This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 173: Austin Film Festival Co-Founder Barbara Morgan Talks About Writing Fiction Podcast Scripts.
Ashley: Welcome to episode #173 of the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I’m Ashley Scott Meyers Screenwriter and Blogger over at – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today, I’m interviewing director, Barbara Morgan. Who is the Co-Founder of the Austin Film Fest. They’re doing a new contest this year fictionalized Podcast scripts. Which are basically like radio plays. I had not heard of this before talking with Barbara? So, it was interesting to learn about this new medium. Barbara and the Austin Film Festival feel like this is a growing market for screenwriters. And we talk about some of the various challenges that writers in this medium face. So, stay tuned for that. If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review in ITunes. Or leaving a comment on YouTube, or retweeting the Podcast on Twitter. Or liking us on Facebook. These social media shares really do help spread word about the Podcast and are very much appreciated.
Any websites or links that I mention in the Podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with each episode. In case you would rather read the show or look up something else up later-on. You can find all the Podcast show notes, just go to – www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast, and look for episode #173.
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So, now let’s get into the main segment. Today I’m interviewing,
Austin Film Festival Co-Founder – Barbara Morgan. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Barbara to, the “Selling Your Screenplay Podcast.” I really appreciate you coming on the show and talking with me today.
Barbara: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Ashley: So, to start out, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up, and how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Barbara: Well, let’s see? I grew-up in Philadelphia, for the most part. And then ended up on coming to the University of Texas for college. And I think is, what all creative drive comes from. And I really, actually wasn’t interested in entertainment. But, this is a town that certainly has deep roots in that, in music and showman, and all kinds of other creative arts. So, it’s a pretty amazing pool of creativity here.
So, out of that, I started working with some people in music. And then it actually morphed into film. And the truth is, it, I just love movies, going to movies, and was at a dinner party, and the woman that Ann Richards had hired to run the Texas Film Commission. And I asked them why there wasn’t a film festival in Austin. And she said, “Well, it’s funny you ask that? We’re trying to get one going here.” And so, I pitched her my idea, and they loved it. So, that’s kinda what happened. And then the next thing you know, now I’m in film. So, it was really with complete ignorance. And also it was complete ignorance that brought it to the screen. So, you know, because there are so many writers in Austin. And Austin is really a writers town, whether it’s song writers, or film writers, or novelist. And we have this huge university here, that keeps feeding it. And so, there were, I knew a couple of screenwriters already that the guys who did “Apollo 13.” We’re here, this is 1993, they had already entered into the film business. Guys like Bill Witwith was here. So, we really had kind of a rich area to start something like this. And then you know, we started it. We really had no idea. That screenwriters were really a group of people who, really didn’t get to hang out with each other very often. You know, I didn’t come from a movie business background. So, I didn’t know those guys were never really invited to the party?
Barbara: So, we started inviting them to the party. And then, they liked to party. So, it turned out to be fortuitous for us. And that’s sort of long story short, about entering to that world.
Ashley: So, the initial intent was not to make a film festival that was screenwriting central. It was just to start a film festival in Austin. And then it just kinda morphed into this?
Barbara: Yeah I mean, the original intent was, that we didn’t have a film festival here? So, what, that would be just cool unto itself, you know, just to have some great movie theater, that normally wouldn’t come here. And it was, but it was not long before that turned into the screenwriter. Because, you know, in the research process, so that it was pretty clear that there wasn’t anybody servicing the writer. And we had them in our back yard. So, that was a lot of luck and not knowing any better?
Ashley: So, if someone is new screenwriting? And you know, is just learning about the Austin Film Festival. What can you, kind of pitch to them? What is the Austin Film Festival currently all about? And what are some good reasons for a screenwriter to want to come there next year, or I guess this year?
Barbara: Well, you know, we’re, each October. And the reason that we, we haven’t competition, it’s a great way for people, who are trying to break in, to get some recognition. But, that’s a lot of people anymore, it’s pretty competitive. And the festival itself is a place where writers can meet like-minded people and really feel comradery. And also meet people who can help them further their career and not have those big doors shut on them, like they do in L.A. I mean, I think the biggest pitch for what the festival is, is really a place where people can get a foot in the door whether it’s meeting some people. People that are going to help you get to that next step. Whether it’s making your writing better. You’re really honing your craft, by getting invites from the very best of people who, have done it. Not people that write books about it. But people who have actually done it and have gone through the process.
Who know what it means to get noticed, who know what it means to be rejected. And know what it means to actually have a great work end up on that screen. So, it’ people who really share, and then do share. That’s the cool thing about it right? Theirs is that they share. And it’s not a oh, this isn’t something we need to hold close to our vest, here. It’s, hey, you can do this. But, this is what it’s going to take. And some of that advice is hard, hard advice. But, then it’s also just comradery in the sense that people really do, you know? Have you been here?
