Wednesday, September 16, 2015


by Janet J. Lawler

Recently, I received one of the best phone calls of my life from the 2015 Austin Film Festival, telling me my original screenplay THE TENANT made the semifinals in Screenwriting.

My cell phone rang while I was working on my new screenplay "Absolution".  I glanced at the caller ID -- AUSTIN, TX.   I don't know anyone in Austin, Texas.  Figured it was just a telemarketer.  So, I ignored it.  Until, I remembered I had entered the Austin Film Festival screenplay competition months ago.  I picked up and glad I did!

Matt Dy, Director of the Screenplay and Teleplay Competition at AFF, introduced himself and said my screenplay THE TENANT was a semifinalist in the Drama Category.

Say what?!

AFF received 8,627 individual scripts in 2015.   As a semifinalist, my script now had a 1 in 30 chance of becoming a finalist in Drama.

No way!

I hung up the phone and cried tears of joy.   That was a dream call.  I've been pounding the keys for years.  This was the call writers wait for, but rarely comes.  That ONE call to say  keep at it -- keep writing -- you're on the right path.

Great to be invited to participate.  I booked my flight and hotel to Austin for the Festival and Writer's Conference.  Hope to see some of you there!  Message me if you're going to be there and we can meet up!

Moral of the story -- keep writing, submit your scripts and always answer your phone!  Congratulations to ALL the semifinalists and second rounders and to the AFF Team!
See y'all in Texas!

Here is the link to the semifinalists and second rounders for AFF.   

Be sure to follow The NY Screenwriting Life on Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler is a screenwriter, playwright and novelist.  Her debut novel From the Ground Up is available in Amazon and Kindle

Monday, September 14, 2015

by Janet J. Lawler
September 14, 2015

I volunteered at the 2015 La Costa Film Festival in Carlsbad, CA last weekend.

I'm new to California and decided to sign up to help out.  I've volunteered in the past for the Tribeca Film Festival in NY, so I know the drill --  hand out programs, usher, etc. -- and in return get free movie vouchers to see the latest films and hob nob with filmmakers at the festival.  

For La Costa, I decided to throw caution to the wind and volunteer to be a driver.  That usually  means running errands, shuttling actors, producers and directors back and forth to screening locations, and to their hotel, etc.

The film festival folks handed me the keys to a beautiful, new BMW.  Sweet.  Ride in style.

My first assignment was to pickup LANCE MACKEY and his dog AMP from the San Diego International airport.  I didn't have a clue who Lance was, but I found out after a Google search.
Lance Mackey is from Alaska, an American dog musher and champion dog sled racer.  He's a four-time champion of the grueling Iditarod race.   That's a 1,000 mile race through the Alaska wilderness!

Lance is the focus of a documentary about his life.  It's called THE GREAT ALONE.  It screened at the LCFF.  Check out the trailer here.
Amp, Lance and Me
We had a great half hour chat on the drive.  Lance is a cool guy with a passion for his 70 dogs.  That's right, 70 dogs!   Since I only have one dog, I had to ask how he feeds and cares for 70 dogs.  He feeds them kibble, and protein and fat since they're highly active race dogs.  They eat fish, beef, lamb, chicken and get plenty of exercise on his massive Alaska property.  He has some assistants to help care for the dogs.  Lance also runs a kennel and gives dog sled tours these days.  He's a unique guy.  We talked about his illness (he's a cancer survivor), his comeback to racing, how intense racing is and punishing on his body, and his mental focus in winning races.  His dog Amp was behind us in a crate.  He's nicknamed "Mr. Hollywood" since he tours with Lance and gets loads of attention from the ladies.

Another assignment was to take actor SEAN MODICA to the airport.  Sean is currently starring in the new movie ALL IN TIME.  It's about a guy who quits his job to help a band find success.  Sean is a charismatic New Yorker and we had much in common.  I'm a native New Yorker and it turns out we went to college in the same area (the Hudson Valley in upstate New York).   We shared a similar background in that I grew up in NYC and Sean grew up nearby in Westchester.  We're both Catholic -- he's Italian and I'm Irish -- but our New York backgrounds gave us plenty to laugh about and discuss from gay rights, to Pope Francis' upcoming visit and breaking into Hollywood as a writer/actor.

Sean is a writer/producer.  He's pitching a show in L.A.   It was a pleasure meeting him. I hope his starring role in ALL IN TIME brings him great success!  Here is the trailer for his movie.

So, if a film festival is in your town, don't hesitate to volunteer.  It's worth your time and you never know who you might meet along the way.  Plus, you get a free T-shirt and snacks and movies.  What more could you ask for?

Congratulations to all the wonderful volunteers at the 2015 La Costa Film Festival .  Also to Co-Founders Michael and Ruby Callihan, Kirsten Reece running Box Office,  Suzanne Wright Program Coordinator, Transportation Chief Amy Savoy, and a special shout out to Volunteer Director Rachel Chapman for organizing 180 volunteers!  No easy task.  Here is the link if you'd like to volunteer:

The filmmakers I met said this was one of the best organized film festivals they've attended.  
Way to go, LCFF Team!

See you next year!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Janet J. Lawler
September 1st, 2015 

Here is the official 2015 Program for the La Costa Film Festival held in Carlsbad, CA starting Sept. 10th-13th. 

It's hot off the presses, so be sure to see what new films are coming soon!  

 Get ALL the information you'll need to attend red carpet events, panel discussions with top film and media industry pros and, of course, the new films.  There are over 45 films this year.  Plenty to choose from including shorts, documentaries and sports films.  Here is the official website to buy your tickets: 

I'll be volunteering and look forward to meeting many of you at the events.  Volunteering at film festivals is a super way to give back to your local film community and to meet wonderful, inspiring people in the media industry.

In the past, I have volunteered at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC, which was a blast.

The La Costa FF promises to be just as exciting! 

Until next time.

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Janet Lawler's debut novel From the Ground Up is available at