Slayfest Wins Best Short Screenplay at the Austin Film Festival

Mark is on the right, peeking from behind his trophy.

For 30 years now, the Austin Film Festival (AFF) has fired up its spotlight and pointed it directly where the Hollywood sun doesn’t always shine – the writer. Known as the “Writers Festival,” AFF recognizes the writer as the core of the creative process in filmmaking. Diligently seeking strong examples of written and visual storytelling, AFF screens the highest calibre narrative, documentary and animated films. With over 150 regional, national and world premieres each year, AFF features everything from highly anticipated Hollywood fare to breakthrough independent filmmaking.

Attendees of AFF’s world-famous Writers Conference get access to over 175 panels, roundtables, pitch sessions, and workshops, covering every nook and cranny of the art, craft, and business of storytelling through film, television, and digital platforms.

The festival’s script competitions stand a league apart. Even reaching the quarterfinals (known as a 2nd Rounder) can gain writer’s recognition in the industry. In 2022 over 10,000 writers worldwide submitted their screenplays in the hopes of reaching the 2nd round and beyond.

Since 2014 I’ve been one of those hopeful writers. I’ve reached the 2nd round four times since, and I promised myself if I reached the semi-finals, I would fly over to Texas and attend. This year I did reach the semis, so I booked my flight. A few days before the conference, I received word I’d advanced to the finals.

I had to attend an awards luncheon on the conference’s second day to determine if I’d won. I was among an audience of fellow writers and filmmakers, which included famous folks like Stephen Merchant and Darren Aronofsky! It was nerve-wracking, to say the least.

When they called my name out to say I’d won, I had to go up and make a speech. My heart was pumping so hard I could hear vibrations in my voice as I tried to get the words out as best as possible, and I made Stephen Merchant laugh (deliberately), so that was the icing on the cake.

I had the most wonderful time at the festival. I made new friends and new connections and opened up new possibilities. It made me reaffirm my belief that I do have talent, that I do have stories to share with the world, and that all my work and efforts over the past eight years have been worth it.

AFF 2022 has recharged and renewed my creative juices. It has inspired me so much that I am already working on a new screenplay and novel.

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