The First Annual Screenwriting Expo: A Detailed Overview
By Samantha Plotkin and Adriane Fleming
Creative Screenwriting, and Promise Technologies LLC (a conference organizer) held their first Screenwriting Expo, on November 16th and 17th, 2002, at the Los Angeles Convention Center. More than 130 intensive workshops were given by industry professionals. The events and workshops were held over two days, with topics ranging from “Schmoozing 101” to “The Essential Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters.”
Creative Screenwriting had Storybay, Final Draft, Robert McKee to help sponsor the event. According to a Press Release on the event, this was the largest conference and trade show ever held for screenwriters. The original projection was 1,000 attendees for the Expo. It far exceeded the projected expectations for attendance when over 3,000 people came from all over the United States to take part in the event.
According to Jeff Goldsmith, a writer for Creative Screenwriting and the facilitator for the interview with Scott Rosenberg, the reason why Creative Screenwriting decided to put on the Expo was, “To actually do one of these conferences that writers could afford to go to.”
The two days at the Expo were broken up into two-hour time slots. There were twelve different workshops being offered at the same time, in addition to presentations by a keynote speaker, and also an on-site screenplay contest. Anyone could register for and compete in the screenplay contest. The screenplay contest’s first round were on Saturday and the final rounds were on Sunday.
At the same time, Creative Screenwriting and Scr(i)pt magazine co-sponsored a "pitch fest" where participants had access to development executives from thirty “top production companies” and could try their hand at pitching. If attendees needed help brushing up on their pitching skills they could attend one of several pitch workshops such as, "Selling Your Idea To Hollywood With Pitch King Robert Kosberg."
In addition to all of this, there was a trade show room set up with a number of booths filled with industry professionals selling everything from screenwriting software to script analysis (all at very reasonable prices). To top it off, used screenwriting books and accessories were auctioned off during both days.
“It was important for us to give screenwriters access to people they usually don’t have access to,” Goldsmith said. “The goal of the Expo was to inspire people and to get screenwriters out of their offices and away from their computers.”
“So they could actually meet each other and learn new techniques, and to network,” he said. “It’s important to get people to actually meet each other because writing is a very lonely profession.”
The Guests of Honor
The Guests of Honor who agreed to speak at the Expo were Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile), Scott Rosenberg (Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, Beautiful Girls), David O. Russell, (Spanking the Monkey, Flirting with Disaster), Bruce Joel Rubin (Jacob’s Ladder, Ghost), David Goyer (Death Warrant, Dark City), Richard Matheson (Somewhere in Time, Duel), Harlan Ellison (The Twilight Zone, Best American Short Stories) and surprise guest of honor (added November 7th), Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Chicago).
Erik Bauer, the Expo’s Coordinator and Managing Editor of Creative Screenwriting, said the guests of honor had donated their time and money to talk at the Expo. Bauer said about the guests, “It’s just a real testament to the people we invited, that every one of them showed up, which was just incredible.”
Bauer then shared an interesting story about what happened after Frank Darabont gave his talk.
“We provided limos for the guests of honor,” Bauer said. “It’s funny because Frank Darabont’s office wanted to make sure there was a limo there to get him out of there once the second seminar was over. He ended up staying at least an additional hour and a half after the seminar to talk to people. And they actually sent away the limo.”
Another example of a great guest of honor at the Expo was Scott Rosenberg. Jeff Goldsmith facilitated a humorous and entertaining interview with Rosenberg.
When asked what he thought of the Expo and if it was helpful to aspiring screenwriters, Rosenberg responded,“I see a lot of the same cats at a lot of these same things.”
“But at the same time, they are important,” he said. “Because anything that gives writers a sense of community, because most of the work is done by yourself, and anything that offers a sense of shared experience is a really, really good thing and I’m all for it.”
Rosenberg said he likes doing Expos because he remembered when he was starting out, that if he went to something like it, he would have a renewed spring in his step and he would think “I can do this.”
“I think that one of the things is, you go there, and you see, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of other people trying to do this,’” he said. “And rather than let it get you down, like, ‘Wow, how am I going to make it? There’s so many other people.’ Rather (you should) get a feeling of community. I think in such a lonely endeavor as writing is, that’s a really good thing.”
Among the workshops at the Expo, two were taught by Rachel Ballon. She conducted, “The Inside Story: Writing What Hollywood Wants to Buy” and “Marketing Yourself, Marketing Your Script.”
When asked what it was like to conduct a workshop for the Expo, Ballon responded, “For me personally, it was exciting to reach people and touch people who maybe have never heard me speak before.”
“People appreciated my presentation because they got a lot of information about themselves and how to deal with rejection,” she said.
One of the main points that Ballon made in her workshop, “The Inside Story: What Hollywood Wants to Buy,” was to “write the best script that you can from your heart.”
Ballon’s revealed in a later discussion with Moviebytes that another of the main points that she wanted to get across in her workshops was, “Your passion for writing should be strong enough that it transcends rejection.”
Another presenter at the Expo was Michael Hauge. According to the Expo pamphlet, Hauge is “one of the most sought-after screenwriting lecturers throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe.”
Hauge taught the workshops, “The Telephone Pitch: How to Sell Your Screenplay in 60 seconds,” and “Writing Love Stories and Romantic Comedies.”
At his workshop, “Writing Love Stories and Romantic Comedies,” Hauge gave the advice that when you’re writing a love story or romantic comedy, “You have to make your audience fall in love with them too (the romantic interest in your script).”
He also advised, “If the top two hundred movie money-makers didn’t do it successfully, then don’t do it, until you’re successful.”
Next Year’s Expo
The overwhelming success of this year’s Expo has guaranteed that there will be another Expo next year. According to Richard Krevolin, one of the Expo’s workshop presenters, plans are already in the works on how the Expo can be improved.
“We’re talking about different changes to make it run more smoothly,” Krevolin said.
According to the Expo’s Coordinator, Erik Bauer, some of these changes will include: the Expo will be three days instead of two, there will be online registration to avoid the lines and there will be even more “big name” speakers.
Krevolin also said he thought the Expo was an amazing opportunity for writers of all different levels to have access to the best teachers in the business.
“As a very low-priced Expo, it was very democratic that anyone interested could come,” Krevolin said.
Bauer said next year’s Expo will still be low-priced, and another amazing opportunity for any aspiring screenwriter who wants to come.
Adriane Fleming has worked on several independent films from art department to budgeting. She recently produced the music series "CD Highway" for PBS and is currently developing new projects. Adriane can be reached at ScribblesEtc@aol.com