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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


Ryan Piers Williams

Who: Writer-director of The Dry Land (2010) and X/Y (2014). Currently developing his next feature, Staring at the Sun.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned? 

If something doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to destroy it and go back to the drawing board. You have to always follow the thread of honesty, and trust that it will lead you to what wants to come through.

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

After I graduated from USC, I started writing my first screenplay, The Dry Land. I was inspired to write the film after reading several news articles about soldiers coming home from Iraq and struggling with PTSD. At the time, there were no films being made that explored this experience with the depth and honesty that the subject matter demanded. I started writing the film with the intention of making the film, no matter how long it took. Fortunately, after writing for two years, I was able to pull together an amazing team of collaborators that believed in the script, and together we were able to make the film.

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

When I was 18, and going to college in Austin, I worked at the Austin Film Festival. I remember [AFF Executive Director] Barbara Morgan once telling me that she thought I should drop out of school and be a writer. I thought she was crazy, not for thinking I should drop out of school to pursue filmmaking, but because she thought I could be a writer! I thought the idea was absurd and totally ridiculous. I didn’t take her first piece of advice, but I finally took her second. For the record, I still think being a writer is totally absurd and absolutely ridiculous… but it sure is a hell lot of fun!


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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