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  • Screenwriting Expo 2010: Recap and a Recurring Problem with Writers

    October 12th, 2010

    By Daniel Manus

    This past weekend was the 2010 Screenwriting Expo, where writers from all over the world come to congregate, learn, network, get inspired, pitch, and try to break into Hollywood the old fashioned way – by paying for it.

    Before I get into my recap of the weekend, I’d like to congratulate my friend and client Tracy Reilly for WINNING the Expo’s 30 minute TV Script Category, beating out hundreds upon hundreds of other scripts and scoring the $1000 prize! It was a hilarious script and it deserved to win! And I’d like to congratulate my two other clients who were semi-finalists in the feature and short categories, respectively. Nice job guys! No Bull clients are making waves!

    Now, I’ve learned not to bite the hands that feeds me, but the Expo has changed significantly over the years. I personally had a great time, met some great new clients, writers, fellow teachers and friends and got to have a nice chat with great screenwriters Shane Black and Bert Royal (“Easy A”). And I sold a good amount of copies of my book over the weekend. But, it definitely wasn’t the Expo of old.

    I’ve been coming to the Expo every year since 2003 and haven taken pitches at every expo until 2009. Back in ‘04, the Expo had almost 5,000 writers and took over the LA Convention Center with big names like William Goldman, Aaron Sorkin, Paul Attanasio, Dean Devlin, Joss Whedon and Syd Field, had a pitching hall filled with about 80 companies ready to speak to writers, and an exhibition hall that felt like a convention within itself.

    This year, the Expo had about 700 writers (and that’s being generous), had John August and Shane Black speaking to a muted audience of 100 writers each, had only 35 companies taking pitches, and took over parts of 2 floors of a hotel near the airport. And the exhibition hall featured the Writer’s Store, CS Magazine, John Truby, and only about 6 other companies.

    There were reasons for the low turnout this year, though. Yes, the economy.  But there was also an unfortunate strike of hotel workers that caused the WGA, who had been supported by those hotel workers during their strike, to send out 2 letters to its members saying not to attend or speak at this year’s Expo. So, planned special guest speakers like David Milch, Jennifer Salt and William Goldman, stayed away. And this isn’t the Expo’s fault – it was the Hilton’s. But, the Expo certainly paid the price for it.

    But here’s the thing…without all the big name speakers and the huge list of companies to pitch to, the Expo turned into what it should have been all along – a chance for writers to LEARN something. But, once again, writers did themselves a disservice and didn’t show up because this year, there was less of a chance of them meeting a celebrity or landing an agent.

    And this is what is wrong with most wannabe screenwriters today – thousands of you that try to break in every year – you all want to be lazy about it.  You all want it to come easy. Many of you want to write a script in 2 weeks, sell it 2 weeks later, land an agent by Thursday, quit your job by the end of the month and trade your life in to party at the Palms. You don’t go to film school, you don’t take the courses or the seminars, you don’t move to LA and suffer as you work your way up, and you don’t attend events unless you think you can SELL YOUR SCRIPT.

    And it’s not JUST at the Expo. At the Great American Pitchfest earlier this year (whose overall turnout turned out to be higher than the Expo’s), there were about 450 people there taking FREE classes on Saturday, but over 1000 pitching on Sunday! I like to call the 500 some-odd people who just thought they could show up and sell a script – HOPELESS.

    There were some great classes at the Expo this year – including my 3 classes. And while mine were very well-attended on Thursday (in part because there were only 3 classes being given all day and writers from out of town were already there), the rest of the weekend found most classes half full (or half empty if you’re a pessimist). Yes, star speakers like Pilar Allessandra and Michael Hauge had some packed rooms (don’t get me started on the advice Hauge gives on pitching), but I don’t think any class had over 75 people in it. Years ago, most classes were standing room only (as my pitch class was on Thursday afternoon).  

    I sat in on some of these other classes, and I had my little spies around all weekend telling me who was worth seeing and who wasn’t. I’m not going to bad mouth anyone, but I will say I was highly impressed with new speaker Corey Mandell’s class. It was the only one where I actually took out my pad and pen and wrote stuff down. Pilar is always entertaining and engaging and knows how to grab an audience and make them feel like they are really leaning something. James Jordan is a No-Bullshit guy like me, and I respect that. And Hal Croasmun’s class was very informative.

