Members of the Arizona Film Commission, judges and six finalists broke bread at a morning ceremony Aug. 25 as Arizona Department of Commerce director Jackie Vieh awarded first prize in the Film in Arizona Screenwriting Competition to Paul Lazarus of Coral Gables, Fla.
“Corner Stone,” Lazarus’ winning screenplay, weaves together contemporary police work, Navajo mysticism and murder.
The awards event took place at the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood .
Highways and byways
Created to promote location filming in Arizona, the screenwriting competition required 85% of the script to be set in the state. The winner, selected from 125 entries from 10 states, has the opportunity to pitch the screenplay in pre-arranged meetings to filmmakers, agents and development execs, in addition to receiving donated airline tickets, a rental car and hotel accommodations.
“Ours is a competition that means business,” said Arizona film commissioner Linda Peterson Warren. “Arizona is the real winner by introducing industry leaders to scripts for potential new business in our home state. Jobs and revenues through increased production are the bottom-line objectives for the Arizona Film Commission.”
Advice to writers
Prior to the presentation, Writers Guild of America Foundation exec VP Fay Kanin spoke to attendees on the topic “Writing: Keep at It and Pray a Lot.” Kanin, a writer-producer for stage, screen and TV for almost 50 years, is a former four-term Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences prexy, one of two women to have held that position, and currently VP of that org.
She said the most important moment for a writer is when he or she decides what to write about. “I can’t believe that the movie audience is interested only in comic strips, prehistoric beasts, gun battles, car chases and crashes, and strangely shaped people from other planets.
“We live among real people who work and love and hurt and win and lose … who want to be reminded how precious the events of life can be.
“If all we offer them is imitative banality and mind-numbing violence, we are shrinking this marvelous medium into nothing more than a profit-hungry business that might as well be turning out ball bearings. And worse than that, we are shrinking ourselves,” Kanin said.
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Members of the Austin Film Festival hosted their second annual down-home style BBQ at L.A.’s El Rey Theater last month. Last year’s gathering was held at the home of “Apollo 13” scribe and fellow Texan Al Reinert. A similar bash is held at George Plimpton’s digs in New York each spring.
Building awareness for the festival — which boasts 45 celebrity-studded panels and 80 films — and just having fun were the goals of the barbecue, explained Marsha Milam, who, along with Barbara Morgan, is a director and founder of the film fest, as well as one of the event organizers.
L.A. attendees included hosts and board members Gayla Nethercott (Broder Kurland Webb Uffner), Matthew Gross (Kopelson Entertainment), Polly Platt (Carsey Warner Moving Pictures), Pen Densham (Trilogy Entertainment) and director Randall Wallace (“Man in the Iron Mask”). Also present were “Mulan” scribe Rita Hsiao, who will be attending the Austin Heart of Film Screenwriters Conference, fellow Texans Mike Judge and Al Reinert, and “King of the Hill’s” Johnny Hardwick and Jim Duaterive.
On the fest roster, Joel and Ethan Coen will participate in “A Tribute to the Coen Brothers,” featuring a screening of their re-edited, remastered, and now retitled, debut feature pic, “Blood Simple.” October Films will release the new version, “Blood Simple-Forever Young.”
Kickoff for the fifth annual Austin Heart of Film Screenwriters Conference & Film Festival is Oct. 1.