Ashley: I have never been to the, I keep meaning to, it’s on my “To do list.” But I have not actually been there yet.
Barbara: Well, I would say, the writers, many of the writers are fueled by alcohol, not at all.
Barbara: But we do have a lot of great alcohol sponsors. And writers seem to be people who love to drink. But, they also are people when they do get together, you know, they are all pooled together here. There’s no place for them to go? So, all the panelist are hanging out with the registered. And that’s really what you want, and it is. It’s not a, I’m here, I’m up here, and your down there. It’s hey, I owe you one, and I get it. And here’s what you have to do, and I’m here for the weekend, and I have time to talk to you. I mean, it’s pretty amazing.
Ashley: Yeah. And let’s.
Barbara: It’s really unique atmosphere. Because writers, you know, buy it here. But, writers are amazing people you know, they’re creative and smart and funny, and they give.
Ashley: Yeah, and let’s just talk for a minute, about those interactions. What is appropriate and realistic for a new writer who goes to the Austin Film Festival will expect, I mean when they are talking to some of these seasoned writers. Is it appropriate to ask them to read your script? Maybe you can kind of just tell us how you see those relationships going, and developing, and what is appropriate and like I said, realistic for people to expect. So, there’s a really well known writer named Dan Petrie, Writer, Director. And he was President of the Writers Guild to go for a long time. I’ve heard Dan tell these “Newbies” at this festival. And I think it’s the best advice, which is, it’s never really appropriate to just shove your script in somebody’s hand. You know, the old movies are made out of relationships. The collaborative art form, and even though some people don’t think they are that. It is a collaborative art form. And the writers, you want to get like-minded, but you want to be friendly with somebody. You want to have a connection, before you ask them to read your material. That’s because, hey, it’s asking a lot of someone, somebody. And “B” you don’t even know if that person has the sensibility that you want them to be reading your script, you know? I mean, it’s all such a subjective reading, reading a script is so subjective. And so, I think an appropriate thing for a new writer. We actually do spend on our first day with some panels, for people who have never attended before. So, to kind of walk them through the process, Grant Nicole Beale is great at running this panel too. And it’s basically the kind of people who are appropriate, who just hang out with these people and talk to them, and become friendly. And over time that relationship is, if it’s a good relationship, they’ll ask for your script. Or make the opportunity for you to tell them it’s about may come up.
And in fact, Dan Petrie bought a script and produced the film called, “Dawn Patrol.” From one of our Semi-Finalist. In the bar at the hotel.
Barbara: Yeah. he’s the guy that tells everybody, don’t shove your script in their hand
Barbara: That he may ask, and he in fact, ask me to write a short, we were down there drinking with him. Hey, I’d like to read your script. And then he made the movie.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah.
Barbara: So, that’s to me is always, it’s like dating. You know, and I won’t go too far into this, example. But, you’re not going to, on the first date, unless you’re an idiot? Somebody who would go too far into the process. You know, you want to get to know them a little better. So.
Ashley: So, let’s dig into the fiction Podcast Script Competition, you guys are running this year. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about that exactly what is that?
Barbara: Well, we, you asked earlier what we were about? And when we first started in 1993 what we were about was? Open the door for screenwriters. And then, around 1998. We could see the up-kick in where television was going. And we opened it up to television. We started bringing in television writers, and we started the television competition. And now we have a new pilot competition as well as a writing competition for just existing pilots, for existing television shows. And last year we started getting delving into playwriting. Because an awful lot of playwrights end up crossing over into the TV and film world these days. And we decided that the Podcast world was kinda right for that. There’s enough of them to be interesting new Podcasts out there, “Mind Count” is a really great one. These are all, these are like writing a show, a TV show, you know, not exactly, but close. And if you’re a writer? You want to use one as an outlet for your craft. You want to keep writing, and you want to make a living out of it. And so, Podcasts, we really wanted to really think are the new place to go here. It’s an opportunity for people to write the way they think writing and television and film similarly. To actually get a foot in the door. And you know, get some craft credits, and work in a collaborative process, create something, create something that’s maybe not going to visualize, visually, but in an auditory world, you know, and be realized ultimately. I mean, it’s realizing they’re words on a page. And so, we feel it’s the same world. And we feel there is potential for so much great
cross-over into that world. And Podcasting, it’s a real growing world. There’s that potential for that cross-over from people who are writing TV and film right now. And it’s really, really, hard to get people to pay attention to you as a TV and film writer. It may not be as hard for them to pay attention to you as a Podcast writer.
Barbara: So really, just continuing in this mission that we have, of trying to open doors for writers in this medium.
Ashley: Yeah. So, let’s talk about this script. And sort of what that would look like? What are the differences between a you know, a normal feature film script, which is intended to be filmed, versus a fictional Podcast script.