    Yes, there were a few classes and teachers that had no business being there or who weren’t very informative or entertaining, but hey – that’s why you have a choice of 10 classes to attend every 90 minutes.  

    I know the problem writers have with the classes is that there is SO much conflicting information – everyone has their own style, their own opinions, their own formats, tricks and rules for writing and pitching – that it all gets confused and writers don’t know who to listen to. Well, I can’t tell you who to listen to (listen to me), but I can tell you that getting every perspective and deciding which works for you is still much more valuable than staying home and getting none of them.

    If you are serious about this business, then you need to LEARN this business! You need to do your research, you need to network, you need to become the best writer you can be. And you can’t do that sitting at home typing away and reading a 20 year old copy of Robert McKee’s book. You can’t. So, even if it means you’re not going to get famous in one weekend, you should still be attending these conferences and learning what you can. If you learn 3 things that make you a better writer and make you see your script in a different way, then it was worth the money!

    I hope to see you there next year! Thanks to Bill, Danny, Tee and everyone else who helped put on a fun event!

  • I’m Back Teaching at the Screenwriting Expo! Get the Info Here!

    October 3rd, 2010

    It’s the largest screenwriting conference of the year with tons of great speakers, seminars and exhibitors, so you knew we had to be there!

    If you haven’t bought your tickets or gotten your passes, please click the link below to do so!

    http://csorders.com/cgi-bin/sc/ref.cgi?storeid=*166792a1603291a807d0a44e61&name=2010ExpoAffiliate-DanielManus 

    WHEN: Oct 7-10, 2010

    WHERE: The Hilton Hotel at LAX

                 5711 West Century Blvd

                 Los Angeles, CA 90045

    I’ll be teaching 3 seminars over the weekend – 2 on Thursday and 1 on Friday! And if you want to have a successful Expo, they are not to be missed! Here’s the lowdown –

    Thursday 1-3 PM – Loglines, Query Letters and One-Sheets…Oh My! 

    Class will cover how to construct proper loglines, query letters and one-sheets, what to include and what not to include, the difference between loglines and taglines, what executives are looking for in each, and how to write ones that grab attention and sell! Writers should bring their loglines with them and we will go through and improve them in class!

    Thursday 4-6 PM – No B.S. Guide to Pitching and Pitchfests

    If you’re pitching this weekend, you HAVE TO take this class!!

    Topics include: The Do’s and Don’ts of pitchfests, Who should be pitching and who shouldn’t, what you should and should not be pitching, what execs are looking for at a pitchfest, How to prepare your pitch (everything before you sit down), What to include in your first minute and making first impressions, Making the most out of 5 minutes, The top 15 concepts execs have already heard, The Magic One Sheet and Horror stories and Success stories!

    Friday 11am-12:30pm – Become Your Own Development Executive

    Writers always ask, ‘What is an executive looking for? How come they don’t see what I see?’  This class will teach writers how to think, read and write from the executive perspective. Topics Covered include:
    How a Development Exec reads a script – what they’re looking for and the difference between how a writer reads and an executive reads; The 3 questions executives think of while reading; The Top 13 Notes an executive gives and how to avoid them; How an exec hears/interprets a pitch; What it takes to get a “recommend” from a script consultant/reader; The development process – giving and getting notes – what to expect and how to survive it with flying colors; Q&A.

    Hope to see you there!!

  • It’s Willamette, Damnit!!

    August 25th, 2010

    By Danny Manus

     

    I’m sorry for not posting this sooner, but August has been one crazy month both for No BullScript and for me personally! And it started off the best way possible – in Portland at the Willamette Writers Conference. This was my 4th – possibly 5th – year going to the conference. To be honest, I don’t remember how many years it’s been. But once again, it did not disappoint and is still one of my favorite Writers Conferences of the year.

     

    The Willamette Conference has a very different vibe than the conferences in Los Angeles I attend. First, it’s probably 60% literary – so there are lots of smart book people walking around. They are usually pretty scared of us film folk and keep a good distance.

