Austin Film Festival’s 25 Screenwriters to Watch in 2017, Presented by MovieMaker

Trey Selman

Who: Turned to writing after going to University of Texas for business. Wrote 2016 Black List script The Fruitcake.

How did you break in of get your start in screenwriting?

I was like a tumbleweed. For years I rolled along, finishing script after script that no one ever read, until I finally wrote something that people wanted to read. Getting your start in screenwriting always reminds me of what Hemingway wrote, “How did you go bankrupt? Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?

Write every day. Rewrite more. Fail fast. Surround yourself with quality people. Drink sweet tea. Find inspiration somewhere, even if it’s in slow-smoked brisket, Davy Crockett and Bigfoot.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write?

I think every script I tackled before I got any interest from “the industry” was incrementally harder than the one before. I never really learned to navigate anything; just kept plodding forward like a stubborn mule and eventually got lucky.

What was a major turning point in your career?

At Austin Film Festival 2014, producer Justin Marks, whom I’d met earlier in the year, introduced me to Adam Kolbrenner. I had coffee with Adam and he offered to read something. Two years later, we took The Fruitcake out of the oven and, though weird and offbeat like the eponymous dessert, that ridiculous story kickstarted a career.


1. Jono Matt and Glen Powell 2. Ryan Piers Williams 3. Etta Devine and Gabriel Diani 4. Lena Khan 5. Trey Selman 6. Tracy Oliver 7. Justin Lader and Charlie McDowell 8. Clint Bentley and Greg Kwedar 9. Damir Konjicija and Dario Konjicija 10. Juanjo Moscardó Rius 11. Ben Snyder and Ari Issler 12. Kyle Bugg 13. Jimmy Mosqueda 14. Michael Noonan 15. Geeta Malik 16. Josh Barkey 17. Nicholas Verso 18. Minhal Baig 19. Henry Jones 20. Kevin Arbouet 21. Megan Park 22. Wes Brown 23. Louisiana Kreutz 24. Kate Nowlin 25. Elizabeth Guest

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  1. James Mayfield

    June 21, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Very inspiring stuff. Loved to learn how these guys and gals got their big breaks, especially those who had little to no contact in LA. Sort of inspiring, and it kind of makes you forget, if only for a moment, that many screenwriters work less than minimum wage. There’s hope!

  2. Tommy G Warren

    May 30, 2017 at 7:33 am

    Congratulations to all these writers! Knowing Ben Synder, who has worked with me on a scripts, I want to particularly congratulate him and Ari Lssler for achieving this endeavor in the ‘Storyworld’ of Cinema!

    Spiderwood Productions / Tommy G Warren, Writer, Producer.

  3. Bruce Spencer

    April 24, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Conspicuous by their absence are such stellar screenplay writers as Buck Henry (“The Graduate”), Robert Downey, Sr. (“Putney Swope”), Penny Lane (Nuts”)and Ben and Dan Barnz.

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