2006 Screenwriting Expo
This last weekend I attended the Screenwriting Expo. It was my third in a row, though my first with a Los Angeles name tag. I might not have attended, except that I now live 25 minutes from the site, plus I received free admission (for making the finals in the CS Open at last year’s Expo.) That being said, I’m very happy to have gone.
First things first: the location moved this year. The last two were at the Convention Center downtown. This was at a pair of hotels by the airport, no doubt to save some money and attract more out-of-towners. Overall, it gave the Expo a bit more of a casual feel. It was easier to get to (at least for me; this was a point of contention with my carpool partner.) There was better access to reasonable places to eat than at the Convention Center. Any of these small advantages, however, was horribly outweighed by one big disadvantage: uncomfortably small rooms.
Part of the reason you go to Expo is affordable mini-versions of the expensive weekend classes in screenwriting prevalent in LA and occasionally in other cities. Four dollars for a 90-minute courses, with a couple dozen options offered every two hours. In the new digs, however, at least a quarter of these sessions took place in tiny meeting rooms with posted capacities of less than 20. Overcrowding detracted significantly. I was turned away at the door of my first class, despite having a ticket in my hand, thanks in part to the new Gold Pass system that allows attendees who paid the premium fee to drop into whatever session they desire. As the nice customer service agent pointed out when I traded in my useless ticket for admission to a class the next day, it was only $4. Well, it was more than that. I sit down with the full schedule and plan an itinerary for the weekend, selecting a balance of classes in particular interests, with particular speakers. I was out more than $4. I was out the chance to attend one of the courses I wanted most to see. However, Expo staff seemed to work out the kinks by midday, and I didn’t miss any other planned seminars.
Another part of the Expo is pitching to managers, agents, and producers. This consists of paying $25 for all of five minutes across the table from a gatekeeper, after 15 minutes of being cattle-herded through staging areas. I only bought one this year, because I don’t feel like it’s a good way to pitch someone. What chance do you have of catching your person in a good mood, if s/he’s been talking to a new person every five minutes for three straight days? And $25 for those five minutes? Of course, my carpooling partner may have landed an agent from one of her pitches, so maybe I’m way off. In addition to my one purchased pitch, I had an extra couple, thanks to a clerical error. Always good to practice, I thought. Pitching went well, though I think it’s less set up for those of us who want to focus on TV. Agents told me I am doing all the right things, and to keep it up, and that I should probably find a manager first. No one offered anything beyond that.
But the best reason to attend is a chance to meet others who share your passion. I’m not the only idiot out there forsaking a plush corporate salary (and health insurance) because I can’t seem to keep from writing. I met plenty such idiots. Of course, a lot of them are introverted writers, so you have to reach your hand out if you want to meet people, but it’s easy to remind yourself that many folks are sitting there waiting for you to do just that.
I met some new friends and hung out with some people I’d met last year. Laughing in a bar with comedy writers is what life’s all about.
Will I attend next year? Probably not. But then, that’s what I said this time around, and it turned out to be a really positive experience overall.
How was this year’s Expo for everyone else?