AFF’s Screenwriters Conference: Days 3 & 4

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∼ Saturday: Day Three ∼

7:45am: Another early morning.  More caffeine needed.  There’s a coffee shop on the ground floor of my hotel that I’m thankful for, and it’s fairly popular due to its proximity to the conference.  They have my favorite flavor, lavender, for their coffee and the most delicious pastries.  It gets me through the bulk of the day.

9:00am – 10:15am: One of the panels I’m most looking forward to, Writing Sci-Fi with Gary Whitta and Emily Carmichael.  They both offer some useful tips and let us all know that it’s okay to not write 8 hours a day.  No one writes like that, and we shouldn’t feel like this is a goal we have to achieve.  I learned about the Pomodoro Technique (which I will look into a bit more) which suggests writing in 25 minute spurts.

Tips: 1) Keep a Dot Journal to track writing progress.  Check on it regularly.  (I haven’t done this yet because I’m still learning how to create this type of journal.)  2) Maintain consistency in your world.  If a character has a power, be sure to use it.  (This is something we, writers, sometimes forget.)  3) Keep the rules of the world simple.

10:45am – 12:00pm: Overcoming Scene Challenges with Meg LeFauve, Carly Wray, and Dave Kajganich.  This proved to be one of the best panels I attended.  The most important thing I learned was that if there’s a problem in Act 3, it’s most likely because of something in Act 1.  “You haven’t earned it” was repeated by the panelists, and this was a big note for me.  As many of you are aware, from my many references to my troublesome third act of one of my screenplays, I either have a problem earlier on, or I haven’t followed through with something to earn the third act.

I happened to have an opportunity the following morning to speak with Dave Kajganich while waiting for coffee.  I thanked him for his advice, and then he gave me some more.  He asked me what I was struggling with and offered me some alternative ways of thinking about it.  Does it have to have a happy ending?  I told him I like happily ever afters, but it got me thinking.  Maybe it doesn’t?  Does it have to take place in modern times?  No, it doesn’t, and I don’t know why I’ve been trying to force it.  He was appreciative of me reaching out, he wasn’t sure if anything he said during the panel was useful.

12:15pm – 2:15pm: The Awards Luncheon was not being held close by.  It was a number of blocks away and not paying attention to the time, I thought it started at 12:30pm, and add on a big parade for Día de Muertos, I was power walking to make sure I arrived on time.  There was no shuttle, and the AFF staff I spoke with were very helpful, but afraid that if I didn’t arrive before it started, I may not be able to get in at all.  This was an additional upgrade to my conference badge, so I was not missing out.

There were some amazing speeches, and it was an insight as to what was winning on the festival circuit.  It ran way over for time, so I was unable to make my next panel, so I grabbed another coffee and got in line for the Lawrence Kasdan retrospective.  Even an hour and a half before the panel I was still about 15 people from the beginning of the line.

4:45pm – 6:00pm: A look back at the life of Screenwriter, Lawrence Kasdan.  He wrote The Big Chill, co-wrote Empire Strikes Back, wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Bodyguard, French Kiss, As Good as it Gets, and so many more.  How could I not attend?!

7:30pm – 9:30pm: Pitch Finale.  Another writer from my FB group, Jasmine and I planned to meet up to attend the finale together.  All the winners of the pitch sessions gathered to pitch to the crowd and then winners were chosen from those.  It was so much fun and so inspiring.  There was a great deal of support and encouragement for the people pitching.

My shoulder ached from carrying around my computer bag all day, so after Deena and I grabbed a bite to eat, we returned to my hotel to minimize my carrying capacity so we could head to the last mixer of the weekend.

Upon exiting my room, we were dumbfounded to find a most likely drunken naked man in the hallway.  We never did find out if he had locked himself out, or was kicked out, but either way, when the young woman, who was the manager on duty arrived, another conference attendee, Deena, and I kept her company until the police arrived.  We weren’t going to leave her alone with a delusional nude.  That made for a good story when asked what we would remember most from the conference.

11:00pm: Heart of Film Cocktail Party.  I saw some familiar faces, which was nice, and made friends with Margaret.  One of the winners from my pitch session.

It had been such a long day, but so rewarding.

~ Sunday: Day Four ~

There was a Hair of the Dog Brunch at 10:00am but my check out was at noon and I was going to be in a panel, so I skipped it, and slept in a bit.  The sleep and food deprivation had finally caught up with me.  I checked my bag, grabbed a coffee (which is where I met Dave and got that great advice), met up with Jessica and Deena for a quick hello and pastry breakfast, and then Jessica and I made our way to one of our more anticipated panels.

11:30am – 12:45pm: The Quagmire of Female Character by Lindsay Doran.  When I was living in LA, I attended another presentation by Lindsay about the Psychology of Storytelling.  She’s an executive and producer and her insight is unlike any other.  She’s so engaging that I didn’t even take any notes, which, of course, I now regret.  If you’re familiar with what’s going on in Hollywood, and the rest of the world, you’ll have an understanding of the balancing act that is currently happening with how to handle female characters.  This panel enlightened us all.

Tip: If you have the opportunity to hear Lindsay Doran speak, do it.  

1:15pm – 2:30pm: Writing for Animation with Brad Graeber, Alvaro Rodriguez, and Willis Bulliner who created the animated Netflix series, Seis Manos.  Jessica didn’t have a panel planned, so she attended with me.  It wasn’t what I was expecting, it was more about how they got their show off the ground, but it was still interesting.

3:00pm – 4:15pm: Life as a Screenwriter with Shane Black and Scott Rosenberg was, I think, the last panel of the day.  It was the last one I attended anyway.  It was the other panel I was most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint.  These two screenwriters have been in the business for many years, and now, a bit older, have a different insight into the industry.  I thought I took some notes, but I can’t seem to find them.  Wah-wah.

4:15pm – 5:15pm: I have to say my farewells and get to the airport.  It was during my good-byes that I made a new connection with someone who is doing something I’ve been thinking about.  Traveling the world.  And getting paid for it.

I’m sad about leaving.  The entire weekend has been enlightening and I’ve had a wonderful time, even more than I thought I would.  I’ve made friends, and writer friends at that.  I gained a bit more insight about myself and what I want to do.  The tips and lessons learned have opened my eyes to my writing, which was the point of the trip.

Overall, for my first conference, I’m not sure I could have chosen any better.  If you have an opportunity to attend any writer’s conference, I definitely encourage it.  It’s an experience unlike any other.

If you attended AFF, I’d love to connect and swap stories.  If you’re planning on attending a conference and need some tips, I’m happy to help.

Happy Writing!

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