     

    There’s definitely an invisible wall between the book and film executives no matter how hard we all try to knock it down. Portland’s a fun town, and after a full day of giving classes, taking pitches, and using our brains, the film execs like to go out and have some fun. We try to include the bookies, but every year they choose to return to their comfy hotel rooms and read themselves to sleep. Oh well.

    However, on friday night, we did all attend a lovely dinner together which made me look at baby carrots in a whole new way. It was…an interesting dinner. And if anyone is ever looking for a passionate, verbose chef, let me know – I have just the guy for you! For all the other late night hi-jinx, well, I’m afraid Vegas isn’t the only city that can keep a secret.

     

    The writers in Portland are also very different from LA writers. Many are older, many are published authors, and many like to write smaller personal journey stories. There’s nothing wrong with this, but as I’ve always preached – know your audience. There were some BIG name companies there this year – Fox 2000, GK Films, New Line, William Morris Endeavor, etc. – and they don’t want to hear tiny little personal journey stories. They want to hear something exciting and commercial and something that jumps off the page without even reading a page. Out of the 30ish pitches I heard, at least half of them were set in Portland. Writers write what they know – I get that – but let your imagination take you to other places in your writing.

     

    Now, Portland has some amazing stories – dark, awesome stories. It’s the number one city in the country for sex trafficking. It also has more strip clubs per capita than any other city in the country (um, so I hear). And yet almost every Portland-set story I was pitched was a low budget dramedy or drama or comedy.  However, it’s still better than last year where all I got were period pieces.

     

    One thing I will say about the Portland writers – they are all such nice people. They are amazingly welcoming and sweet and will bend over backwards to help you, and that’s always appreciated. Especially since in LA, they will bend over backwards to stab you in the back.  And Willamette writers truly want to learn. They don’t JUST show up to pitch things, as many in LA do. They WANT to take the classes – they pay attention and take notes. They really seem to take everything in and want to get better and that’s the best quality for a writer to have.

     

    I sat on 2 panels and taught two classes – “Become Your Own Development Exec,” which went over very well and “Loglines, Query Letter and One-Sheets…Oh My!” which was a new class but was exactly what these writers needed. I got great compliments on it and I hope everyone else enjoyed it as much as I did. I got to read through everyone’s loglines and show them what they needed. I wish I had taught this class on Friday instead of Sunday because out of the 30ish pitches, only about 3 had actual loglines. Most writers had taglines or short synopses, but almost NONE of the writers had a real logline. Hopefully after taking my class, I’ll come back next year to find a bunch of wonderfully constructed and sellable loglines!

     

    There were some great speakers and teachers there this year for film and lit – really something for every writer at every level. And the executives this year were top notch and all really cared about writers and helping them succeed. I even made some new friends, which is even better than finding a great script. It was a great mix of people and made for a really relaxed, fun and enjoyable conference.

     

    And it was a great weekend for No BullScript! We were advertising everywhere, I got to do my first book signing for my E-Book, and I have already started working with a bunch of new clients from the conference! I’d like to send a BIG THANK YOU to Gibran, Diane, Elisa, Joan, Julio, Donna and Robert, Stefan, Nancy (for bringing me there years ago) and everyone else at the conference! You’re awesome!

     

    And I can’t wait to come back next year! Perhaps by then I will have learned how to correctly pronounce Willamette, which I still mess up after all these years. It’s Willamette, Damnit!

     

    Spartacus!

  • Great American Pitchfest 7 Recap!

    June 30th, 2010

    By Danny Manus

    What a weekend.  As many of you know, June 26-27th was the 7th annual Great American Pitchfest in Burbank, CA. I continue to think that the GAP is becoming the premiere writers’ conference in LA.  Not only is it a great chance for writers to attend great classes for free and score some free consultant swag, but the pitchfest is a great way for writers to meet and connect with execs and just maybe – maybe – get their big break.

     

    I think I was at the Pitchfest for about 27 hours this weekend, and it was definitely time well spent. It started for me at the ass-crack of dawn on Saturday – and for those who don’t know me, I’m not an early riser or morning person. Morning people scare me.  But, worried I would oversleep, my body jolted me out of bed at 5am and, unable to press my internal snooze button, I got ready and headed out early.

