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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


Lena Khan

Who: Director of short films, commercials and music videos. Her first feature, The Tiger Hunter, is currently winning awards on the festival circuit.

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

I got into writing out of requirement—I had stories I wanted to tell and wasn’t ready to put them in the hands of others. I ultimately wanted to direct, but found screenwriting in the process. There were always nuances that I knew I had to be the one to pen, so in my quest to get my first feature, The Tiger Hunter, on the screen, I just started writing it.

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

I’ve learned where I need guidance from mentors and story editors, and also where I need to trust myself. When writing The Tiger Hunter, I was always second guessing myself, valuing the opinions of so many others over my instincts. When I started actually shooting the thing, I realized when I needed to just trust myself, and when I needed that second opinion.

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

In my current project, I’m writing about an African-American mother who loses her son in a police shooting. I am writing about a community I am not from, and an experience I will never probably live through. I tried several things. I went out searching for people who have lived through this to interview. That was harder than I expected, so I started watching  interviews. I read articles. Ultimately, it was a combination of dogged research, and also the passing of my uncle—which, although not a result of injustice even close to what these women experience—gave me a more direct window into grief.


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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