Barbara: Well, I’ll tell ya what. We’re actually going to be doing a Podcast on us. We have a TV, radio, show archive whatever? Of the festival, literally from the very beginning, with all the people we’ve brought in, and it’s called On Story and we’re on PBS stations around the U.S. and now on PRI. And we have a Podcast with it a, obviously, it’s the same content. And it’s all the people that come into the festival, talking about it. We’ve decided to do a Podcast on this because great questions? In the searching for scripts, that are the, just like you would sign a standard screenplay format, there isn’t one that we can find. In the Podcast world. And it has obviously not visual cues, but audio cues. And so really right now, it’s kind of such an early stage there’s not really one out there. We’re going to be putting out some like line talent show mentioned, they’re sharing scripts with us that we can open the doors and show people, and say, here’s a script, here’s how it’s written out. Here’s a Podcast that’s actually produced. So, you can use that as one of your formats. But, there’s not actually that we can find generally accepted formats. Some people write in, in England they still do a lot of radio plays. It’s still very common over there. Even though it sort of disappeared over here. But, it’s now here in our lively common Podcast.
Barbara: And there’s a format a little different. So, people could use that. And find that online if you look up you know, British radio plays.
Barbara: But we’re going to start putting this up on our website, so people can find. And example, like “Lion Town” we’re going to get that up pretty soon here. And we’re going to be interviewing narrative fiction Podcast creators. And do a Podcast about it. So, people can talk about the process of actually doing it. There’s a motorcycle going by, sorry. Can you hear me?
Ashley: Sure. Now, just in general is there like a narrator? That sort of gives the description and sort of going on. And then the actors say their lines? Or do the actors sort of give that exposition.
Barbara: The actors, seems like, and I think it’s, there’s a broader ways away to do it? Some of the ones I’ve been listening to, it’s a mix of both. So, sometimes they’re just you know, writing it right into dialog. And then some actually have that exposition in there. So,
Barbara: So, it’s sort a brave new world. That actually.
Ashley: No, yeah, no kidding. So, are there some producers out there that you’ve heard of that are looking for this type of material? And that sort of is the next question is? I know screenwriters will be asking, okay. So, once I’ve written one of these things. Obviously, they can enter your contest and that can be great exposure. But, where do they go to try and market these? Podcast scripts. Well, and that’s then, really like good direction and the course of the journey. We ourselves trying to find out about so now. But we do know some producers, and agencies that are working with writers in this medium. It’s not a lot, but there are some out there for sure. Finding them is also not the easiest thing in the world. But we’re, that’s what we’re trying to do here for the Podcast world, is what we’ve done for the screenwriting world. Which is, be a conduit for that. We introduce them to those people. You know what? And certainly, the hope here is, that we’ll have a Cinderella story like we did with our screenwriting competition. I mean, year one, you know we had this anonymous competition that got 1,300 scripts in, back in 1994. And the winning script which was a woman. Which was all read anonymously by producers we targeted in Los Angeles. David Arbez, who was one of the producers who was reading. Who, at the time was producing for Clint Eastwood. Found a script that was at the competition here. He loved it, and ended up winning. He sold it to Columbia Pictures, and produced the movie. And that was year one. It actually won the “Nickel” a woman who write it won a “Nickel” and she couldn’t collect here “Nickel.” Because she was already a working writer. So, I don’t know if we’ll already have that Cinderella story? And I don’t even want to pretend that, that still happens every day. But, that is what we try and do here every day. Try and facilitate those connections. And so, what we are going to be doing at the conferences here. Is have a track that’s for Podcasts specifically. And we’re going to be bringing in all the people we can find and in that world that we can get to participate who are picking up content producing new content, creating it, you know. There’s a lot of people we’ve been talking to. I don’t want to throw names out there yet? Specifically, we’re still talking to about finalizing our, those relationships. But, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. We are just taking them auto, what we did with screenplays, and for television, and an awful lot of our people that got moved into the system in those categories. And we’re trying to do it for Podcasts. But it’s out there.
Ashley: Yeah, yeah.
Barbara: It’s just not, it’s just not over it yet. I think we’re in the early stages of the narrative Podcast world. The, not narrative world, but sorry, we’re in the early stages of the
“Fiction – Narrative Podcast” world. There’s a lot of documentary content out there. But not really fiction.
Barbara: And that’s what we’re hoping that there is going to be great cause. So, whatever.
Ashley: So, in addition to “Lion Town.” There is some other examples of that people could listen to, to kind of get a feel for this?
Barbara: Yeah, actually. Let me, if you give me a second, here I can.
Ashley: On your website, yeah, you mentioned “Home Coming” and “Welcome to Nightval.” I can definitely link to those.
