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you are trying to apply the script before the text field instance appears on stage. add the actions onto the frame above where the text field is located.
That makes sense. I tested a simpler version of my movie all on one frame and it worked. It seems odd to me that all of the variables are not available to the movie until you get to them in the timeline. I would think you'd want the number/script-crunching to happen at the beginning, rather than in the middle where it could potentially interfere with the speed of the movie. I'll probably just do what you suggested, but I'm curious. Is there a way to instantiate the auto-variables (textfields, whatnot) at the beginning so you can begin manipulating them immediately?
Actionscript is handled in a top down frame by frame basis and always handled in the compiler before the graphics are drawn to the screen. The only way to instantiate at the beginning would be to dynamically code the text field in frame one and add it to the display list when you need it.