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Day One at the ScreenCraft Writers Summit in Atlanta

When I first heard about the ScreenCraft Writers Summit in Atlanta a few months ago, I wanted to shout about it.  Anyone is awestruck if I start listing the credits of the panelists. They’ve created a lot of the content I’ve flipped over in recent years. I had thought about making notecards and memorizing the faces and bios of the panelists. But I ran out of time. I’d rather sleep. That’s probably for the best. The panelists are awesome, but this event is about more than a few stunning resumes.  

I’ve been a fan of the ScreenCraft brand for a while. Their mission of connecting screenwriters to feedback is so useful, no matter what stage your script is in. And their contests have delivered real results that have taken screenwriters to the next level.  

I was talking to a man at the Reception who had won a ScreenCraft contest a few years ago. He’s still in touch and getting great advice from the leaders there. After getting advice from them remotely for years, he’s looking forward to meeting them in person. 

I’m especially glad that this event is in my hometown, a state and city that I’ve been advocating since I moved back here two years ago. The exuberant press about Georgia is true. Atlanta has the best production community in the world, and a lot of great storytellers. 

But we’re often stalled when we try to tell our own stories instead of producing someone else’s.  I want our creative opportunities to match those in Los Angeles, and we’re still a ways away.  So this has been my job and my personal mission for a few years, elevating the local screenwriting and above-the-line community.

Through the Black List Happy Hour, the Georgia Film Academy, and tons of coffee meetings, I’ve been cheerleading screenwriters.  I love doing writing exercises, swapping writing strategies, trading notes, and sharing all kinds of scripts.  We’re developing a community that holds itself accountable, keeping track of goals and the work it will take to get there.  We are a positive, infectious community, that intends to become an unstoppable creative force. And then Whoa. It will be awesome.  

So this is the community that’s delighting in the Writers Summit. Our delightful community will meet with the experience of Hollywood’s best.  Or, that’s the thesis as I see it. I lived in Los Angeles for four years, and learned a lot, but needed a change of scenery. In Atlanta, I got a chance to advocate for my hometown, and champion other people’s stories. I learned the ropes of the industry in LA but found my voice in Atlanta.  Both cities are home to me, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of their inhabitants colliding.  

The reception was fun. The room was loud and full of people. It put the attendees of the Atlanta Film Society and the ScreenCraft Writers Summit together.  Even when I was tired and overwhelmed, it was a great time. I got a nice Manhattan, but the conversations were too good for me to savor it.  I got an “I make films like a girl” pin that I wear on a lanyard. I’m wearing three lanyards now. I jangle. In a group of men, we talked about genre-specific gender imbalances. The group agreed with me, and had some points I hadn’t heard before.  

It’s been a great day. I was anxious about the weekend. I’ve been on alert all day, my heart beating faster, and always talking too quickly. When I get anxious I become a perfectionist, and I don’t want to admit that perfection isn’t going to happen in the way I planned this weekend. I got an inspirational speech from my booth-mate, telling me that mistakes are okay. And the crowd has a positive, open vibe that is refreshing. It reassures me and counteracts my anxious monkey mind.  

I’m still speaking too quickly. And I may never completely give up on perfection. But I’m happy to see what the weekend has in store. Today I was in a room filled to bursting with word and story geeks.  This is my tribe.  Horray!  And there are three more days to go.

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.