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Five Winners Chosen from Record-Breaking Number of Submissions Ahead of the September Film Festival + Creative Conference

ATLANTA, GA (August 20, 2020) — The Atlanta Film Festival + Creative Conference (ATLFF), presented by WarnerMedia, proudly announced the winners of the 2020 Screenplay Competition today. Chosen from nearly 1,300 total submissions, the five screenplay winners will receive a cash prize and valuable mentorship opportunities. The 2020 Screenplay Competition winners were announced ahead of the 44th annual film festival and series of educational events, which will take place from Thursday, September 17 – Sunday, September 27, 2020.

Reviewed and selected by ATLFF’s programming team, the five winners represent Feature Film, Pilot, and Short Screenplay categories. The record-breaking number of screenplays submitted to the 2020 festival were narrowed to 260 quarterfinalists, 130 semifinalists and 24 finalists before naming the following 2020 Screenplay Competition winners: 

Feature Film Screenplays

“Battle Cries” - Dr. Karen Walker

A powerful coming of age true story tribute of a military veteran who uses her love of the game to rise above tragedy and political pitfalls, finding herself leading Marines on the battlefront once again.

“The Rat and the Bluebird” - T.E. Strong

A western tale set in a high fantasy backdrop. An ex-outlaw turned sheriff must come to terms with the mistakes of his past to unravel the mystery of his daughter's kidnapping and put an end to the madness he created.

“The Schtick-Up” - Val Bodurtha

A group of young Jewish friends plan a heist on a Swiss Bank to steal back long-lost Nazi gold.

Pilot Screenplay

“Birdsong” - Jennifer Dunn

A mountain witch who fled the secretive world of evangelical faith healing now medicates away the supernatural powers that plague her. But when her beloved Granny and mentor is threatened, she must re-enter the world she so narrowly escaped.

Short Screenplay

“Dunked” - John Bickerstaff

A closeted teen takes swimming lessons to prepare for his full-immersion baptism.

Winners were announced prior to the start of ATLFF so they may participate in the Screenwriter’s Retreat during the annual event. The Screenwriter’s Retreat is one of the most lauded, exclusive events at the festival and as such, access to the retreat is an invaluable part of the competition prize. Though it will take place virtually instead of in-person this year as a result of the pandemic, the retreat remains a unique opportunity for winners to collaborate directly with seasoned industry professionals and to workshop their screenplay one-on-one.

Mentors for the retreat are screenwriters who have worked in the industry, had festival success with their work and earned major academic qualifications. Mentors participating in the 2020 retreat are to be announced. A selection of previous mentors include James Ponsoldt (Director, “Smashed”, “The Spectacular Now”, “End of the Tour”); Kathryn Dean (Producer, “Winter’s Bone”, “Hell or High Water”, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”); Diane Drake (Screenwriter, UCLA professor, and former VP of Creative Affairs at Mirage Enterprises, “Only You”,

“What Women Want”); Robin M. Henry (Writer, “Meet the Browns”, “House of Payne”); and J.T. Petty (Video Game Writer, “Outlast”, “Outlast 2”, “The Walking Dead: The Game”).

The Screenplay Competition is one of the fastest-growing categories for submissions to the Atlanta Film Festival. Previous Screenplay Competition winners have included James Ponsoldt; Stella Meghie (“Jean of the Joneses”, “The Photograph”); Lane & Ruckus Skye (“Becky”, “The Devil to Pay”); and Mike Makowsky (“Bad Education”, “I Think We’re Alone Now”).

Submissions for the 2021 Screenplay Competition are currently open. More information can be found at

The upcoming 2020 Atlanta Film Festival + Creative Conference will host a mix of t drive-in and digital screenings and virtual Creative Conference events. Forthcoming announcements regarding the final schedule and lineup can be found on the festival’s website,

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