Austin Film Festival & Writers Conference (AFF) announced their fifth annual “25 Screenwriters to Watch.” This year’s “25 Screenwriters to Watch” list includes a roster of promising and innovative voices, featuring writers from diverse backgrounds, mediums, and points in their careers.
Featured writers from last year’s list continue to find success in the industry. Television writer Davia Carter joined the writing room for the new CW series Katy Keene. Also featured last year, Tripper Clancy’s film Stuber, produced by Fox and starring Kumail Nanjiani, premiered in theaters last July, and Tripper is currently at work on the Kevin Hart led Quibi title Die Hart scheduled to release this year. Meanwhile, Jean Lee who’s been noted by Women In Film, the Blacklist, and Ryan Murphy’s HALF, among other prominent entities, is currently in post-production on a new documentary feature titled The Heart of Puerto Rico.
Since 1994, Austin Film Festival has sought to elevate the recognition and stature of screenwriters through a myriad of initiatives and programs, including its Writers Conference, a film festival and the largest screenplay competition in the world.
2020 Screenwriters to Watch
Indianna Bell: Bell’s short film Call Connect, won the Jury Prize for Best Narrative Short at the 2019 Austin Film Festival. Bell is also the author of Quirky Quentin, a children’s book that combines her love of writing and disability care work and advocacy.
Julie & Shawna Benson: The sister writing duo are currently developing a live-action television show with the Jim Henson Company and recently wrote for Nickelodeon’s Untitled Star Trek Animated series.
Zoe Cheng: Cheng won the 2019 Austin Film Festival’s inaugural HUMANITAS Originals Prize for her film When a Flower Falls. She also placed in the top 50 of the 2019 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting. Currently, she is one of the 2020 program writers for the Walt Disney Television Writing Program.
Jon Comulada: Comulada was awarded the inaugural Rooster Teeth Fellowship Award at the 2019 Austin Film Festival, where he was also a finalist in the Comedy Pilot category for The Daily Dowager. He is currently in post-production for a short film as well as working on a political comedy pilot and a sci-fi/thriller feature among other screenplays.
Christopher Corte: Corte has written for the stage, sketch comedy, and film and television all over the country. His film Service Animals won multiple awards at the 2019 Austin Film Festival, including the SciFi Award. He is currently working on two projects, both within the sci-fi genre.
Micah Cyrus: Cyrus has worked in a variety of roles in the film industry, ranging from Research Assistant and Writers’ Assistant positions to working in International Film Distribution for Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment and as Creative Content Coordinator in Digital Marketing for Relativity Media. He is currently a Staff Writer for Season 3 of the CW’s All American and is now working on a YA feature.
Jonathan Flicker: Flicker’s pilot Ghostrunner won the 2019 Austin Film Festival AMC Drama Teleplay Award and was a top-ten finalist in the Screencraft Pilot Launch Competition. He is currently working on a feature-length script entitled Credible Fear.
Zarna Garg & Greg Fortier: Garg and Fortier’s Rearranged won the Comedy Screenplay Award presented by Sony Pictures Animation at the 2019 Austin Film Festival and was a Semifinalist for the 2019 Academy Nicholl Fellowships. It has been optioned by Marginal Mediaworks.
Rupinder Gill: Gill is a writer/producer on the upcoming Peacock series Rutherford Falls and the NBC series Indebted. She previously worked on the Amy-Poehler-produced comedy I Feel Bad and the Eugene Levy/Catherine O’ Hara starrer Schitt’s Creek.
Giorgos Georgopoulos & Maria Fakinou: Georgopoulos and Fakinou’s film Not to be Unpleasant but we need to have a serious talk was praised for its excellent writing at the 2019 Austin Film Festival. Georgopoulos is currently developing a Greek fantasy series, and one of his scripts is in the pre-production process.
Cris Graves: An Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, Graves has worked across multiple platforms and has had her work screened at various festivals, including Cannes, Oaxaca, and Hamilton. Her feature film script Alone Girl, which made it onto The Bitch List 2020, was selected as a semi-finalist in three categories at the Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition. She plans to direct Alone Girl and is also working on developing a podcast entitled Blissful Spinster.
