Monday, May 07, 2007

There are Many Winners at AFF: 2006 Semi-Finalist, Dwayne McKenzie, On the Conference and Writers' Ranch

MARY: Dwayne, last year was the second time you have entered the Austin Film Festival Screenplay and Teleplay Competition. What made you come back and enter again?

DWAYNE: Sucker for punishment? At least that’s the way it can feel sometimes. But I figure if you write teleplays or screenplays, you do it in the hopes that what you write will make it to the small or big screen. Otherwise, you’re writing a diary. So, eventually, you need to get read by people who can and do make that happen. My impression of the AFF is that it’s one of the few competitions that can get some attention for scripts that advance. And you don’t need to win the competition to have some great results. So when I felt I had a script that was worth sending out, the AFF was on my short list.

MARY: You also attended the festival and conference last year as a 2006 Semi-Finalist with MOXIE, which was co-written with JJ Masley. What made you attend and how was your experience?

DWAYNE: Thinking back, I think there were a couple of reasons why I decided to make the trek out to Austin, aside from the repeated promises of BBQ. I know a big part of it was that there were special panels for Finalists and Semi-Finalists, and then some more for Second Rounders. Those smaller panels looked very interesting and, let’s face it, they gave those writers advancing in the competition a chance to get up close with some pretty talented people. Besides that, the lineup of panelists, films, and documentaries just sounded like a good time. I’ve never been opposed to a good time. The focus of the festival on the writer in the whole equation is unique, and it shows at the conference. I’d strike up a conversation with a panelist and end up having coffee and talking about views on what kind of stories we’d like to write and see on the screen. I live in L.A., and you’re just not going to have that happen in stop-and-go traffic.

MARY: After the festival, MOXIE was selected to apply for the 2007 Writers’ Ranch. Currently, the first week of the ranch is complete, but the second week is coming up later this month in LA. What has been your experience so far with the ranch, and what made you apply?

DWAYNE: I definitely wanted the opportunity to sit with the likes of Jim Hart and Herschel Weingrod for a week and learn what I could, but my main goal was to make MOXIE as good as it could be. The story was inspired by my Mom and in first creating the character of MOXIE (a 10-year-old girl), I drew bits and pieces from my nieces and nephews (some pretty cool kids). So, I’ve had a lot invested in the script and I wanted to do it and them as much justice as I could. As far as my experiences there, it far surpassed my expectations. I knew going in that there were issues with MOXIE but wasn’t sure of how to fix them. By the end of the Ranch, I could see the entire rewrite. I think I can safely say MOXIE is vastly better now, and it was the feedback and tools that Jim and Herschel provided that sped up that process.

For more information on the Writers' Ranch and this year's Austin Film Festival and Conference check out And DON'T FORGET upcoming deadlines for the Screenplay/Teleplay Competitions (May 15th/June 1st) and Early Festival Registration (May 31st).

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