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  • 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, 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!



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