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  • The Santa Fe Screenwriting Conference (SCSFE)

    July 22nd, 2009

    I realize this is coming a bit late, but I had the great pleasure of being a guest lecturer as well as take pitches at the Sante Fe Screenwriting Conference about 6 weeks ago and I have to say – I’ve done a bunch of these conferences and pitchfests, but this one may be the most fun I’ve had.


    I should have known I was in for a good weekend when the 75 year old woman who met me at the airport told me we had to go back to her house first to pick up her hearing aid. Along the way, we crossed the intersection of “Gun Club Road” and “Coors Blvd.” I couldn’t make that up! We went on to get lost for an hour in the dark (it was after midnight) and we didn’t make it to the hotel until 1:30am. A two hour ride from the airport, when the flight from LA was only an hour and a half. But it was a fun adventure, capped off by getting goosed the next day by my white haired chauffeur.


    Now, not only did the conference have great classes (if I do say so myself), but they don’t run the execs and teachers into the ground. We don’t start at 8am and go straight through until 6pm. I had time to do some sight seeing, relax, and even visit a wonderful Japanese Spa. I realize I live in LA, but I never get to do anything remotely nice or relaxing, so I took advantage of the opportunity. I even got a nice tan, though I think my body, which hasn’t seen the sun since I was 12, still hates me for it. But this conference really had a nice blend of busy and laid back. The programmers understood that execs really don’t like hearing pitches at 8am and going for 5 hours straight, and doing so only hurts writers’ chances.


    The conference seemed to be a big success. My classes were both very well attended, with my pitchfest class being standing room only. I love that. Quite frankly, my other class didn’t go quite as well as I would have liked, but that was my fault. I tried to change my spiel but kept forgetting that I had changed it. Oh well, live and learn.


    The other execs and I had a wonderful time sampling Santa Fe’s…ambience. And by ambience, I mean beer. I would love to tell you more, but the first rule of Pitchfest is…you don’t talk about pitchfest. At least not what happens at night.


    The pitchfest itself was crazy. I was booked the whole time, and even went about a half hour over. I heard some good pitches and some bad pitches, but happily, I think I only got one or two ridiculous pitches, which is far below the average number I usually get. And only 2 or 3 people made me want to back up slowly out of the room. Ha!  Actually, I was highly impressed with how prepared most of the writers were to pitch (the other execs said so as well). Sure, most still didn’t know what “commercial” means or how it relates to story, but that’s to be expected. I asked for about 10 scripts, which is a lot for an exec to ask for.


    And I will break the news here – Clifford Werber and I have decided to come aboard to produce one of the scripts I found at the conference and the writer is currently doing a new draft with our notes. The writer is New Mexico’s own Hannah MacPherson and we look forward to working on her great horror project. In addition, there were at least 2 other writers that I was incredibly impressed with and perhaps could work with in the future.


    In the van on the way to the airport, all the other execs (a bunch of guys this time around) all shared our stories of best, worst and most creepy. And at the end of the day, not only did I meet some great lecturers, writers, and volunteers, but I made a new group of friends that I can now call to send them my projects – and that’s what it’s all about. And I got to have a great conversation with Emmy Winning writer Kirk Ellis (“John Adams”) and fellow lecturers Karl Iglesias and Cynthia Witcomb, all of whom got rave reviews for their workshops. And I hear I did a nice job as well…


    Now, there were a few downsides. I thought a couple of the people teaching weren’t quite qualified enough or weren’t doing the writers enough of a service. No, I won’t tell you whom. And then there was the issue of food. I didn’t realize that Santa Fe closes at 9:30pm, and I don’t like to eat very early, so I went without dinner for the first two nights. Cheez-it’s are not meant to be an entrée. They didn’t even have bottled water at the hotel (I know – I sound like an LA snob, sorry!). Though the hotel did have a delicious melon and cucumber water in the lobby – but that was gone by 6pm! The hotel was lovely, despite some reservation issues, but they really need to keep room service going past 6pm!


    But I want to give a big thanks to Larry and his wonderful volunteers (Laura, Steve, Vicky, Jason, etc) and I can’t wait to return next year! I highly recommend this event for both writers wanting to get some real personal attention and learn their craft, and for execs who want to get out of LA for a while and maybe find some great material.

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