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

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


Tess Morris

Who: London-born, L.A.-based writer of Man Up (2015); currently writing Textbook Behaviour and co-writing comedy drama Dead to Me

tess morris

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

I broke in by writing a short film called “Beer Goggles,” when I was 19, which won a competition called the Lloyds Bank Channel 4 Film Challenge. It was made for 30,000 pounds. Imagine that now! You could make 500 movies.

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

Learn how to separate your personal and professional life, somehow, otherwise you will feel like, as Lawrence Kasdan once said, you have homework every night for the rest of your life. And my big bit of advice is not write what you know, but write who you know: interesting, complex, flawed characters; that’s who the audience ultimately remembers, identifies and invests in.

What’s the hardest scene or project you’ve ever had to write?

The opening of Man Up. We actually re-shot it as well, so it got even harder—hah. I had to set up this woman who would not put herself out there, and is kind of grumpy and negative, and make the audience want to go on this crazy journey with her. I was very happy with the reshoots, particularly the “to camera” opener, as I wrote that in about 10 minutes, and it did so much work for me, character-wise.

What was a major turning point in your career?

Writing Man Up on spec was the biggest turning point ever. I wish I could just spec all the time, but unfortunately, that doesn’t always work out, financially! I wrote Man Up without anyone waiting on me, or expecting anything. It landed on people’s desks without any fanfare, and I think that’s the best way really. Always be speccing.


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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