The AFF Screenplay Competition entrants started early this year. Before the competition had even announced the 2007 finalists, semi-finalist Ian Shorr was already on his way with his script POWER TRIP. As a two-time semi-finalist in the screenplay competition, we were excited to catch up with Ian and find out about his recently sold script EXEMPT (previously titled POWER TRIP).
MARY: You were a Semi-Finalist last year with your script RIGGED. What made you enter the AFF Screenplay Competition again with POWER TRIP?
IAN: Despite my attempt to bribe last year’s judges with money and romantic favors, my script RIGGED never made it past the semi-finals. But I had such an awesome time at the festival, I knew I would have to try to come back the next year — regardless of whether my next project would get me there.
MARY: Recently, POWER TRIP was sold. Can you share with us your journey with the script and who you sold it to?
IAN: POWER TRIP is an action-comedy about a group of teenagers with diplomatic immunity — think FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF meets GRAND THEFT AUTO. It was my senior thesis script at USC, and I pitched it at the school’s First Pitch Fest in May. There, rather than pitching the whole story, I simply pitched the first scene (wherein a bunch of kids go joyriding a in a cop car while high on liquid ecstasy), and a. few days later, Benderspink signed me as a management client. They sold the script to Overture Pictures earlier this summer.
MARY: A lot of writers go back and forth on whether or not it is worth entering screenplay competitions. Do you believe that competitions help the writer? If so, how?
IAN: I believe that entering screenwriting competitions can help a writer immensely. Especially when it’s one like AFF, wherein the prevailing tastes don’t automatically tilt towards heavy dramas or indie misery the way they do at a certain other festivals (such as one whose name rhymes with FunPants.) A good competition will help make your name known, or failing that, give you a strong indication of how you can improve. In my own experience, getting into the semi-finals with RIGGED was what got the attention of an indie company back in LA, who ended up producing the movie themselves. You don’t have to win a contest, or even make it into the finals, to get noticed.
MARY: Have you attended the Austin Film Festival and Conference before? And if so, how was that experience? Would you encourage others to attend?
IAN: Last year was like a geeky writer’s dream come true for me: I got to see a bunch of good movies (as well as Uwe Boll’s BLOODRAYNE), read some great scripts in the library, hang out with writers from all over the country, and basically gorge myself on swag and live music. Plus I got to meet my childhood screenwriting idol, Shane Black, and that alone was worth the flight down. It was like a bizzaro version of Hollywood, where writers get to be rock-stars for a few days.
MARY: Do you have any advice for your fellow writers?
IAN: As far as advice for other writers… here’s how I broke in: I made myself write one movie per year since I was a kid. I started a fake agency out my bedroom in Utah when I was 18, and got my first meetings that way. I met a bunch of smart people with similar interests who helped make my stuff stronger. I joined up with a co-writer who constantly pushed me to write better. I entered every contest I could get my hands on (including the AFF, which lead to my first feature.) I answered every writer-wanted ad on the job-listing board at USC (and then ripped the flier off the wall so I wouldn’t have to deal with competition.) I learned how to pitch like a madman, and finally, stuff started happening. Basically I broke in through a combination of scheming, hustling, shameless self-promotion, borderline sociopathic and/or illegal behavior, and an obsessive work ethic. Plus, you guys.