Barbara: Yeah, “Welcome to Nightval” yeah, those are some of the big ones. The ones that have a big audience so far. And it’s interesting, because a lot of them are in certain genres. You see, hear a lot of sci-fi, and stuff like that. But, the truth is, there is more coming. There is one called, “The Message.” There’s another called, “Life After” there’s another one called,
“The Deep Vault.” “Alice isn’t Dead.” “Within the Wires.” These are all ones that have a fairly sizable following right now. And like I said, A lot of it, there is a lot in that world,
science fiction. But, there’s not a bunch of comedy, to me that’s a totally opened realm for people, you know, to essentially take what you might have written for a TV show as a comedy pilot. You know, and move it to genre. So, those are some of the big ones right now, that I can think, that I can think of here, that are off our list.
Ashley: Perfect, perfect, perfect. And tell me a little bit about what the winners gets specifically for this contest?
Barbara: Well, I think it’s a small cash prize. But then we bring them into the conference. And we’ll be introducing them to people and you know, highlighting them in the awards luncheon. And they’ll be attending a reception in conference. You know essential be you know, brought out like a debutant. That’s what we try to do, you know.
Ashley: Perfect. So, I will link to the submission page, I think that deadline is May 10th is that correct?
Ashley: Okay, so I’ll link to that page in the show notes. And what’s the best way for people to kind of keep up with what you guys are doing? Twitter handle, Facebook page, website, anything you are comfortable sharing. I’ll put that out.
Barbara: Yeah, I mean, I definitely, you know, obviously from first the website – www.austinfilmfestival.com, and then definitely, and from there you’ll be able to hook up with our Twitter, Facebook, and all that. And we’ll be doing it all through all of our social media. And then, you know, just we believe in good ole’ fashioned snail-mail. And we have all our brochures and stuff we can send out to people. And they can contact us, you can actually find most of that on our website. And the other place is, Keep up with “On Story.” So, “On Story” is www.onstory.tv is our, somebody loves writing, and wants to be a writer. All of the 24 years that successful advice, is literally on – www.onstory.tv. Yes, our radio shows, TV shows, and our Podcasts, they are all free up there. And they can get on there and listen to literally some of the greatest people talk about some of the greatest writers out there. Creators talk about that process with really not making it rocket science. It’s something for people who really love to write, actually apply their craft. And on that we will be doing some Podcasts about Podcasting. So,
Ashley: Oh, okay.
Barbara: And the competition.
Ashley: Perfect. Well, I will grab all that stuff and I will link to it in the show notes. Barbara, I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me today. This is fascinating. And it sounds like as a Podcaster and a writer myself, it sounds like a great avenue for writing and start getting your stuff out there.
Barbara: Well, alright, thank you so much.
Ashley: Alright Barbara, we’ll talk to ya later.
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On the next episode of the Podcast, I’m going to be interviewing, Australian Director, Matt Drummond, who recently wrote/directed/ and produced a CGI heavy film called,
“My Pet Dinosaur.” We talk about his career as visual effects artist and how that led him to writing, and producing his own films, and use his own visual effects. So, keep an eye out for that episode next week.
To wrap things up I just want to touch on a few things from today’s interview with Barbara. As mentioned I’ll link to all the fictional Podcasts that we talked about in the show notes. I went and listened to a few episodes they are all very well produced, very interesting. “Lion Town” was the most interesting one to me. It’s pretty compelling stuff, it’s basically in the style of something like the very popular seral Podcast, but obviously pure fiction. Basically, a sort of the premise is, there is an investigative journalist trying to solve a mystery. And that’s kind of sets everything up, and keeps the interest going throughout the episode. Check them all out, if you have a moment. If you’re thinking about writing something like this? There’s really no better way to learn then to actually listen to a few of them. Once again, one of the things I really interested me about this medium is, how quick and easy it would be for a writer/producer to get something out into the world and just start to build a following with their fictional stories. All you really need is a recording, some sort of a recording device. You know, in this day and age, your computer will suffice. You need a few actors, but that’s kind of the extent of it, obviously, you need a good script as well. But, that’s kind of the extent of it. You don’t need to spend a lot of time with production elements. Cinematography, color correction, all of these things that you go through with a, you know, a visual production. You don’t have to worry about with just the audio production. So, again, it’s a really interesting medium I hope this contest is successful, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this medium actually as it grows. Again, if anybody is interested in listening to these, I will link to it in the show notes. And if any has a script for “Lion Town?” Or “Home Coming?” Please Email it to me, I would like to take a look at it. And I will post it in the SYS Script Library, for everyone else to see. But, I would say, if there is any Podcasts that have been fictionalized Podcast that have been produced and are up on iTunes. And you happen to have one of the scripts? Just Email it to me, I would like to get a look at the format. I think that would be educational as well. And again, I’ll put it in the SYS Script Library, so everyone else can see it as well.
Anyway, that’s the show, thank you for listening