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

InspireLast week I wrote an entire blog post after learning that my pilot had not advanced in the second contest I had entered.  I was sad and the overall tone was not the happy-stay positive-reach for your dreams-vibe I try to maintain here.

So I didn’t post it.

Rejection, in any form, is tough to take.  People say all sorts of things to put a positive spin on the situation, but when it comes down to it, rejection plain ol’ sucks.

I was already struggling with the third act of one screenplay, and I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to get everything in order for the conference in October, so this news struck a blow.  I was down for the rest of the day.  But that’s part of the process.  You take the hit, get back up, and show ’em.

It’s hard when so much is in our hands as writers, and so much that isn’t.

It’s not like I didn’t know this going in, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.  The whisper of doubt that sneaks its way in about the possibility that no one will ever like what I write and I never become a professional screenwriter grows louder with each rejection, but then I think of the people that were once just like me.

Every writer ever.

So no, I’m not giving up.  On the contrary.  I’m just getting started.  So here is the “stay positive-reach for your dreams” tip of the day:

Wear that rejection like a badge of honor because at least it shows that your striving towards your goals.  How many people do you know that are unwilling to even try?

Good Luck and Happy Writing!

What Kind of Screenwriter Are You?

In my time of slack, I accumulated hundreds of emails that required at least a fleeting glance.  In my time of focus, I think I’ve cut that number down to about 60 that will require a slightly longer look-see.  Not too bad given the short amount of time dedicated in that direction.  During this time, I came across a personality quiz for screenwriters from Stephanie Palmer’s Good in a Room site.

writingmemeI feel like I know who I am as a writer.  I don’t outline much; I “generally” know where it’s going to go though, before I sit down.  I like happy endings, my characters are often sarcastic and they’re always do-gooders (the protagonists anyway), and because of my genre choice, I have some freedom to let my imagination run wild.  I listen to my characters.  I alternate between procrastination and binge.  I like to write some things by hand (my fanfiction has almost entirely been written by writermemehand, oddly enough), but the computer monitor allows me more space to “see” (hence, all my screenplays have been written via the modern age).  Plus I type much faster than my hand can write to keep up with my brain (which is why some of my fanfiction looks like chicken scrawl).

I realize that my style of writing will some times write me into corners, but often ideamemetimes, I discover alternate paths and ideas that I never would have seen had I not allowed my story to just unfold.  I have literally found myself astounded with what I’ve unearthed this way.

So I wasn’t surprised by my results upon taking the quiz – Gardener Heartwarmer.  Even the name sounds right.  Here are some of the highlights from the break down:

  • You are good at generating new ideas and following them courageously wherever they lead. You work best when they have the time and the confidence to allow their creativity to spring forth without judgement.
  • You combine new ideas in unusual ways and can make unexpected, quantum creative leaps. You also function well when ideas are in a murkier state – and this is often the case when a screenwriting project is in earlier stages of development.  You create strong, complex characters and stories which contain emotionally powerful moments – the cinematic moments we remember forever.
  • Drama requires conflict, and this means putting characters in the worst possible moments of their lives. This can actually be difficult for you because you are experiencing the emotional journey of your characters so poignantly.

And then there were a few helpful tips.  This one, in particular, struck me:

Your creative work is going to take you to some deep, dark places. Make sure you’re writing at the right time of day (or night) so that you have the freedom and the strength to go where you need to go.

I used to like to write at night, when the world grew quiet.  The Sis would be asleep with the furkids snuggled up beside her, my phone was silent, and there was less likely to be something to sidetrack me because The Sis was asleep and I didn’t want to disturb her.  I’ve been trying to write during the day, and I find too many distractions.  I need to get back to the old routine, where I can be more productive.

So, are you ready to learn how well you know yourself as a screenwriter?  Take the quick, six question quiz here.  Share your results below.

Quote Monday

Today’s quote is continuing in the theme of goal setting from my last post.

sacrifice

When I thought on this for just a few seconds, I didn’t care for the feeling, meaning I had already been sacrificing what it is I really want for myself.  I need to hang this on my wall.

