Screenwriting Expo PassThe Screenwriting Expo 2011

This weekend I attended the Screenwriting Expo in Los Angeles and took in some terrific seminars and panel discussions. I also pitched my latest script to a number of production companies.

All this week I’ll be updating you with screenwriting tips and insights gleaned from various sources. I’ll also throw in a few stories from my experiences. So stay tuned!

But first…

What is the Screenwriting Expo?

The Screenwriting Expo is a yearly event that gives screenwriters rare access to screenwriting consultants and established industry pros (Agents, Managers, Producers, and Professional Screenwriters).

You pay something like $100 for a basic pass and then $5 or $6 per seminar (some panel discussions and keynote speaker sessions are free). There’s also a Gold Pass which I believe is $300 that gives you unlimited access to any seminar. Though unless you’re Hermione Granger and can attend multiple sessions at once, I’m not quite sure how the extra $200 dollars is justified. Perhaps you get a free monkey.

Anyway, in addition to the seminar portion of the event, there are opportunities for screenwriters to pitch their ideas, and themselves, to production companies and management companies. The pitch tickets are extra (even with the Gold Pass), and depending on how you ordered them, they cost anywhere from $15 to $25.

So keep all that in mind for next year… if you decide to go.

First Impressions

I’m not gonna lie, the Screenwriting Expo web site is about as easy to navigate as that maze in The Shining, so I didn’t have high hopes for the organization of the event.

When I arrived at the main door of the Westin Hotel, there were no signs pointing me to the Screenwriting Expo (or maybe I was just blind), so I had to ask someone where to go.

After I found the registration area and picked up my package, it was discovered that my pitch tickets were missing. I was then referred down a long hallway to the pitching area. They, in turn, referred me back to registration… who then referred me back to the pitching area. Finally one of the volunteers wrote my pitching times on a blank card with a red Sharpie.

“You sure this is going to be accepted in there?”

“Oh yeah totally.”

It seemed sketchy, but Dude was right!

However, when I went in to pitch I discovered that if you had a 10:10 a.m. pitch time like I did, that didn’t mean you were pitching at 10:10 a.m. — it meant that you were pitching at some point in the future depending on how far behind schedule the pitches were running.

Turns out I only had to wait an additional 15 minutes. But on the last day of pitching, I had to wait an additional 40 minutes and missed the keynote speech by Ben Ripley (who wrote Source Code). However there were unexpected benefits to the whole debacle. More on that story later in the week…

The Case of the Disappearing Companies

Many people were told, while waiting in line, that their scheduled production or management company had cancelled.

This happened a lot. Standing there felt a little like Russian Roulette, only in reverse. You dreaded not getting your shot.

You’d be standing there, visualizing your pitch, stressing about how things were going to go, then you’d hear a volunteer call out, “Is anyone here waiting to see [insert absent company name here]?”

Then several nervous attendees would answer, “I am.”

To which the poor Expo volunteer would have to say, “I’m sorry, they’ve cancelled.” or “I’m sorry they’re unavailable right now — they had to go to a panel discussion. Maybe you can reschedule or switch to a different company at another time. Or you can get a refund.”

So it wasn’t bad enough that you had to worry about your pitching performance, there was a tremendous amount of added stress brought on by the fact you had to worry about whether or not your company was even going to be there.

But if you actually got in to pitch to your company, and you had your stuff together, it was a golden opportunity.

And I must say the volunteers they hired for Screenwriting Expo did a FANTASTIC job. They were good at diffusing stress, encouraging and attentive to the needs of the attendees, highly adaptable to the sometimes troubling circumstances, and tireless in their efforts.

The great news is that after the initial hiccups, things went quite well and it was a very rewarding experience.

Did anyone attend the Expo on Thursday or Friday? (I only attended on Saturday and Sunday.) What were your first impressions?

Tomorrow’s Edition — Important Tips from Managers