     

    I arrived before 7am – I was the first person there. But that was okay because it meant I got first crack at tables. And momma didn’t raise no fool – I grabbed some prime real estate across from the Writer’s Store – and set up shop.  My lovely interns showed up to help and I got ready for my class which was to start at 9am. This was my 3rd year teaching at the GAP but it was a class I hadn’t taught at this event before (“Become Your Own Development Executive”).

     

    I walked into the large room and the first thing I said was, “there’s no way I’m gonna fill this room.” But, by 9:30, I pretty much had. The class went perfectly – even without the use of power point, the class was a hit! The rest of the day was spent running between my private consultations and my table, making sure my interns weren’t overwhelmed and that people were signing up and hopefully buying my E-Book, “No B.S. for Screenwriters”!  If there’s one rule that will always hold true, it’s that writers love free shit. Pens, candy, notebooks, bookmarks, postcards, etc. Whatever was on a table – writers grabbed it up like it was crack.

     

    Now, Saturday wasn’t quite as busy as I was expecting – but there was still a good turnout. Hopefully next year, more writers will realize that the chance to take free classes from some of the best in the biz is an invaluable experience and shouldn’t be missed – especially before pitching to a room of execs! I guarantee the ones who took the classes had more luck than those who didn’t.

     

    Anyway, the day went great and congratulations again to the winner of the free 30 minute phone consult raffle –Heathyr Clift.  And as the classes and consults came to an end, and the tables were dismantled, the party began.  I decided to forgo the karaoke – even though I’ve been known to rock the house on occasion – and had dinner with some new, good friends and chatted it up with my colleagues.  The day finally ended around 10:15pm when I got home, totally exhausted. I don’t even remember taking off my shoes before hitting the bed, knowing all too well I’d have to be up early in the morning again for the pitchfest.

     

    Sunday was…organized chaos. But that’s what a pitchfest is supposed to be. And to their much deserved credit, Signe and Bob put together a wonderful event that was run better than any other pitchfest I have been to (and I’ve been to dozens!).  And the reason the GAP is different is that Signe and Bob are good people who treat everyone with respect – the writers, execs, teachers, consultants, etc. And as the execs traded cards and stories, and the writers stormed the tables Braveheart-style, it was almost scary for my poor interns who returned to listen to pitches with me for the day. Welcome to Hollywood.

     

    The pitches just kept coming – I didn’t get a break the whole morning. And throughout the day, I heard a few great pitches – and a few bad ones – but maybe everyone had read my book or my articles because to my delight, I didn’t see ONE person there in costume or with a stupid gimmick. And that’s a victory in my eyes! And now, as I request my chosen scripts, it’s time to see if the writing is as good as the pitch. But even if it isn’t, the Great American Pitchfest 7 was a weekend to remember and I can’t wait to return next year.

     

    Please make sure to tune into my weekly column for The Business of Show Institute – this pitchfest gave me a whole bunch of new ideas! And follow me on Twitter @nobullscript for daily screenwriting tips, rants, news, and more!

     

  • DAA BULL Went to Chicago

    October 21st, 2009

    Once again, I’m a bit behind on my blogging on this site because a couple weeks ago, I travelled to Chicago for a Hollywood Insider Weekend hosted by the hugely entrepreneurial advertising maven and Chicago screenwriter Linda Frothingham and Chicago Hollywood at www.chicagohollywood.com. The weekend included seminars Friday and Saturday plus an in-depth first 8 pages workshop Saturday afternoon and the weekend was capped off with a dinner and seminar for the Chicago Screenwriters Network Sunday night.

     

    I hadn’t been to Chicago since I was in College and back then, my girlfriend at the time and I stayed in some paint-chipped hostel in a room that had a light and a door…and that was about it. But I do remember the city and how nice of a contrast there was downtown between the buildings and the river, the parks and the Navy Pier. And I remember the wind and the rain, which I actually missed since it had been 90+ degrees in LA all summer and 55 degrees felt like heaven.

