The last day of the ScreenCraft Writers Summit feels strange and lovely. It was cold this morning and I’m much calmer than the other days. I don’t feel as exhausted now as I did in the middle. I don’t think there’s any tangible difference, I just don’t want to let go. If a new panel was announced now, I’d run over.
So, I’d like to note as much as I can about my experience this weekend, which has been an incredible whirl. Eric Heisserer said that he’s very organized, and I’d like to follow his example. He has more precise advice, but I’ll get to that later. To start, I’d like to notate everything tangible I can remember right now from the weekend, in descending order.
I took a lot of notes at the panels I did intend, and I’m going to organize them so that I have the inspiration and advice I’ll need later. Infinite might be too big of a number. Let’s say 732 nuggets of wisdom.
300+ GIFT BAGS
I packed over 300 gift bags with Luna Bars, Pop Chips, Bacon’s Heir Pork Clouds, inspirational quotes from Sugarboo & Co, and merch from Jacob Krueger, Roadmap Writers, and the Austin Film Festival. It was fun to hand over the bags, along with the badges at check-in, and see people’s surprise.
17 CASUAL PITCHES
In conversations, when it came up organically, I pitched the script I’m working on. I got positive responses each time, people engaging with the material. That’s what I want to hear! Hooray!
11.5 MILES WALKED
The Summit was organized well, with all the venues easily within walking distance from each other. So, outside of exercise, I walked 11.5 miles, adding all four days together.
8 BUSINESS CARDS
I only kept the cards for the people I’ll follow up with. There were some really interesting smart people in attendance, they felt like kindred spirits. There are four more people I knew already, who I made plans to meet with soon.
That sounds reasonable!
I loved the panels I went to, I learned a lot. Because I was working for the summit for most of the time, there were many panels I still missed. People raved about everything they went to, so I’m going to stalk footage and notes. Still, I have a ton of new people I admire, and new strategies to pursue.
Today I went to three panels, including an Atlanta Film Festival Masterclass with Jason Reitman. The Writing Genre Panel for Screencraft was great. I finally learned why it seemed like every topic was “genre” and “genre” was still used to reference niche concepts. I now have a definition for Genre too! Or, I know what it’s not. Eric Heisserer said that non-genre is a story that doesn’t require a suspension of belief.
It was cool to have a panel filled with people who had success with different types of stories, I’m always rephrasing my pitch for my voice when I enjoy so many genre mashups.
Every day I’d end up at Sweet Auburn, the barbecue restaurant next door to the events. Once I was there twice in one day. The food was delicious, it was a great place to unwind. I’m best friends with the waitresses now. The out-of-towners were impressed with the food, which was nice to hear, I’m a little obsessed with Atlanta’s barbecue scene.
5 HOURS OF SLEEP
Generally, each night. This was a combo of things, socializing, anxiety, writing, and exercising in the morning. I’m still awake, I feel energetic now. But I’m looking forward to getting back to my old sleep schedule.
4 SKILLS LEARNED
Or, new skills I attempted. I pitched. I gathered sponsorships for the gift bag. I wrote prose for this. And I tried harder at social media, both Instagram and Twitter. I’m usually a once-a-year social media person, and this weekend I bombarded my accounts with material. It was fun, I think I’m figuring it out. I was worried that I needed to be devastatingly clever for each post, but I think I can start with positivity and connections, and see if I can do clever another time.
Three ScreenCraft Mixers, and one Atlanta Film Festival party. The people were great, I saw some friends I already loved and started conversations with new people. It was a great place to exchange experiences from the day. The bar was appreciated.
2 STORY CHANGES
I got great advice when I pitched formally, and I’m changing one character arc, and shifting the focus to her instead of doing a two-hander. I love how professionals can see pitches and see problem areas and potential solutions, and make it look easy. I can do this pretty often for other people’s work, but not my own. I already know the five major problems I’ve already fixed, so I lose steam and can’t see the remaining flaws.
4 ITEMS ACCUMULATED
I have a juice, a bottle of barbecue sauce, and two pins from Lynne Hansen in different colors that say “Make films like a girl.” I might see if there are any t-shirts left.
I gave an introduction to the Table Reads of the Atlanta Film Festival’s winning scripts for their screenplay completion. I knew I wanted to make an announcement, but the full introduction was a last-minute arrangement. I’m learning how to project to a crowd when the microphone isn’t working, that’s new.
I need to make sure I follow through and ensure that the lessons last for longer than the weekend. That’s up to me, ScreenCraft has handed me an incredible amount of inspiration and advice to work with. Eric Heisserer said that he has a sit down with his representatives every year, where they make a one and three-year plan and list what everyone needs to do to get there. And every month he sends around a document listing all of the monthly updates – what’s been written, meetings taken, and what should be done next month. I like this accountability. I feel organized, but I’m nowhere near this level of badass organization.
I want to pass this on, not just so we write more lists, but so that we recognize where we are and what we’ve accomplished already. If you enjoy the process of writing, I think that’s an awesome victory, an outlet and companion that many people don’t possess. I think we’re on the right road. No matter if we end up at the exact goal we had pictured. So, make lists. Formalize in some way how your team will hold each other accountable. And if you put these accomplishments and goals on a page, you may not feel so lost in the swirly journey of screenwriting.
"Embark on the next thing with as much optimism and stupidity as you started with." @MAXBORENSTEIN thanks for the inspiration! #screencraft
— Charlotte Stauffer (@goodwonky) April 14, 2018
ScreenCraft has delivered a fantastic experience this weekend. After four days here, I’m inspired, happy, and motivated to hustle in more productive ways. I had a fabulous time, even in the low-key moments working the event. And I’m looking forward to seeing what ScreenCraft next year, I’ll definitely sign up to see it.
Charlotte Stauffer is an Atlanta-born screenwriter. She’s currently working at the Georgia Film Academy, and running a table read series called The Page On Stage with the Atlanta Film Society.