Josh Hallman & Kai Hasson: Hallman and Hasson’s film Robu was a festival favorite short at the 2019 Austin Film Festival. Hasson plans to write a feature-length project based on Robu while Hallman is currently working on a contained action film.
Jeremy Laval: Laval’s film Noise won the Audience Award for Dark Matters Feature at the 2019 Austin Film Festival. In addition to filmmaking, Laval co-founded the production company Frontline Cinema. He is currently working on developing another feature as well as a series.
Hannah Leder & Alexandra Kotcheff: Leder and Kotcheff met at the age of eight and had made their first film by age 12. Their film The Planters, which they wrote, directed, starred in, and single-handedly crewed, won both an Audience Award and Jury Award at the 2019 Austin Film Festival. They are currently working on another feature-length dark comedy, Peachville.
David Midell: Midell’s debut feature NightLights was released in 2014, made its network television premiere on the Lifetime Movie Network in 2015. His follow-up film The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain won both an Audience and a Jury Award at the 2019 Austin Film Festival.
Par Parekh: Parekh’s film The Happy was a festival favorite at the 2019 Austin Film Festival. His previous work includes promotional videos for such musical talents as Beyoncé, Celine Dion, Shuggie Otis, and Willie Nelson. Currently, his feature documentary debut Sister Una Lived A Good Death is in post-production.
David Pantano: Pantano’s screenplay Backfired was a Screencraft and Austin Film Festival Semifinalist. It is slated to be released as a comic book by Source Point Press this June.
Larry Postel: An Austin Film Festival Finalist from 1995, screenwriter, and full-time freelance advertising copywriter, Postel wrote many screenplays and had numerous sales and options over the years, but nothing was produced… until 2019! In 2019, three of his original spec screenplays were produced. The Main Event was released by Netflix this April; Flip Turn is in post-production; and High Holiday is completed and out to distributors.
Chris Retts: Rhetts is a multiple-produced screenwriter, including feature-length projects produced by MarVista Entertainment for the Lifetime Movie Network. His film Wade in the Water, set to be distributed later this year, won multiple awards in the festival circuit, and its script was a Semifinalist for the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting. He currently has several scripts in development including a TV pilot and his follow-up to Wade in the Water.
Caitlin Scherer: Scherer’s screenplays have placed in numerous contests, including as a Top 5 Finalist at the 2019 Austin Film Festival for Fitter Families. She was the recipient of the inaugural Rooster Teeth Development Fellowship and is currently in the writing process for a new dark comedy horror script about climate change.
Kelly Strathmore: Strathmore’s screenplay East Palo Alto was a finalist in the 2019 Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition. She has been the recipient of multiple awards and grants, including the 2020 CineStory Foundation TV Fellowship. She is currently working on writing an action comedy/dramedy.
Yi Tang: First-time filmmaker Yi Tang’s short Black Goat won the Jury Award for Narrative Student Short at the 2019 Austin Film Festival. She is currently working on her thesis short film, Blooming Flowers and Full Moon, as well as beginning work on her first feature-length project.
Christina Tucker: Tucker’s film From the Wilderness was a Finalist at the 2019 Austin Film Festival. Her previous writer/director credits include The Ghost and the Writer and Chores. She is currently a New York-based freelancer in film, television, and commercial production.
Patrick Wimp: Wimp’s digital series Brothers from the Suburbs won both the Jury and Audience Award for Produced Digital Series at the 2019 Austin Film Festival. It was recently licensed to the newly launched short-form mobile streaming platform Ficto.
Gareth Wronski: Wronski’s first book, Holly Farb and the Princess of the Galaxy, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2017 and was nominated for the Silver Birch Award. Additionally, he is a PAGE Awards winner, Screencraft Comedy finalist, Tracking Board Launch Pad Top 10 finalist, and Final Draft Big Break Top 3 finalist. He is currently working on a post-apocalyptic rom-com.