Inspired by his screenwriting heroes (William Goldman, Paddy Chayefsky, Billy Wilder, Alan Sharp, Woody Allen, Robert Towne, and Oliver Stone), Michael Begg started writing scripts as a teenager. He earned a master’s degree in Communications and English from the University of New Orleans, and began teaching writing and literature at the high school and college level while pursuing a screenwriting career.
In 2005, two months after accepting the position of head of school of a prominent high school, Hurricane Katrina left New Orleans a shambles. While most schools faced a period of extended closure, Begg’s school was in good shape to reopen within three weeks. In addition to restarting his school, he recognized the need for educational facilities for families throughout the area and that his school community could extend help to those needy families. A transition school of over 1500 high school students from 14 different schools was formed under his leadership. It became the largest home for displaced students in the history of the United States.
After an exhaustive rebuilding period, Begg stepped away from school administration to rekindle his passion for screenwriting. He studied under the tutelage of Prof. Richard Walter, Chair of the screenwriting department at UCLA. At the same time, he drew upon Katrina experiences to write THE MILK ROUTE. He also collaborated with Barry A. Lemoine on three other feature screenplays. To date, Begg has written nine feature scripts.
THE MILK ROUTE was a quarterfinalist in the prestigious 2013 Nicholl Fellowship Screenwriting Competition (ranked in the top 300 out of over 7000 scripts).
THE MILK ROUTE also received recognition on the film festival circuit. It was a finalist at the 2014 Peachtree Village International Film Festival, an Official Selection of the 2015 Richmond International Film Festival, an Official Selection of the 2015 Sacramento International Film Festival, and Top Ten Finalist at the 2015 Reno Tahoe International Film Festival. Additionally, the script advanced to the Second Round in the drama category of the 2016 Austin Film Festival screenplay competition. Its placement represents a distinction only achieved by about 15% of this year’s submissions (a record of 9,100 entries).
Other noteworthy accolades for THE MILK ROUTE include: one of eight finalists in the drama category of the 2014-15 Fresh Voices Screenplay Competition, one of 57 semifinalists in the drama category selected from over 6000 total entries of the 2014 Big Break Screenwriting Contest, semifinalist in the 2016 StoryPros Awards Screenplay Contest, finalist in the 2016 CineStory Foundation Screenplay Contest. Additionally, the script advanced to the Second Round in the drama category of the 2016 Austin Film Festival screenplay competition. Its placement represents a distinction only achieved by about 15% of this year’s submissions (a record of 9,100 entries).
Begg and Lemoine have won recognition for their collaborative efforts. AUDUBON was chosen a top award winner of the 2014 Yosemite International Film Festival, its highest level of recognition. Additionally, the 2015 Mountain Film Festival selected AUDUBON as one of the festival’s Grand Prize Winners in the feature screenplay competition category. It was named a quarterfinalist in the historical feature category of the 2015 Nashville Film Festival. It was an Official Selection of the 2015 Awareness Festival that informs and inspires audiences through a program of films on Ecological, Political, Health/Well Being and Spiritual topics. It was a top ten script at the 2015 New Hampshire Film Festival and a semi-finalist at the 38th Denver Film Festival in 2015. Recently, AUDUBON was a quarterfinalist at the 2016 Richmond International Film Festival, an Official Selection as Best Screenplay (Drama) at the 2016 Finow International Film & Script Festival, and Official Selection as Best Unproduced Script at the 2016 Nice International Film Festival.
Begg and Lemoine’s THAT SINKING FEELING was an Official Selection of the 2015 Oaxaca FilmFest. It was one of the top 3% of more than 3000 films and scripts submitted to the festival. The script also advanced to the Second Round in the drama category of the 2015 Austin Film Festival screenplay competition. Its placement represents a distinction only achieved by about 15% of the year’s submissions (8,627 entries).
Film critic Pauline Kael is one of Begg’s favorite writers because she had intriguing ideas about movies that motivate him. He often reads a tattered copy of I Lost It at the Movies and is swept away by her insights. Kael observed this about our collective love of movies: “It may be a major factor in keeping us sane.”
Sanity was in short supply in New Orleans for a time after Katrina. Getting back to the crazy art of screenwriting has since provided Begg with some sanity.