May has just begun, but I’m already looking forward to the end of the month. That’s because ScriptFest and the Great American Pitchfest will begin on May 29. Together, these two events make one of the most important and informative screenwriting conferences of the year. Formerly known simply as the Great American Pitchfest, I had the good fortune to attend this event in years past, and I’m very excited to be taking part again this year.
Discounts for LA Screenwriter Readers
The good folks at ScriptFest have provided LA Screenwriter readers with a $25 discount on tickets to ScriptFest. That means that for just $75 you can get a full day of screenwriting classes and the chance to network with leading writers. $75 is the cost of one contest submission. A lot of these classes would go for at least that much on their own. Make an investment in your career by using discount code LASCREENWRITER25 at checkout.
5 Chances to Attend ScriptFest for Free
ScriptFest has provided us with 5 free passes to ScriptFest that we’re going to be giving away over the course of the month. Last week, we raffled off passes to two lucky entrants of the May Logline Competition. Congratulations Sedona Ferreto, Allie Yohn, and Barbara Rodriguez! See you at ScriptFest.
We’re also starting a Comment Contest. Leave comments on your favorite LA Screenwriter posts between now and Wednesday, May 20. The two best comments will win a free pass to ScriptFest!
Congrats to Jon Miller and Ren Fondren, winners of the Comment Contest!
What You’ll Find at ScriptFest
ScriptFest happens on May 30 and is comprised of a full day screenwriting classes led by some of the most influential teachers and professionals in the industry. Screenwriting coach Pilar Alessandra will be on hand, as will comedy guru Steve Kaplan. Jen Grisanti will be teaching attendees how to write a pilot that works, and perhaps most exciting of all, the one and only Diablo Cody will sit on a panel with a few other prominent Black List writers discussing her career.
I last had the chance to attend ScriptFest in 2011. I ended up taking prolific notes all day long, meeting fellow writers, and sharing some of the lessons I learned here on LA Screenwriter.
Here are just a few snippets of what I learned. Click on the titles to read the full articles.
People are looking for you. But they can only find you if you put yourself out there. Join a writing group, go to conferences, go to screenwriting events, volunteer at festivals, submit to contests, and always have your pitch ready to go. The industry can’t find you if you don’t help them out a bit.
Your odds of finding success in television (and film) go up dramatically the more you write. Being a prolific writer is key.
When writing a spec script, don’t make the show better. Make it fresh, certainly. But don’t go changing things or trying to make it something other than it is. Leave all current relationships just as they are. Your spec script should be able to slip into the series as an episodic piece without really being noticed. This shows that you can take on the voice of the show and support its vision. Trying to mold it to your own vision is taken as an insult and won’t get you anywhere. In a pilot, go crazy.
Keith Giglio led a great session at last weekend’s Great American Pitchfest on R-rated comedies. At the top of the session, Keith pointed out that comedies are the easiest sells in Hollywood – they don’t require A-list talent (in fact, they tend to make stars), they’re cheap to shoot, easy to market, and they make a lot of money. As Keith put it, comedies are “the quickest way to Oz.”
At their core, R-comedies are about primal human urges – love, sex, hate, success. R-comedy is the only genre in which “a guy wants to get laid” is a perfectly acceptable hero’s journey (40 Year Old Virgin). Usually in the end R-rated comedies come down to something deeper, but the ending is still always going to be about something innate to human nature, something any audience member should be able to connect to.
Erik Bork, Emmy-winning television writer and producer was on hand at the Great American Pitchfest last weekend. He taught a great class entitled Throwing Rocks at Your Main Character: How to Keep Your Story Moving Forward. The title came from a famous George M. Cohan quote: “In the first act you get your hero up a tree. The second act, you throw rocks at him. For the third act you let him down.”
Erik underscored the fact that every feature film, regardless of the genre, needs a compelling central problem that will drive the story from beginning to end. He also noted that ‘conflict’ – which any good script should be full of – doesn’t necessarily mean interpersonal conflict, i.e. fighting. It just means problems.
Practicing Your Pitch
After ScriptFest comes the main event, the Great American Pitchfest. This year GAPF has brought together over a hundred companies who are looking for writers to represent or scripts to option. Now, more likely than not, the vast majority of screenwriters who attend GAPF aren’t going to walk away from the event with a new manager or an option. But a few will. And everyone will walk away with real experience pitching their scripts.
That’s the real benefit of GAPF. It’s a chance to practice your all-important pitching skills — skills which most of us need a LOT of help developing — so that when you do have a chance to take a meeting in LA, you’ll be ready.
The day before the Pitchfest at Scriptfest, a number of classes focus on the art of pitching, giving you a chance to refine your ideas and ensure that you come across as professionally as possible. As with screenwriting, in pitching practice makes perfect. So take this great chance to practice!
Say Hello at ScriptFest
LA Screenwriter contributor Emily Jermusyk and myself will be on hand at ScriptFest. If you see either of us wandering around, be sure to come over and say hello.
If you’re a shy person, don’t worry — I’m shy, too. We can say hello and be socially awkward together. And then we can go home and tell our friends that we “networked.” It’s a win-win.
Get your ScriptFest pass today for $25 off with code LASCREENWRITER25.