Producer/scribe James Nicholas flew from Sydney to L.A. to attend the Screenwriting Expo. He generously reports back about his brush with the Gurus and any lesser Gods.
Upon entering the convention centre, the air is filled with anticipation as the budding writers fill the smallish and rather cramped Wilshire Grand meeting area. One can’t help but notice the flashes of desperation…
SCREENWRITING PITCH FEST
‘Do or die’ screenwriters sign up for the “Pitch Fest”, where a writer can pay $25 for five minutes face time with various production companies and agencies, ranging from the major studios right down to the bit players.
With a ‘first in first served’ rule, the majors were quickly filled. Looks like a busy weekend for the assistant to the assistant of the assistant VP of development.
For those not pitching though (like me), we had a plethora of speakers and sessions to choose from. With many session overlaps, some shrewd choices had to be made on how to plan the day.
I took the gamble and stuck with my country woman, a Story Consultant named Linda Heys. She had just finished an 8 week stint at Pixar helping refine their story structures. With this pedigree and experience I had high hopes – and wasn’t disappointed.
Linda visualised a Hero’s Diamond to display the inner journey of the character and how it ties to the outer journey. For those familiar with Vogler et al, it was a good representation.
Next up, Michael Hague delivered his well versed and well rehearsed “Sell your story in 60 seconds”. Many of the writers started to shift in their seat, secretly hoping they had one more day to refine their pitches. For those who missed it: Michael stayed close to the book and the DVD accompaniment.
A quick lunch break and on to Dara Marks.
Dara is gaining some attraction (according to her website anyway) within the industry so I thought it would be remiss of me not to check her out. Her theory of the “Fatal Flaw” and the emotional inner journey made some sense. Her idea of the outer journey obstacles and how it could be applied successfully – especially through the mono myth – didn’t deliver. It was a weird meld of McKee and old school Syd Field. The heroic outer journey structure was brushed over and her repeated use of “use your intuition” made me feel like I was back in Australia.
I decided the Round 2 of Dara would be a little too much.
I needed to wake up. Enter…
The topic of Karl’s session read “How to elicit emotion in your concept”. He offered a great lecture, with sharp answers on what works and what doesn’t. A refreshing change from Dara’s musings. I was wide awake again.
Finally the piece de resistance.
To a packed house, Victoria Wisdom gave all the writer’s in the room a well needed reality check. As a working developer and previous agent, she is – and remains – well connected in the industry and had some hard facts forthe budding writers in the audience.
Her basic premise was that writers to be successful and especially professional need to follow the market, know the demographic, know the current ‘it’ genres, retool old ideas, break the mould.
She gave notes on all sorts of insider tricks to getting your, script seen hence the title of the session “Getting your script seen”.
This was a great look at the reality of the business side of not only selling a script but selling the screenwriter.
All round a good first day.
Are you attending the Screenwriting Expo? Why not give us your experience in the comments! Thank you.
Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in acquisition, development and production. He has trained students worldwide, and worked with half a dozen Academy Award nominees. Karel speaks more European languages than you have fingers on your left hand, which he is still trying to find a use for in his hometown of Sydney, Australia. The languages, not the fingers.
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