     

    The weekend was a lesson in promotion and patience, but overall, went pretty well. While the Friday class was barely attended – now we know for next time that Friday classes are not the way to go – I did get to talk to some high school students that seemed about as interested as you’d think a high school kid could be in a lecture about independent film. Ha!

     

    Saturday went better as we set up the Development Exec Class at Columbia College downtown and the subsequent workshop was very beneficial for the handful that attended. Thanks Rick and Noreen for sticking in there all weekend! They get the Chicago VIP award.

     

    Now Saturday night, I ventured towards Wrigley Field and spent the night bar hopping a bit and getting to know the locals, as they say. And when I returned to Linda’s home in the northern suburb of Chicago at just after 2am, after two barely made train rides, the joke of the weekend began as I was unable to open her front door. For 90 MINUTES! In the cold, in Chicago, at 330 am…I was stranded on the front porch. Somehow my knocking, doorbell ringing and incessant calls went unheeded but the door finally acquiesced and I was allowed admittance and a well-deserved sleep. To this day, that door probably still mocks me. But we all got a funny story out of it.

     

    On Sunday, we had the CSN dinner and it went wonderfully. I gave my seminar on Pitchfests and afterwards held private pitch consultations. We also sold my new No B.S. for Screenwriters E-Book which was Linda’s idea and she worked tirelessly on putting it together. The book will be available on my website VERY soon and they went like hotcakes in Chicago. The night went wonderfully and made the weekend a real success.

     

    I left the next morning with a new plan for the business, a new E-Book to sell, and having met some great writers. And that’s all you can ask for. Thanks Chicago! I hope to be back next year!

  • Everything’s Bigger in Texas…

    September 25th, 2009

    Last weekend I had the pleasure of travelling down to Dallas, TX to speak to the Dallas Screenwriters Association. I had never been to Dallas before – or even Texas for that matter – and I didn’t quite know what to expect, but what I got was a whole lot of hometown hospitality. I have to say that the DSA really went out of their way to make me feel at home and they couldn’t have taken better care of me if they were my Mama. Now that I’ve been to Dallas, I have to say Mama. I think it’s a rule.

     

    Anyway, after an impossibly early flight (executives don’t know what 530am looks like – we’re spoiled and roll out of bed around 830), Carolyn Hodge, the President of the DSA and the person who had taken a class of mine in Santa Fe and thought I’d be a great speaker for her group, took me to lunch and then I had a short while to prepare before being whisked away to Downtown Dallas to teach.

     

    I gave my seminar “Becoming Your Own Development Executive – How to Look at Your Script from the Executive Perspective,” complete with  a power point I had completed about 16 hours prior to the class. Shhhhhh….But we had a great turn out and the class went very well! Whew! Before the class, I had a few people ask me when the speaker was going to get there – I think they were a bit surprised that someone with such dashing young good looks could be their speaker (just kidding). But everyone was great and seemed to really enjoy the class.

     

    It was the first time I had ever taught in a theater-type setting, which was nice – it felt like I was performing my own one-man show.  Afterwards, we went to Denny’s – that’s right Denny’s. And I’ll be damned if their super cheese burger fries weren’t rootin’-tootin’ fantastic. Ha! But I was exhausted.  I was being housed by DSA Board member Steve and his wife Lisa, whose house I could have sworn was an actual Bed and Breakfast or at least should be! Their three adorable dogs including Truman, who I’m still pretty sure was part dinosaur, made me feel right at home. And after getting back to their house at about 1130pm, and being up since 530 on 3 hours sleep, I promptly hit the sack like a ton of bricks.

     

    On Saturday morning, I had private No Bull Consultations and met with some lovely writers. Some more eccentric than others, but it’s personality and variety that make this job fun. And I realized something – in every city I go to other than Los Angeles, people pitch me spiritual projects. It’s an odd phenomenon that us Godless Infidels of LA don’t quite grasp. And one that I will be blogging about in the very near future both on this site and on BOSI.

     

    After the consults, Carolyn was gracious enough to take me to lunch and then to the JFK Museum at the Book Depository. Despite it being quite warm in there and the tour taking about 2 hours longer than I had thought it would take, it was quite enlightening and emotional. And to see the grassy knoll – which by the way is JUST a grassy knoll – was pretty cool. I don’t know why I expected something different. But a good time was had and then it was back to Steve’s for a Texas Style BBQ in my honor. I’m pretty sure it’s the first time a Texas BBQ was ever thrown for a Jew, and I appreciate that!

