They came from across the globe not only from all over the USA, but from England, Italy, Spain and Norway aspiring screenwriters wanting to learn the tricks of the trade. 700 strong, they flooded the rooms of the Sheraton Universal April 20-22 for this Second Annual Screenwriter's Showcase.
Sponsored by Final Draft Software, which has taken Hollywood by storm, the Screenwriter's Showcase is just one of the many ways that the software helps writers follow their dreams. Marc Madnick, the software company's CEO, explained that the people at Final Draft do anything they can to help the novice scriptwriter.
This includes things like Script (their magazine), contests like the Big Break, assisting numerous networking groups as Sandra Lord's Hollywood Networking Breakfast and ScriptXpert (where writers are given, by established industry professionals, comprehensive coverage and notes to improve their work.) Those who attended the Showcase were given the opportunity to not only improve their work but perfect their pitches so that they could go into their 'Take a Meetings' with confidence.
A highlight of the conference for many writers was the 'Take a Meeting.' For an extra fee, you were given 15 minutes with a producer to schmooze or pitch. Some of the groups represented here were Tracey Becker of Seeker Films (Finding Neverland), Mike Chamoy of Zak Penn's Company (X Men) and Julie Cannon/Iris Davidson from Random Girl Productions (Rx Nation.)
Since the majority of the attendees were unrepresented, many writers opted to meet the managers and agents (as Benderspink; Paul Levine Agency, Niad Management) who were present in the meeting room.
Many of the writers came out glowing from their conversations with exclamations 'They want to see my stuff! They liked it!' However, the producers that I talked with indicated that the vast majority of their interviews needed more work in learning to tell their stories in a concise manner before pursuing their dreams.
And in fact, The Art of Pitching was one of the many sessions offered in the two track event. The first track being feature writing and the second being television writing.
The weekend was started off by 'pitch king' Bob Kosberg before people broke into their respective interests. Features had such topics as Battle Scars, Story telling, Thinking Outside the Box, Laugh A Minute, The Big Picture, Scare Tactics, The Element of Surprise, and Finding Financing as well as Women Who Kick Ass, Writing the Super Hero, and Animation.
The television group had topics as the Reality of Reality TV, Agents vs Mangers,
Writing Development, Bringing the Audience Back, and Protecting Yourself as well as staff of various hit shows like Dead Zone.
The advice from a good number of the professional writers included:
Bruce Feirstein (Tomorrow Never Dies): There should be a conlict in every scene.
Antwone Fisher (Antwone Fisher): Writing what you know means knowing yourself and your own emotions.
Kevin Bisch (Hitch): Write it and get it out of the way and then rewrite. Have the story come out of character.
Bob Fisher (Wedding Crashers): Take events from your own life and make them your characters.
Hank Nelken (Saving Silverman): Force yourself to write every day; when stuck outlining, go back to the character. Quoting Kurt Vonegart 'You are what you pretend to be. '
Greg Coolridge (Fat Boy Sorority): Your comedy character has to have a flaw. Hook into the 7 deadly sins and make them outrageous.
Brian Spink (Benderspink Management): Writers must be true to their own voice and be marketable, too.
Jill McElroy (Benderspink Management): Believe in yourself. 25% of nothing is still nothing.
Tracey Becker (Finding Neverland): Be persistent. Do your research so you can sell them on your idea. Who is the audience?
Michael Seitzman (North Country): Write what you are passionate about. Allow yourself to cry in the third act.
Lee Ross (Downloading Nancy): First meeting with a producer is like a first date. Have their 'No's' already answered.
Simon Kinberg (X-Men): Write the Best possible script. Only when done should you think of who you might want. Avoid the cliches.
Zak Penn (Electra): Keep momentum going. Write something else if you are stuck. What is the emotional connection to your characters.
Jessica Bendinger (Bring It On): Strong characters make for strong journeys. What is the psych of the character?
Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street): How can you change it so that it won't be expected.
Carl Ellsworth (Disturbia): Anyone can die, even the star.
Jonathan Craven (Hills Have Eyes 2): We are not alone.
Stephen Susco (Saw): Don't show the monster all at once. Maintain the tension. The less you see the more frightening.
Raynold Gideon (Starman): Look for the manhole that she slips in when she misses the banana.
Chris Morgan (Fast and Furious): What is the most shocking thing in this scene and how can I get there?
Jason Skilovoc (Lucky Seven): The punchline is the plot twist. Lead the audience one way and then twist it.
Finally in the words of the CEO Marc Madnick 'Practice, practice, practice."