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$75.95 means you can afford to go
If you can’t be bothered to read this you should probably give up script writing and script reading right now and go and do something that people really need like medicine, civil engineering or air traffic control. A bit harsh I know, but then I trained in the Brit school that forged people like Simon Cowell who tell it like it is with harsh realities, "you can’t sing and you ain’t never going to be able to sing." And there are similarities between the chances of winning American Idol and getting your script to become a major feature film hit.
So does writing a script require as much natural talent as singing? I suspect not, but I am sure it requires as much passion as the, “Oh my God, you don’t know what this means to me” song contestants and probably much more dedication. Like a miscreant prisoner locked in solitary confinement, you will need the strength to weather the unbearable solitude of writing and the insanity of introspection it induces. Maybe you should get out more? How about talking to other scriptwriters? Now here’s the chance: the Screenwriting Expo 2010 in Los Angeles.
There are two things that disturb me a bit about script writing seminars, workshops, expos, festivals and conferences: the first is whether by mixing with the rest of the community you will be homogenized to fit into a generally agreed plan of what is good practice, which ideas are cool and which are taboo. Surely the main thing about writing is that it should be original and if you talk to people you are in serious danger of getting infected by their ideas. The second (which is really the first but I'm pretending to be intellectual) is the expense: some of these events seem to cost as much as a script advance for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. That’s an idea: how about I pay you the ticket price on commission, after my script writing hit?
So what heartens me most about the Screenwriting Expo in Los Angeles is the cost. $79.95, the basic entrance fee, tells me that the organizers totally understand the impoverished life of the average freelance script writer. At the moment, on parole from solitary confinement, I’m writing in a café and have been pondering whether to splash out on a slice of banana cake with my coffee for ten minutes. I am fat but my wallet is slim.
Mind you, like seeing a cheap flight to Australia in the travel office window, the price quoted on the opening conference web page for the four day package mysteriously changes to $99.95 when you place an online order. The basic ticket does not include any extras (hence the term ‘basic’ I imagine) and you will have to buy separate tickets for workshops at about $6 or $30 for the evening parties, which are of course essential. You can get an Expo Golden Pass for $299.95, which is $300 to any straight thinking person not swayed by marketing genius of a very generous 5 cent discount. But believe me, these prices are proverbial peanuts compared to equivalent events which have far fewer than the 150 or so things to do at this Expo.
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Scriptwriters Anonymous: the power of a self-help group
As you may have noted, one of the things to watch out for in your media career, is getting bitter and twisted. The only person being cynical hurts is you and the ever-diminishing circle of friends you will bore. So more than the low cost, the best reason to go to events like the Screenwriting Expo in Los Angeles is to gain the positive strength that a therapy group can give. You are among friends: it’s OK to admit that you wrote about being gay in Poland or the last days of a cancer patient just because you needed to tap a rich vein of human interest. (OK don’t mention the cancer patient, maybe say you love Plan 9 From Outer Space instead).
They say that if everyone in L.A. dropped their scripts on the floor at once there would be an earthquake. At the Screenwriting Expo it would be possible to test this out. In 2007, there were more than 8000 scripts pitched. I think they should have one session where the 8000 or so writers stand on a stage and drop their scripts on the count of three. Then someone from the Guinness Book of Records could give a precise Richter magnitude of the combined impact using a scriptometer. It would at least provide a measure of success for the Expo, year to year.
Apart from the seismic script contest (also called the Golden Pitch Festival, another extra cost to enter) there are some great guest speakers you can quiz. They do genuinely seem interesting even if I have never heard of them: the up-and-coming director/writer, John August, who made the film, The Nines (what?), and Shane Black who got a record breaking check of $4 million for the script of The Long Kiss Goodnight. Try to resist asking them a question which isn’t really a version of, “how can I be you?”
There are some great titles for workshops that I'd love to go to, such as, "how to get through script re-write hell". Then there’s also some competitions to enter as well as software and stuff you can buy to write scripts, which I imagine are about as useful as an avocado slicer in cooking.
The Screenwriting Expo in Los Angeles is for scriptwriters of all sorts and if you have finished reading this that could be you I guess. There are also quite a few potential producers looking for scripts. Now, as you have guessed, the main problem with script writing is the huge number of people trying to do it. Worldwide there are less than a few hundred features made a year and maybe a few thousand TV shows. More are from Bollywood than Hollywood. A handful of those projects will make you rich and most will be done for love not money. There are at least ten thousand people going to the Screenwriting Expo in Los Angeles, so, "do the math," as they say. But if I can’t persuade you to be an air traffic controller, I'll see you there.
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Screenwriting Expo in Los Angeles Application and Further Info: