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!