What are you willing to give up to achieve your goals?

2019 Goals

set and reach goal conceptAt the beginning of every year we each decide what we’d like to accomplish, what we want to change.  The dreaded New Year’s Resolution – gyms are overcrowded for a month, a flurry of spending happens while we’re excited for a new hobby, mentally we prepare for the first of the year as if it were a magic reset button, but usually it’s all in vain.  We say things like, “This year, it will all be different.”  “Kiss last year goodbye and say hello to the new one and all the newness that comes with it.”  We set goals, we make resolutions, only to lose momentum a fraction of the way through the year.

Some years are better than others, but it’s because of this I’ve never been one to make resolutions.  The looming (potential) failure.  And I don’t like the feeling.  The reflection at the end of the year at how little I accomplished.  It’s not that we’re lazy, I think it’s just that we lose passion or focus and the reason why we wanted whatever “it” was to begin with amidst the chaos that makes up our daily lives.  An elusive goal with a slow payoff will usually take a back burner to the things that require immediate attention.

Maybe it has something to do with that mid-life crisis I talked about previously, but I’ve started to make some changes by redirecting my focus.  Side note, I did cut my hair off, and it’s kind of fun and different.  I’m not sure how long it’ll last just due to the sheer amount of work it requires but at least I was finally brave enough to try.  Last year I let a lot of things slide.  I let my focus shift to unimportant things, things that didn’t require the value I placed on them, and the year passed with little to show for it…again.

Price

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t make any resolutions. 😉

I like my day job (most days), but I realized I’m giving it too much attention.  I allowed it to gain too much space in my life, and for something I don’t want to do long term, I needed to shift my focus.  Coming home feeling tired, both physically and mentally, causes me to waste the number of hours I have left in my day to accomplish more.  Reading, writing, watching a movie – there have been too many days when none of those have happened. 

EveryNewDaySo, nearing the end of 2018 I started to reevaluate my situation, and like serendipity my general manager gave me a book, “The Coffee Break Screenwriter” by Pilar Alessandra and a tee-shirt that says screenwriter for Christmas.  

I think it was the the push I needed, and I have thanked him again since the holidays because I’m over half way through the book and I’ve already had some ideas about one of my scripts that needs a rewrite, I submitted my pilot to a competition, and I’m planning on attending my first ever screenwriter’s summit.  I’ve watched at least one new movie a week, I’m reading more, and I’ve decided to do the thing I fear – write down my goals.  It’s my hope that visualizing what I’d like to accomplish, in addition to having some sort of accountability, may help me actually reach them.

Discipline

I’m one for lists, so by creating a path to accomplish said goals, I may find it easier to navigate throughout the year when I start to wane or lose focus.  In the past I wrote about finding external deadlines to help in goal setting.  This was not my genius idea but one I had come across from a number of sources.  It’s one thing to say I’d like to rewrite my script by such and such a date, but having a competition to submit to with a hard deadline will definitely add the pressure, so I’m finding those as well.  

It’s about using my time wisely.  More wisely.  Finding the balance between the day job and the dream job, family, other interests, and the mundane will take some effort.  So here’s to a new year and the newness that comes with it. 😉  

How do you plan to achieve your goals this year?  Want to help each other be accountable?  Share your goal and let’s have regular check-ins to make it happen!

Quote of the Week for a New Year

Happy 2018, my friends!

It seems that I’ve had to “get back on track” a lot lately.  So, in (yet another) effort to do this, I’m going to start of this new year off right with one of my favorite quotes in the hopes that it will inspire.DoSomethingTodayEach step in the right direction, no matter how big or small, will draw us closer to where we want to be.

Wishing you a wonderful and productive New Year!  xx, Rach

 

Quote Monday on a Tuesday

Well, hello!

