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  • 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!

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