Short Cuts

Local writer Amanda Eyre Ward gets her debut novel, Sleep Toward Heaven, picked up by Sandra Bullock's Fortis Films.

Ward Wows Warners Dept.: Who says writing for The Austin Chronicle doesn't pay off big time? Certainly not Chron scribe and author Amanda Eyre Ward, whose debut novel Sleep Toward Heaven has been optioned by Sandra Bullock's Fortis Films at Warner Bros. mere weeks after its March publication by San Francisco's MacAdam/Cage. The novel, which follows three distinct narrative threads that revolve around a woman awaiting execution on death row, has been garnering praise from all quarters, including L.A. Confidential author James Ellroy, who called it "a bonaroo first novel!" "My agent at Carlisle & Company was shopping [the novel] around," says Ward, "and apparently it got to Gesine Bullock, Sandra's sister, right as she got on a plane, where she read the whole thing in one sitting, got off the plane, and called to say she was interested. I don't even know if Sandra's read it, but Warner Brothers has optioned it for a year." That's the kind of readership response most first-time novelists can only dream of and Ward, clearly delighted at the prospect of her novel making it to the screen (and possibly, hopefully, being shot in Austin, where much of the action takes place), notes that the successful (read: Oscar-winning) adaptation of Michael Cunningham's The Hours by director Stephen Daldry may have opened the door for Sleep Toward Heaven "because it's the kind of [adaptation] that people didn't think could be done very well." The Warners/Fortis option will run for the standard year, after which the company will either make the film, renew the option, or allow the rights to revert back to Ward. Whichever way it goes, Ward has pulled off a nifty literary hat trick with the debut-Bullock-option trifecta -- we'll be keeping our fingers double-crossed on this one, to be sure. (And while we're at it, Ward has a superlative Web site at www.amandaward.com)... Left of Texas Dept.: If you happen to be out in Los Angeles on Thursday, May 22, and feel homesick, you ought to drop by the seventh annual UT Austin Student Film Showcase (aka the 2003 Hollywood Showcase) at the Directors Guild of America Theatre, which will feature eight UT student films from juried undergrad and graduate filmmakers. On the other hand, you could always catch 'em this Saturday, May 10, 4-6pm, at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown (409 Colorado). More info at www.utexas.edu/coc/rtf/showcase/... Ten years sure happened fast: On May 31, the Austin Film Society and Rolling Roadshow will host the Dazed and Confused 10-Year Reunion Party and Screening, with director Richard Linklater and original cast members like Matthew McConaughey, thus guaranteeing one rockin' kegger. General-admission tickets are now on sale via www.drafthouse.com ($25 AFS members, $30 nonmembers); a limited number of VIP tickets are available for $100, which must be purchased through the AFS (322-0145)... Also, SXSW Film and Buffalo Billiards will host a free screening of Bradley Beesley's Okie Noodling on Monday, May 12, 9pm, in the bar's Orbit Lounge Upstairs. Check it out.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Directors Guild of America Theatre, Seventh Annual UT Austin Student Film Showcase, Gesine Bullock, Amanda Eyre Ward, Sleep Toward Heaven, Sandra Bullock, Fortis Films, Warner Bros., MacAdam / Cage, Carlisle & Company, Matthew McConaughey, Richard Linklater, Dazed and Confused

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