I’m not going to make excuses for how absent I’ve been here.  I mean I could mention how busy work has been now that I’ve been promoted, and how my days off were scattered and inconsistent.  I could mention how it’s time for yet another move and all the stress and prep that goes into that…but I won’t.

Times flies whether you’re having fun or not, and suddenly it’s the middle of October and you’re feeling a bit concerned because of how little you have to show considering nearly another year has passed.  I had such big plans at the beginning of the year too.

The only way to get back on track and refocus my attention is by getting back to the routine I once cherished and held dear.  Sooo, let’s get back to one of my favorite things, quotes!

OneDayOrDayOne

I have to find a way of reconciling my new schedule.  I must find a balance between the day job, the dream job, and everything else.  I’ve said “one day” more often than I’d like to admit recently, and I don’t care for how it feels.

How have you balanced your life and found time to do the thing you love?

Quote Monday

So I happened upon my insights page and compared what I’ve done this year (so far) to the three years prior and the results are dismal. The first year I really took to blogging, I posted 164.  The next year, which saw a great increase of interaction with the outside world, I posted only 112.  Then last year, I posted 118.  Can you imagine with my lulls of inactivity where I might be sitting this year?

21.

Yep.  21 posts (now 22) in seven months.  ((sigh))  Wow.

If those are the results of my blogging, I don’t even want to know what that might mean for my writing.

I set goals for myself at the beginning of the year (last year had proven productive, for the most part), and I wanted to keep that enthusiasm going.  I’m now reevaluating those goals as I’m certain I’m going to fall short at the rate I’m crawling.

How did this happen?!

I may need to reevaluate a few other things as well.  I saw this quote and decided it may be the best way to get motivated again.

NotAPriority

What are your motivational/goal achieving tricks?

What To Do In The In-Between Time

IdeaLightBulb(jeffbullassite)Draft after draft.  Rewrite after rewrite.  Sometimes it feels like all we’re doing is writing in circles.

When you need a break from your beloved, it’s hard to decide what to do in that downtime.  I know I’m usually at a loss.  I try to find a new story idea, or consider rewriting one of my other screenplays, but sometimes you just need to do different work for the same story.

Bang2Write is a great resource for writers, and if you aren’t subscribing to Lucy V Hay’s site, as a screenwriter I would recommend it.  I have found loads of truly useful information, like the following – 7 Useful Things You Can Do Between Drafts.

Using my sci-fi pilot, The Demeter as an example, I’ll go through the steps and show you what I’m thinking about in my own downtime.

  1. Compare/Contrast to “Like” stories – Like the Doctor of Doctor Who, I want my human protagonist to not hold any immediate prejudice because of what an alien might look like (although easier said than done. We humans scare easily.).  The video game Mass Effect inspired the idea behind the human/alien interactions and romance options.  It’s unlike shows such as Firefly because not all the characters are human and not all stories are about human problems.  Star Wars and Star Trek are obvious go-tos, but other than the military connection, which won’t be overly used until season 2, I want to stay away from any ideas influenced by either.
  2. Think it Over – The pilot needs to foreshadow more of the ideas I have for the first season.  In addition to a different opening scene, I need to show the “shady” nature of the ship’s captain so the viewer is unsure for some time whether or not he can be trusted.  Early feedback suggested I integrate an image of where the show “might” go aka Battlestar Galactica always showed Earth as the final destination.  Where do I want the show to go?
  3. Work on Craft – Feedback also recommended I adjust the pacing.  Determine the best course to improve this.
  4. Make Contacts – Besides social media…think outside the box on making contact with those in the industry – Meetups, retreats (within reason), writer’s groups?
  5. Feedback – Build relationships of give and take.  Giving feedback will help my writing as well.  Get back on Zoetrope.
  6. Submission Strategy – I’m already using a calendar to keep track of contest deadlines, but could be better arranged for the whole year.  FilmFreeway is a good resource to use more fully.  Get more than one script ready for submission.
  7. Nothing.  Relax…for a minute. 😉

I hope you find this information as useful as I did.  Happy Writing!