Reflections on UT’s 1st Annual Film Festival

Isabella Gonzalez, Life & Arts Reporter

In middle school, Makayla George’s father encouraged her to explore writing by telling the stories of her superheroes. While curating these narratives, George found her first love: screenwriting.

Since then, the undeclared freshman said her love for screenwriting continued to linger in the back of her head. This month, she had the opportunity to dive headfirst into what she craved at Moody’s 1st Annual UT Student Screenwriting Festival.

“I was super excited,” George said. “(The UT Student Screenwriting Festival) is a chance for me to connect with people, network and learn more about the craft.”

UT held their 1st Annual Student Screenwriting Festival April 1-3. The festival included group discussions, as well as alumni-lead workshops, lectures and panels to highlight the creative process of screenwriting

Cindy McCreery, creator of the festival, associate professor and area head for screenwriting, said she wanted the festival to provide students a community within the realm of screenwriting.

“With COVID, I feel like students and faculty on campus all have been sort of disjointed and lost a sense of community,” McCreery said. “I thought it would be fun to do a creative weekend all about screenwriting for students who have taken screenwriting classes or who have never taken a screenwriting class.”

McCreery said the inspiration for the festival stemmed from her own formative screenwriting years as an undergraduate at the University of California at Santa Barbara, where students host an annual screenwriting festival with a weekend full of writing and alumni-led workshops.

“It was always about creativity — not so much about getting a job or breaking into the business,” McCreery said. “I’ve always thought that was a really fun, special part of my own undergrad experience.”

McCreery said in the future, she hopes to expand the screenwriting festival beyond radio-television-film majors.

Lindsay Howard, second-year masters screenwriting student and festival aid, graduated with an undergraduate English degree from UT in 2016. Although her true passion belonged to screenwriting, she said she felt hesitant when taking the plunge due to her lack of connections.

“If something like this had existed and (I’d) been able to try it out as an English major, I would have realized, ‘I can do this,’” Howard said. “You just need a different medium and a different look at storytelling to really feel like you’re capable in ways you didn’t really know you were.”

McCreery said the value of screenwriting extends beyond just movies and TV shows and recognizing this process is vital to not only the students behind this work, but also all consumers of this media.

“It’s a way to express the human condition and tell stories that otherwise would never be told,” McCreery said. “You hope to entertain and move people, and, hopefully, they leave after watching something written and feel like it was worthwhile spending that time. Experiencing that all really comes down to a good story.”