Screenwriting Expo 2009 (Day 4)

We’re on the home stretch now. The expo fatigue has set in. Can we make it? Yes we can. Today was my easy day.

I kicked off with John Truby plugging his book on Blockbuster Story techniques, followed by the ever insightful Dr Linda Seger who discussed deepening and layering your characters. She’s not hot, she’s sultry! Throughout the expo the workshops were classified according to audience; all, beginner (for our fresh faced comrades), advanced (for those who have written at least one script), advanced plus (for those who had written a few scripts), and pro (for those who have optioned at least one script). So there really was something for everyone. The pro series dealt mainly with the business of screenwriting, pitching to production companies and networks.

In the afternoon, I attended the guests of honor William Goldman and John Cleese (Fawlty Towers) with more than six decades of entertainment industry between them. Mr Goldman issued profanity throughout and Mr Cleese was no less hilarious. I hope I’m that sharp when I hit their age. They were so giving and inspiring with their spirit. Both admitted that the film industry is in a difficult place and will be starting from ground zero. So while costs of distribution through the cinema system remain annoyingly high, we have other online, VOD and direct to DVD emerging as viable platforms.  John Cleese had a penchant for people asking questions wearing  purple dresses and he thanked us all for noticing his brilliance. Just don’t mention the war!

Next, I had the pleasure of listening to another veteran, Mike Medavoy. From his humble beginnings as a mail room assistant in a big agency, he became a producer of films like “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, Zodiac and the upcoming Martin Scorsese directed film “Shutter Island”. Mike discussed the difficulties facing both the studio system (3 studios heads were fired in the past month alone) and the independent system, which lacks the financial muscle to distribute their films. While the typical cost of a studio film has ballooned to $130 million, the additional P & A costs hover around the $40- 50 million mark. However, after the great economic floods have cleared, there will be renewal and growth.

The evening continued with the screenwriting award ceremony and a closing social event to which I was not privy.


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