarded this week. And I just listed them, link to them, and wrote a little sentence or two about them. So check them out if you want to know about contests. In general I get a lot of questions about contests? Hey, is this contest good, Hey, should I enter contest, Hey, what can I expect if I win this contest? Contest, hey, I say contest, I definitely don’t think contest should be your only marketing approach. I mean, I feel that the contest is a little bit of sort of a lottery to them. And even if you enter all ten or eleven I had listed on the sheet. Got your script has got to find the right reader to advance. Just, listen to how things work with what Matt just described. And I think they have an excellent chance in the process. Two ears, check out a script, and you know, if one of them says, okay, and moves on. But you still got to get that script to them. And I’ve had scripts that I put on the Black List, where I had gotten a 4 from one reader, and 8 from another who were so? You know, different readers can take the exact same material and think vastly different things about it? So, you just want to be aware of it, with contests, you can have same, you can have a lot of success if you can place highly. But I definitely don’t think I would put all my eggs in one basket. In terms of this being my own strategy. There is a lot of other places to take your script. I think contests should be a piece of it, but I don’t think they should be the only piece of it. I think all the things that I told you, and talk about on the Podcast: Black List, Ink Tip, Stage 32, now, working on there. They have something called, “Hobby Writer” which is kind of an active pitching service. My own Email and Fax Blast Service, I think all of these people should be part of your marketing strategy. And don’t rule out a strategy, anything you rely on solely on Black List. You don’t want to rely solely on Ink Tip. And you don’t want to rely solely on just my Email and Fax Blast Service. You really should be spreading your writing, you know that old saying, “You don’t want to put your eggs all in one basket.” Spread your eggs out in multiple baskets, I think that’s the smartest thing to do. And that’s what I do, I mean, I’m on all these services that I’ve mentioned. I haven’t done a lot with contests recently, but I use Ink Tip, I use Black List, I use Email and Fax Blast, I use a variety of other services. So I’m always looking for new ways to market myself. I think that’s important, just to keep an eye out for other ways to market your script in addition to contests. But contests are a quick and easy way to get in there and get some feedback. And just see how your script comes out.
Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening.