AFF’s Screenwriters Conference: Days 3 & 4

AFF neon logo

∼ 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!

AFF’s Screenwriters Conference: Days 1 & 2

AFF neon logo

∼ 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…

Quote Monday on a Tuesday

Although yesterday passed before I had an opportunity to post, it’s still early enough in the week to share some inspiration.  In fact, today is my Saturday, so if you work odd shifts like I do, then it really doesn’t matter what day you choose to celebrate #MotivationMonday. 😉

BeliefInSanta

We are our biggest critics, so it’s good to be reminded that we can also choose to be our biggest supporters.  No matter what you’re passionate about, if you’re chasing your dream, then believe in yourself that you can and will make it happen.  In the end, should we succeed or fail, it is up to us.

There’s another quote I’ve shared before that I feel is a good bookend for the above, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail.”  Believe in yourself and find out!

Quote Monday

There’s so much going on in the world right now that it’s hard to stay sane and not want to escape into our creative worlds full-time.  I have things I want to say, and while I’m not sure I want to put it in this space, as I keep this blog as a journal as well, I may have to break my silence.  I’m still pondering the idea, so be forewarned. 😉

This is why I feel today’s quote is so very apropos.

picassoquote

If you feel like I do, keep your chins up, my friends!  And try to have a wonderful and productive week!

Quote Monday

Hi everyone!  I’m back after a crazy week of Gishwhes, and a week of recovery.

I like to do a recap of the week’s events, and as you may have noticed the odd post about Miss Jean Louis, an item for this year’s hunt, it tends to get a bit weird and challenging. Because my memory is so fragmented, this blog has become a resource for me to keep track of things, so I’ll share Team Falkor’s antics later this week.

As for today, it’s time to get back to routine and progress!

CreativityIsContagious

In light of the creativity that abounds during Gish week, and the post I wrote just a few days before it started about how I was feeling burnt out, I am now seeking out alternative means for creativity.  I’m looking to surround myself with people who are passionate and creative, because the above quote is true.

I have found myself inspired by other’s creativity, and I think that is a wonderful side effect to the creative life.  So let’s be a creative force and make beautiful things!

Quote Monday

I’m going to ramble for a moment, so please bear with me while I vent.

In last week’s Writing Prompt post I mentioned how I was struggling with choices. Before the end of the year, I was doing some hard thinking about plans for the future.  The Sis and I moved back to Las Vegas a little over a year ago for a number of reasons, one being that she finish her undergrad and then we move on.  Unfortunately, she has now found a job she truly enjoys, she’s making friends, and getting herself together.  She’s currently taking the semester off.

It seems unfair to uproot yet again, but I don’t want to stay here.  I don’t like Vegas.  Never have.  I’m tired of moving…we’ve moved so. many. times, but I want to find a place to call “home”.  I’ve only felt that sense of home once, when I traveled to England for the first time.  I felt it before we even landed.  That’s when the obsession began.  And, that’s what I’m looking for.  As much as I’d like to do a final move across the sea, there’s just no way that’s even remotely possible in my current state.

So here’s “the thing”, the thing that’s been lingering at the back of my mind, the thing I never want to say out loud.  I want to be a screenwriter, but all screenwriters know it takes at least 5 years to make any headway (once you legitimately hit the pavement – so I still have about 4 years), and I don’t want to flounder in this state, without purpose, without direction, for upwards of 5 or more years.  I don’t want to hold down a menial job that I loathe until things work out.  Yes, I’m still trying to remain positive, hence the lack of the dangerous “if”.

I want a job I enjoy.  I want to buy a house.  I want to plan for the future but I feel as if I’m destined to remain in this perpetual state of limbo.  It all comes back around to choices.  I’ve made choices that have led me to where I am, but I’m finding it difficult to make choices that will encourage change…in part because I don’t know where to begin.

Do I suck it up and make it work where I am, or do I continue to seek out that thing that I know is out there?  How does one move forward when they’re kind of stuck due to obligation and circumstance?  How do people get their act together?

NewEnding

Any advice from fellow creatives would be greatly appreciated.  How do you make it work, find balance, and stay sane?

In Need of a Proverbial (or Actual) Kick in the Backside

This Discrepant Writer

Boring

Yesterday I started a blog post that was a little on the bitter side.  Quick version: Bad job = poor wages = self-imposed restrictions = bored.  After writing it, I thought on it for a while and decided to wait on publishing it.  That was a good decision, I think.  I don’t want to put that out into the world, and I know you don’t want to read it.  As creatives, we have to keep hope alive, against insurmountable odds, and often times without the support of those who truly understand what our lives are like.  When I was still living in Los Angeles, I had my writer’s group, but since moving back to Las Vegas, I have lost my writer friends, those who “know”.  I miss them.

Work has got me down, and unfortunately, that’s affecting my creative life, which is usually where I escape.  I’ve been skirting the start of the pilot, but I don’t know why.  I have pages upon pages of notes and ideas, and now they just need to be organized and fluffed, but I’ve lost steam.  Hence, the proverbial kick.

I read this quote today, something about people who are optimistic all the time are delusional.  It made me giggle, because although I try to be as optimistic as I can, especially in this space, as writers we are constantly afflicted with a variety of emotional states and the stress of the balancing act of our multiple lives, so it’s okay to not be happy and perky all the time.

I know this attitude shift is mostly because I’m looking for a new job, again.  There is also a teensy bit of regret that I have so few skills other than food and beverage service.  I feel as if I’ve been perpetually looking for a job for the past 5 years.  I’m ever so tired.  I don’t have high expectations, I just want to make decent money to support The Sis while she finishes school, and I’d kind of like to look forward to it.  That should not be asking too much.

I would love to hear from you, my friends.  How do you survive the daily grind in order to maintain your creative life?  How do you maintain your sanity?

Tips, tricks, and inspiration welcome!

Have a great weekend!

*So, this post isn’t that negative, right?

Quote Monday

I hope you are all well and ready for another week of creativity crammed within the confines of our “regular” lives, unless your creative life is your regular life, then good for you! 🙂

This week’s quote is something I struggle with…what others may think, in regards to all aspects of my life.  I need to actively fight the urge to be concerned about any and all of it because as RuPaul says, “it’s none of my business”.

NotCaringAboutWhatOtherPeopleThink

Be brave!  Make bold decisions!  And have a great week!