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Spirit of Moondance Leads to Script Option

by Heath Davis Havlick

I won the Spirit of Moondance award at this year's Moondance International Film Festival for my comedy feature script, Santa Eulalia. (I know, I know; everyone hates the title but me!) I had decided to go as soon as I was named a finalist, smelling a good networking opportunity. It didn't hurt that the festival had been billed by someone as "the American Cannes" and that several films previously shown there had won Academy Awards. I packed my bags and flew to Boulder.

Flying to Boulder, renting a car and staying in the Hotel Boulderado may seem like a big expense just to network, but I had two lines of thought: 1) I was going to the festival with an option offer that would almost cover the expenses, and 2) you just never know who you're going to meet. One person I intended to meet was an agent-turned out he was the only agent there, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I checked in and got my name badge, replete with a shiny green star which denoted a winner. Just about every person I met had a starred name badge, because just about every person there was a winner. The festival's founder created a variety of awards among each category, of which there are legion: short documentary film, long documentary film, radio play, stage play, screenplays of many kinds, and so on. Most of the winners showed up; most of the non-winners did not. That's probably pretty standard.

"I sent her the script the night I got home from the festival. She read it within a week and asked if she could show it to her producer. Then she showed it to a friend who's written and directed two British comedies. They optioned the script last week."
I took a workshop the first day, "How to Get an Agent," not because I don't know how to get an agent, but because I DO. The best way to get an agent is to meet one and hope you hit it off. So, I took the workshop, where I learned more about what NOT to do than what to do. For example, don't forego a $350,000 deal on your family comedy because you, as an unknown, want to direct it yourself, only to come back to your agent a year later asking if you can get that same deal back because of course you've failed to make the film yourself. Yes, some screenwriters are really that clueless.

I also paid for a one-on-one session with this agent, who gave me valuable information on my option offer, and for his other workshop, "How Hollywood Works." He rambled a bit, but always in an entertaining way, and offered good details about the business. For instance, when working your way through the Hollywood Creative Directory, focus your efforts on the creative affairs person or the head of development. He passed out lists of good Web resources for screenwriters and explained the difference between a letter of interest and a letter of intent. And, as hoped, he asked to see my work.

And then there was the networking. As I alluded to earlier, only this one agent made an appearance at Moondance. As a friend who'd been to the festival before put it, "There's not a lot of money and power walking around." So much for the "American Cannes." However, there were plenty of writers, and writers happen to be some of my favorite people. We exchanged business cards at the workshops and exchanged ideas and battle stories over lunch and at the networking cocktail events. I met a stage director who has embarked on a second career as a screenwriter, a couple from Pennsylvania who are trying to figure out how to break into TV writing, a playwright who occasionally writes screenplays based in Asia, a lawyer who writes science fiction scripts.

I also met a lovely, sweet lady from London who'd won an award for the short version of a documentary she'd produced and directed. She sat next to me because there was nowhere else for her to sit at one of the cocktail parties. We began to chat about the film on crop circles-whose makers very loosely used the word "documentary"-we'd seen the night before, and I remarked that I had a different take on the subject as I'd written a comedy about a young man in Wales who fakes crop circles. She asked about it, so I gave her my pitch as a way to quickly explain the story's premise. To my surprise, she asked to read the script. That's a request I never turn down.

I sent her the script the night I got home from the festival. She read it within a week and asked if she could show it to her producer. Then she showed it to a friend who's written and directed two British comedies. They optioned the script last week.

So, I'd say going to the festival was worthwhile. And I'd recommend going to whatever festivals or conferences you can. Screenwriting is about so much more than writing. It starts there but then takes you into the realms of marketing and networking and business and&I'll be checking in throughout the coming year with updates on my "year after the win"-will I end up in development purgatory, or will I be flying to Europe to watch my script being filmed? Will I have time to finish my new spec or spend all hours outside my full-time job doing rewrites? We'll soon find out.

Heath Davis Havlick is an award-winning comedy screenwriter with three screenplay options. A former freelance journalist and MovieBytes contributor, she currently works in PR and marketing. She can be reached at irelandfiend@yahoo.com.


Updated: 11/11/2010
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Additional Contest Info: Moondance International Film Festival

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