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

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


Josh Barkey

Who: 2016 Comedy Screenplay semifinalist at AFF and an Academy Nicholl Fellowship finalist for his script Marlene the Divine.

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

The hardest project is always the one I’m writing next. I get through it by putting my butt in my chair and smashing my forehead against the keyboard until a screenplay comes out. Rewriting is also super hard, because it demands such painful self-honesty. But the terror is gone at that point and what’s left is just regular old torture. As the Dread Pirate Roberts so famously said, “I can cope with torture.”

What was a major turning point in your career?

I’m guessing the most dramatic turning point will prove to have been the election of a dangerous, petulant man-baby to our country’s highest office. It’s certainly shifted my perspective and my writing. And once he-who-shall-not-be-named starts his official purge, well… it’s been nice knowin’ ya.

For now, though, I’d say my script Marlene the Divine has opened a lot of doors. In 2016 it did well in Austin Film Festival’s contest, where it was noticed by the dude who became my first manager. The script was also a Nicholl finalist, won the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards for comedy, and got me selected for a Sundance Screenwriters Intensive program. All of which has led to some great new connections.

What’s been your favorite experience at Austin Film Festival?

Marlene the Divine was selected for a live read at the festival. The cast absolutely killed it. They weren’t just reading, they were performing the story—living it. And the audience responded. They laughed all the way through… until the script got serious. Then everybody grew quiet. There was a palpable heaviness in the room, and some of the audience members had tears running down their faces. Like all writers, I deal with a lot of rejection, so that live read was a welcome confirmation that something I’d written really did work as intended.


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. 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.

  2. 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. James Mayfield says:

    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!

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