Travis Neufeld's dream realized in California

Justin Crann
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Moose Jaw-based writer wins pair of short screenplay honours

California has been kind to Travis Neufeld this week.

Travis Neufeld poses with his CineQuest Best Short Screenplay award. Neufeld's short The Tinwife won a pair of honours from California film festivals this week.

The Moose Jaw-based writer picked up two awards for his short screenplay, The Tinwife, including the prestigious short screenplay award and a $1,000 prize from the CineQuest Film Festival in San Jose on Sunday.

"I won best short screenplay, which is awesome … I almost didn't go. Why would I go all the way to California?" said Neufeld. "One of the people I work with convinced me … I went, and being one of the top 10, I guess I didn't realize how significant it was until I got there."

Neufeld's film was one of 20 short and feature film screenplays — 10 each — selected from a larger crop of 1,000 to make it into the two final 10 groups.

He said the cheque is nice, but the validation of the win is the bigger award.

"The bragging rights are important. Being an emerging writer, you tell your friends and family you want to be a screenwriter and they say, 'Okay, yeah. Good for you. I hope it works out,'" Neufeld explained. "When you win an award, it's kind of pure recognition … it demonstrates to everyone you know — and for me, this is important — it says, 'Hey, I'm talented at what I do here. I have skills.'"

On Wednesday, moments before speaking with the Times-Herald, he said The Tinwife was selected as the winner of the best short script award at the California International Shorts Festival as well.

The Tinwife is a science-fiction short about an alternate 1950s society Neufeld describes as "kind of like the Jetsons."

"In this universe, men can purchase android housewives — robotic women who look like human women — the idea being that they get a truer love with these robotic beings," he said. "The idea is that in this society, a company has created this being to love a man unconditionally, and has perverted the idea of love."

Within that society, a human woman is mistaken for an android woman — called a tinwife. 

Meanwhile, a tinwife discovers how to hack into its own code, and replaces its husband with itself, learning to love itself.

Both individuals wind up in a facility where undesirable models are "disposed of," said Neufeld.

The screenplay aims for social commentary, with characters addressing the issues of gender politics, love, and the pervasive role of technology in society.

"As a society, things have become so automated that everything is not the way it should be," he said. "Even if the machines make mistakes, anyone who is human just follows along."

In the future, Neufeld said he plans to make a short film of the screenplay.

"I want to make it myself, actually. I want to shoot it. I don't know when, but hopefully at the end of this year, or sometime next year," he said. "I do have a little bit of a budget put together, saved up from my own money, and this $1,000 helps."

He couldn't fully explain the short's success, but attributes it to his being "very, very inspired" when it was written.

"It's set in a really cool universe, the characters are really flagrant, and the story is really interesting. It all seemed to work well," Neufeld said. "The inspiration just caught me and I ran with it."

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Organizations: California International, Times-Herald

Geographic location: California, San Jose

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