     

    Good food, nice people, interesting conversation, and somewhere around 10pm, I found myself drunk. And if that’s not the sign of a good BBQ, I don’t know what is. Ha! But the next morning, I boarded a plane and came back to LA. Silly City Boy I am, I expected cowboy hats, cacti,  big hair, cows being roped in the street, and at least one really funny accent, but I was surprised to learn that Dallas is actually a whole lot like Los Angeles, just a bit more humid. And they like the Cowboys, but no city’s perfect.

     

    I want to sincerely thank Carolyn, Steve and Lisa for their incredible hospitality, and everyone else at the DSA, everyone who came out to see the seminar, have private consults or just shared a pork sandwich with me. You definitely know how to make your special guest feel special and I look forward to coming back real soon…Yee haw!

  • The Dirt from Willamette Writers Conference

    August 18th, 2009

    Hello again, BullScripters! First, I’d like to thank you all for checking out the site and being so supportive. This company has been growing leaps and bounds the last few months and that is due to all of you! And look for many more new updates in the coming month or so! And thanks for checking out my articles on the BOSI website and for all the great feedback.

     

    Anyway, I had the pleasure of attending the Willamette Writers Conference (pronounced Will-AM-ette – and dont you forget it!) in Portland Oregon last weekend. It’s my 4th year going I believe and it’s always a good time! Now, the number one rule for execs about pitchfests is – you don’t talk about pitchfests. Or at least what happens after the pitching is over and nighttime activities commence. Needless to say, the last few years in Portland have been action packed and we always come back to LA with plenty of fun stories to share (or use as blackmail material haha).

     

    This year, however, we chose to be a bit more understated. Sure, we still sang TV theme songs at the top of our lungs in the Oregon Culinary Institute. And we still hit the dive bars and drank cheap beer like it was water. But it was a much more low-key event this year. Perhaps we’re all just getting old. It has been an ongoing trend (and joke) that the film execs go out and party ‘til 4am and the book execs all go back to the hotel, read and go to sleep by 11. And that is pretty accurate. Though this year, perhaps we all felt a bit more bookish. I’m not saying we didn’t party, but the party ended earlier than it used to.

     

    On the pitching side of things, the people that attend the Portland conference are always so nice and gracious. Sure, there was the older woman who propositioned the exec panel for sex. And sure last year, there was the guy who thought his story about father daughter incest was a commercial project for a teen audience. And sure, there was the guy in the blindingly bright silk suit and pompadour who made me wonder what his day job was. But that’s what makes these events fun!

     

    I heard some good pitches and asked for a few scripts, though not as many as I normally ask for. I have noticed a couple trends with the Portland conference as far as material goes. First, I hear more stories that involve spirituality, magic, Native American rituals, and things like that in Portland than almost anywhere else (Santa Fe had a bunch of Native American based stories too). And I have to say – these don’t sell. Broad audiences don’t care about Native American stories and they don’t care about spiritualism. I just can’t sell it.  As I mentioned in my recent article on www.businessofshowinstitute.com, I also got a ton of period piece pitches despite making it very clear that we are not interested in period pieces. Perhaps it’s because Portland writers have always been a slightly older crowd and those types of stories appeal to that demographic, but that’s not the demographic we as producers cater to.  The third type of pitch we get a great deal of in Portland is the book to movie adaptation. Willamette started as a book conference and it is still a HUGE and very valuable part of the conference (even more so than the film part), but it’s really hard for us to buy into a pitch for a book by a first time writer if the screenplay isn’t written yet simply because – we don’t know if you can write that adaptation. You’ve got to write a screenplay first. That being said, I did find some good stuff and am starting to go through it all now.

