The Austin Film Festival bills itself as one of the best for writers. We've talked about it on here as having one of the most reputable contests around. And we called it one of the five best screenplay competitions. But it might be time we rescinded that designation. While the festival is great to attend and network within, it seems like the feedback people are getting after sending their screenplays in for evaluation is amateurish, lazy, and a waste of time and money.
Late last night, stories of the Austin Film Festival's feedback went viral, with many posting the comments they paid to get on their script. They range from poor to tone-deaf and racist. I wish I was kidding, but I am not. I'll post some highlights below, but head over to Twitter to check more out.
This is all pretty abhorrent, especially if these are in fact coming from people who pay over $100 to submit to one of the Festivals coverage programs. Many wondered if the readers were being paid for their work.
The official comment from the Austin Film Festival is as follows:
For the past 28 years, the Austin Film Festival has been committed to furthering the art and craft of storytelling by supporting emerging voices. It has come to our attention that some of our script readers' comments failed to meet our competition standards and unfortunately passed through our vetting system. We apologize for this failure as it does not reflect the care and attention our organization promises to devote to each submitted story. We are evaluating and removing those script readers who failed to provide personalized script notes at the caliber required. We are honored to be surrounded by a talented writing community and have asked the 2021 competition entrants to contact us directly with any concerns regarding their reader's feedback. We will continue to evaluate our reading process for the future to ensure it continues to support our mission.
A quick word on contests—many times they are not as reputable as you'd like. Before you enter any contest, try to see if it has a reputation.
We covered three different script reading services. I liked most of them. Only one was more expensive than Austin and it comes with an hour of feedback. These little paragraphs of people skimming your stories are definitely not worth it.
As for AFF we have always been friends, partners, and proponents of their competition and services, so this was deeply disappointing to us. We are encouraged to have heard from them on the issue and happy to know they are taking steps to remedy it.
It's a hard-earned lesson for all involved. If you bite off more than you can chew, promising more than you can deliver, the internet has a way of finding out. At the same time, be aware of what you are getting when you submit your scripts and films places, and adjust expectations and wallets accordingly.
Editor's note, Dec. 9: updated with a statement from AFF.