04.09.14 | Matt Dy
AFF is coming to LA this Saturday, April 12th to join forces with The Writers Guild Foundation on From First Draft To Feature, a full day of panels and workshops dedicated to taking your script and turning it into a finished product. In anticipation of the event, we interviewed two of the panelists that will be included in our Final Draft to Competitions panel discussion. The two writers included in the interview are AFF alums Andrew Lanham, 2010 AFF Drama Screenplay Winner and 2010 Nicholl Fellow, and Troy Miller, 2013 AFF Horror Screenplay Winner. Do you have a screenplay or teleplay you are looking to submit in the 2014 Competition? What are you waiting for? Submit your script here. Not ready to submit your script yet? Get notes and advice from our Coverage Program.
AFF: What is your writing process?
ANDREW: I write long hand, starting early in the morning. I type up and revise heading into the afternoon. The long hand is the most important part for me. It makes me feel like there is much less pressure than a blank screen, and by the time I’m typing up I’m already on a sort of second draft.
TROY: Research, Outline, Explore. In order to get into the world of the story, I need to understand it, so if any aspect of it is foreign to me, I do a lot of research—online, books, interviews, you name it. Then I outline the story. Huge proponent of outlining. What are the major beats, especially the “turn”, the thing that drives the protagonist full force into destiny. Sometimes I note card. But really, once I have the beats, I explore. I imagine the scene before me, then I walk through it with the characters. I ask “what comes next?”—an improvised storytelling technique—and see how far I can heighten that moment until it nearly breaks.
AFF: What drew you to submit your script to AFF?
ANDREW: I was in the MFA Screenwriting program at the University of Texas, Austin when I submitted to AFF. There’s a great relationship between AFF and the university, so trying to have something to submit was a goal for all of the graduate students.
TROY: I’ve submitted to AFF probably half a dozen times, but never with anything that I felt was “as good as it can be for now” — a hard place for me to be willing to get to. This one took three drafts before I allowed myself to even think it. And AFF is the cream of the crop. Having been a reader for the fest for years and had a film there before, I knew first hand. It’s a place where doing well really means something.
AFF: What was your experience like attending AFF with a script in the competition?
ANDREW: It was amazing! I was a graduate student, living in the city across town, so attending AFF while in competition was a surreal and wonderful dream come true. It’s such an amazing festival – I treasured every minute of it then, and I still do today.
TROY: The great thing about AFF is that, generally speaking, it doesn’t matter if you have a script or not. The festival is what you, the creative and engaging individual you are, make of it. This was the first year I had a script in competition, but I’ve been coming for a decade. The people you meet ultimately want to know and like you first as a human being. Having a script is simply a bonus –and a great conversation starter.
AFF: What happened after AFF?
ANDREW: I won the Nicholl Fellowship soon after AFF. I finished the MFA program in Austin over the next year. I moved to Los Angeles about a year after that, when I was hired for my first paid writing job.
TROY: A very cool thing. Darkwoods Productions, who gave me the award, told me they were interested in optioning the script. We’re talking Frank Darabont’s company. I couldn’t really even process it for a long time. As of this writing, nothing’s final, but that’s simply because nothing moves too quickly in Hollywood (as I’ve learned). They’ve been great, are enthusiastic supporters of the work, and I honestly can’t think of anyone more suited to try to bring this story to life.
Editor’s note: Darkwoods Productions is BACK as a sponsor of the 2014 Horror and Sci-Fi Categories
AFF: What advice would you give writers hoping to break in?
ANDREW: Write what you are passionate about, not just what you know. Be careful with your work, take the time to know your script is a good read. Listen to feedback (and get lots of it). Allow the notes you receive to take the work to new and exciting places. Print to proofread. Revise, revise, revise.
TROY: Submit to festivals like AFF. I mean, do your research. Pick a handful that have some juice. AFF and Nicholl are top. But anyone who tells you they are a waste of time hasn’t won or done well at one. Your script will get read, and if it does well, it could get read by someone who connects to the material and can do something about it. What happened to me is a perfect example.
AFF: What are you currently working on?
ANDREW: I’m adapting The Glass Castle with Destin Daniel Cretton, and working on a project about Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid for Vincent D’Onofrio.
TROY: A few things. A time travel thriller for one. Another is a kind of western meets serial killer movie, based on true events (that happened right here in Austin!). And I’m developing a pilot for an episodic series that updates the strange case of Jekyll and Hyde. At the moment, though, I’m mostly working on being married (March 23rd). It’s a feel-good story with a happy ending — Hollywood loves those, yeah?
For more information and to purchase tickets for From First Draft To Feature, click here.