indexI just had coffee with a fellow writer here in St. Louis who is part of a recently founded but fast-growing one act play festival. It’s pretty exciting, because one of America’s greatest writers is attached to it, and a wonderful local theater group is involved. No wonder it’s in its eight season.

But I was reminded of a feature called “The Write Stuff” I wrote last year for a new online magazine called LineUp — the now famous Austin Film Festival. It was a great freelance assignment.

But what I really loved is I got to write the whole story – from the very beginning, when co-founder Barbara Morgan put this thing on in 1994 … without even having ever been to a film festival.  In my candid interview with her, this really smart, hard scrabble woman reflected that maybe she and the others involved back then made it work because they didn’t “know” what they could or could not do.

Writing about successful businesses for more than a dozen years, I’ve learned this: While breaking some rules is almost always part of a successful launch, maybe not even knowing the rules is even better.

These stories I write have another aspect in common: Focus.

Morgan credits the success to maintaining a laser-focus on the mission, which is: to further “the art and craft of filmmaking by inspiring and championing the work of screenwriters, filmmakers, and all artists who use the language of film to tell a story.”

But being successful was only part of the picture. Another inspirational and impressive point about this story is how they managed their success. The Austin Film Festival got bigger and better.  Morgan attributed this to carefully staying “on mission”:

“There are times when some outside forces have had good intentions and tried to encourage us to expand our mission one way or another,” Morgan says. “We’ve tested a few things that have not worked for us, and we’ve always come back to our mission. I think it helps that I’m fairly myopic, and that keeps us on mission!”

This was a wonderful assignment for me, because I do find it inspirational. I sent this to my fellow writing thinking some of it might be useful as they grow their festival, which already seems like a wonderful organization.

In fact, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to kick around some ideas for a new one act play ….

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