∼ Thursday: Day One ∼
3:30am: Slept maybe four hours and endured a rather bumpy flight which turned me a pale shade of green. By the time I made it into town from the airport, checked in to the hotel, and then checked in at the AFF registration, I was too late to attend the 11:30am Introduction/Welcome panel. I signed up for the Roundtable I wanted to attend about an hour from then, but poor signage led me to the wrong room, so I missed out.
1:00pm – 2:15pm: I ended up in the Writer-Manager Relationship panel with Henry Jones and Ryan Cunningham. Not what I was planning to attend, but learned that just as with any other relationship, finding someone who gets you is vital.
2:45pm – 4:00pm: I made my way to the Pitch Prep panel with Pamela Ribon for some advice on how to pitch before my go at it the following morning. I was not at all prepared to pitch my idea, and at this point, didn’t even know what story I was going to pitch. So much for being prepared. We, writers, usually work best under pressure any way. It was here I met Deena, who, I would later discover would become a fast friend, so that we could practice our pitch with someone.
Tip: If you have an opportunity to meet Pamela Ribon, take it. She was engaging and funny and helped put the experience into perspective – pitching at AFF is not like pitching in any other situation.
5:00pm – 7:00pm: Opening Night Reception. At this point, in my “normal” world, I would want a nap, but I was running on a high of the energy that seemed to infuse the entire area. I was meeting people and learning things and I didn’t want to miss a moment. I grabbed a drink and walked around the bar, but everybody already seemed to know people. As I made my way to the back, I saw a solitary figure, and my first festival-made friend, Jessica.
We hit it off right away and she became one of my conference partners for the remainder of the weekend. After the reception ended, we decided to get food. I didn’t remember eating, so it sounded like a good idea.
Torrential downpour ensued and I was soaked through in minutes.
I purposefully ensured my room was close to all the action, and at that time, was thankful for my foresight. There was a WGA Welcome Party at 11:00pm, but after the wet, the food, a hot shower, and writing and memorizing my pitch, I was done.
~ Friday: Day Two ~
7:30am: Rise and shine! Must. Have. Caffeine prior to pitch. Kept running my pitch in my head…over and over and over…I decided to pitch my pilot, The Demeter. Gotta say, pretty happy with the way it came out.
9:00am – 10:15am: Pitch session with Kelly Jo Brick and Cam Cannon. Oof. What a learning experience. I was calm and collected, until the moment I was in front of the group. The nerves kicked in and I stumbled about halfway through losing my train of thought. I have this strange sort of memory thing. If I write it down, I can see where it was on the page, and after a moment of collecting myself, I could see where I was in the pitch and finished. So embarrassing, especially in light of all the positive feedback I received. The judges were so reassuring that I had a strong, interesting pitch, and throughout the day, many people approached me and offered me support, even more so when they learned it was my first pitch ever.
It was here I met Margaret, who, again, would later become a fast friend. She wasn’t even sure she would have an opportunity to pitch, and she ended up winning one of the two spots from our group.
10:45am – 12:00pm: The Life’s a Pitch panel with Tess Morris, Gary Whitta, and Ashley Miller. You would think at this point I would have had my fill of pitching, but I wanted to know what it was like in the “real world”.
Tips: 1) Think of pitching like a conversation. 2) Everybody wants to hear a good story, so boil it down so they can retell it. 3) The more you pitch, the more the story may evolve.
1:00pm – 2:30pm: In-Person Meeting with agent Daniela Gonzalez set up by Roadmap Writers. A fellow member of a writer’s group on FB made the introductions and I had the opportunity to sit with an agent and a group of amazing fellow writers, all women, and ask questions and gain real world knowledge of the industry. When I arrived for the sit down, I was told it was canceled, so I left. I quickly discovered it hadn’t been, and the group was kind enough to let me join in, a bit late.
3:15pm – 4:30pm: A no nonsense panel entitled “Practical Tips” with Phil Hay, Stephany Folsom, and Nicole Perlman. They reiterated quite a bit I already knew, but hearing it from professionals made it that much more impactful.
Tips: 1) Don’t compare your process to others. Understand what your process is and develop it. 2) Be kind to yourself and cut yourself a break. (We are hard on ourselves.) 3) Make something – beyond the script – a play, a short, or a script reading. 4) Discover what it is that will give you validation. 5) As a new writer, the scale of your early projects shouldn’t be a risk or a budget concern.
4:45pm – 6:45pm: BBQ mixer. Deena, Jessica and I had been in contact throughout the day and we decided to meet up for the shuttle to the mixer. Behind us in line was a lone woman, Kyra. I invited her into our group, and the four of us set off. Now, some of you may know that I’m vegetarian, so you may be wondering what I was doing there. It was a mixer. An opportunity. And I was taking advantage of whatever I could. We met with other writers and had a great time amidst interesting conversations, but as the sun set, the temperature dropped, and none of us were prepared, so we headed back.
7:00pm – 10:00pm: The Stage 32 mixer on a rooftop with no heaters. Brr. As a member of Stage 32, I was looking forward to meeting some other members, and I’m glad I made the effort, even though after a short time I could no longer feel my toes. I met the founder of Stage 32, RB and a handful of amazing writers. Unfortunately, the cold drove Jessica and I out. We had lost Deena earlier to pitch prep, and Kyra made friends and stayed behind.
There was a Final Draft Happy Hour at 11:00pm, but at that point, I didn’t think I was going to make it. And I didn’t. Instead I met up with Deena to help her with her pitch, and met more writers while hanging about the famous Driskill Hotel.
Again, I should’ve been exhausted, I’d barely eaten and was running on the fumes of caffeine, but I was having so much fun. I talked with my sister and came to the realization that I wanted to follow my dreams. I had wasted months not writing, being surrounded by negativity, and being emotionally drained after each day. I was done. Officially. And it was one of those enlightening moments – I was going to move forward.
To be continued…