     

    The classes at Willamette are great. Some are better than others, but the few that I got to observe briefly were really enlightening. I don’t get to meet many book people or hear them speak, so I relish the chance to learn a bit more about that world (especially since I’m working on my first book). Even though I didn’t get to teach my No B.S. Pitchfest Class, my Living in and Indie World class went wonderfully and we had a really great turn out. I hope everyone got as much out of it and enjoyed it as much as I did. I can’t wait to come back next year, if they’ll have me, and hopefully I will be teaching many more classes.  And at the end of the day, I met a bunch of wonderful other execs, managers, agents and book people that I hadn’t met before, and networking is always the name of the game!

     

    Thanks to all the wonderful organizers and volunteers. A BIG special thanks to Gibran Perrone (who is just awesome), Ann Buenzli (a great help!), Nancy Froeschle (who didn’t run things this year but is still awesome), Elisa Klein, writer Robert Kienbaum, Mary and everyone else there!

     

    Next up on the No Bull Tour is Dallas in September…so stay tuned for more info!! Til then, Keep Writing!

     

     

  • The Great American Pitchfest

    July 23rd, 2009

    Less than two weeks after the Santa Fe Conference, I took part in the ever-expanding Great American Pitchfest. I have been attending the Great American for about 5 years now – I’m officially a veteran. And I even attended the Great Canadian a few years ago, which is run by the same team.

     

    When I started with the Great American, it was a small event which probably had 250 writers in attendance and 40 companies. It was greatly overshadowed by other LA-based events like the Screenwriting Expo and the Fade-In Pitchfest. But I am so happy that in such a short time, the Great American has become one of the pre-eminent LA pitching events and conferences and this year there were over 2000 writers and about 80 companies (there would have been 110, but some companies think they are too important to show up). This is mostly due to the GA’s headmaster, Signe Olynyk, who has definitely stepped up her game.

     

    And with the new line up of classes, instructors, and panels, dollars for donuts, this is probably the best value for writers out of any of the conferences in LA. The classes and instructors were great. I was worried at first that my “No B.S. Guide to Pitchfests” class wouldn’t be well attended, but by fifteen minutes into the class, it was standing room only and I think it went very well despite the fact that I couldn’t use any audio/visual, which I didn’t know until two days before the event. So my power point presentation went out the window and the class was forced to (gasp!) actually listen to me speak. There were some other classes on theme, networking and making your archetypes more powerful – or some crap like that – but if you’re a writer and you’re spending money on pitching, then why wouldn’t you attend the pitching class, right?

     

    There were some other heavy weights teaching master classes like Pilar Alessandra and Blake Snyder, who are both fantastic. Michael Hauge, who is one of the most successful teachers around, was there teaching as well. The afternoon was full of 30-minute consulting sessions and I was booked solid for 5 hours. I was so glad that they went well, and I absolutely loved having the writers I met with come back up to me after pitching the next day, telling me how much I had helped. There’s nothing more rewarding.

     

    On day two was the actual pitchfest, which was run very well, but was still a friggin’ madhouse, in the best sense of the word. Writers stormed the room like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, all seeking their FREEDOM from obscurity and amateur status. I have optioned material from the Great American before, and last year there were 2 or 3 projects that I really enjoyed. This year, while the pitches were pretty solid, I was a bit disappointed in the amount of commercial material. That being said, I asked for about 10 scripts again and there were some goodies (I’m still waiting for a couple I think), but nothing I felt strong enough about to move forward on. Though there were at least 2 or 3 writers that I would keep in mind for the future. And really, that’s all you can ask for at these events.

     

    The downside of this event is that so many of the companies that attend have never produced anything, or are completely unknown. And if I have never heard of them, then I can’t expect writers to have heard of them either. Some are just random men or women who started their own company or are just trying to find projects they can attach themselves to. So, writers have to do even more due diligence and research when deciding to whom to pitch.

     

    Another highlight of Day Two was being a guest on Pilar Alessandra’s podcast, On the Page. I feel bad admitting that I had never listened to her podcast before, though I’m a big fan of hers. But it was a great time, and she was gracious enough to let me plug my own script consulting service (www.nobullscript.net), and she made me into a listener. The networking was great, the writers were energized, and no one pitched me in the bathroom, though I did hear a couple of others get pitched there (definite no-no!).

     

    Overall, it was a great event that has really come into its own. Hopefully next year, they can wrangle a few more high-profile companies and that will really complete the event and raise its status even more.

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