MovieMaker Presents: Austin Film Festival’s 25 Screenwriters to Watch, 2016

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Troy Anthony Miller

Who: Wrote and directed microbudget Severance (2005); also wrote horror screenplay The Hitch. Performs in his nationally-touring improv-comedy troupe Confidence Men: Improvised Mamet.

Troy Miller Pic

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

I had just gotten laid off from a job in hi-tech, had some money in the bank and been wanting to make a feature, and was like “OK, let’s do this.” So I wrote a script loosely based on my recent career woes. It was a kind of goofy comedy-slash-homage to film noir, and it was one of those projects that you’re calling in every favor for, maxing out credit cards, and pushing through the mountain of fear and doubt that threatens to collapse on you every single day. Thankfully, I made it through, and the film, Severance, premiered at AFF. And because of that, I met Dan Petrie, Jr., got him to see the film, and he’s been an unbelievable friend and champion of mine ever since.

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

You can’t rest on your laurels, you have to keep producing. I used to be a very measured, methodical writer. Now I lean on the gas more, and don’t get precious about the work. It’s the only currency you can trade on. Coupled with: You gotta be able to sell yourself—and I don’t mean your project. I mean you. You’ve got to be the most authentic, easy-going version of yourself you can be. People want to get to know and like the person underneath the writer, especially if your first contact with them is not through your writing. I do improv comedy, and I tell every writer I meet to take an improv class—it will help you and enrich your life in so many ways, giving you that ability to be comfortable in your own skin.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a low-budget horror spec and an original pilot idea, two things that I think all writers should have in their pockets. Horror scripts remain consistently viable in the marketplace, and a pilot demonstrates you can write television, which you’ve got to be interested in if you’re seriously trying to forge a career.

Who is your favorite screenwriter?

In my mind right now is John Sayles, whom I recently got to see talk. He’s had an extraordinary career across all genres, writing cheeky horror films like Piranha and Alligator to fund some of his early indie directorial efforts, and getting brought in to doctor big Hollywood films because of his attention to character and relationship. You look at a film like City of Hope, the way he interweaves storylines and gives every character, no matter how small, relevance and impact—it’s masterful. And everything, even the horror films, look at the world and attempt to comment on its social structure. He is not a lazy writer.

Directory:

1. Annie Silverstein 2. Jared Frieder 3. Mike Covino and Sam Kretchmar 4.Troy Anthony Miller 5. Kieran Fitzgerald 6. Ya’ke Smith 7. Brian Klugman 8. Nina Ljeti 9. Kevin Hamedani 10. Eric Haywood 11. Andrew Lanham 12. Julie Howe 13. Tess Morris 14. Matt Cook 15. Monica Zanetti 16. VJ Boyd 17. Edward Ricourt 18. David Broyles 19. Sasha Gordon 20. Eric Hueber 21. Faraday Okoro 22. Arturo Ruiz Serrano 23. Maya Perez 24. Max Taxe 25. Negin Farsad

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