Monday, October 23, 2006

How I spent my weekend, part two

First off, let me establish that this post will teach you nothing about screenwriting. This is all about the visceral experience of running around next to the guy who's next to the guy who runs the show. If you want the vicarious Expo educational experience, check out Maggie's posts. Hers are far more filled with useful information. I am filled with something else entirely.

That said, I give you...


There weren't enough volunteers Saturday as some people neglected to show up. So while there were supposed to be two or three "break roamers", people who run around to give the volunteers the occasional bathroom break or to disseminate information, instead there was just me.

So I'm thinking, break roamer. Okay. I'll get to sit in on classes in snippets as I casually go from room to room all day.

Hell no.

So this is how I ended up with a walkie-talkie and an attitude, unintentionally making people think I worked for the magazine.

Let me tell you something about Volunteer Coordinator (VC). For some reason he doesn't want credit for anything so I'm not going to say his name, but I can't let his contribution go unnoticed. Without VC the building would have imploded. Chaos would have erupted, dogs and cats would be permanently cohabitating, there'd have been anarchy. There were complaints all day long about the crowded rooms, the temperature, the parking, the food, the building layout, the cost, a million other things that weren't under VC's control. Not once did I hear this man raise his voice to anyone. Even when he was confronted with thirty people shouting his name and tugging on his sleeve, he dealt with every single one of them fairly and honestly and without malice, and he did it all for a paltry sum. He's a truly decent human being and anybody who was there owes him more than you realize. I feel lucky to have been his sidekick.

The Pixar thing was packed to ridiculous proportions as the line of people overflowed out the door and around a piece of the building. Fortunately, the planners had called for overflow rooms all over the building. Unfortunately, the audio feed was absolute shit. That kept pretty busy the A/V guys and girl, who were very cool, hard-working people who never stopped going all day. I didn't hear much of the Pixar presentation, but I understand it went pretty well. I occasionally went by a room and heard the audio and they were doing a bunch of stuff about Toy Story. I have no idea what else they did because I was racing pell-mell from one place to the other bringing people water and information, answering questions and generally handling whatever minor irritations seemed to keep buzzing their way into the volunteer room.

Eventually I got a walkie-talkie. People look at you differently when you have a walkie-talkie. Ever want instant respect? Put one of those on your waist band. Ever want to be hated? Make sure you have the volume way up when you open the creaky door and walk into a postage stamp sized classroom to look around while the teacher is revealing the secrets of the universe.

There were three main areas where lunch boxes were distributed, so I was put in charge of one of them. If you bought a Gold Pass or a lunch ticket you got a box and permission to see the speaker. If you didn't pay ahead of time, you were on your own. No speaker for you.

There was no speaker in the room where I was, but it said there was on everybody's ticket. So I told the people in line that they could get their food but the speaker, Michael Arndt, would be in another room and simulcast just like the Pixar stuff. People grumbled but accomodated.

Then another volunteer came up and told me the speaker would in fact be in the room. I announced that to all the people in the line and they happily got their lunches and sat down.

Then VC came up and told me the speaker would be in another room and simulcast and there would be nothing going on in the room where I was. So I announced that to the room. For some reason, they didn't pelt me with their veggie sandwiches. Some even thanked me for being so quick with the information. I must have some kind of charming voodoo I didn't know about.

I believe this was about the time the people got stuck in the elevator. There were firemen. It was funny, though probably not for the people who were in there. Everybody was a little afraid to go to the 18th floor after that, especially when the A/V guys almost got stuck in it again.

After lunch is a blur to me. I don't remember it, just that I was really tired later and collapsed on the floor in a heap. Somewhere in cyberspace there is a picture of me laying in a chair, a thousand-yard-stare planted on my face, my mouth wide open and possibly drooling.

I ate three large cookies, a turkey sandwich with brussel sprouts and drank about fifty-seven Pepsis during the day. My stomach hates me.

Friday and Saturday we shared the Marriott with Concord Law School. That was a big pain in the ass and we wouldn't have had nearly as many problems or all those tiny rooms had we not had to give up rooms to the law school. But just before Pixar let out the 900 or so people watching the post-lunch presentation, a 50-year class reunion began in the hallway. Fortunately they moved into a ballroom just before the presentation ended, but for half an hour they blocked the only route of escape from the ballroom floor. Several of us were trying to figure out how we could steal some of their drinks from the bar. We did not succeed.

Then there was the networking party. You had to buy tickets to that, but the party started early and we were tired, so I'm sure we missed some people. If you got free artichoke pizza, bully for you. Drinks were still at least $5.50.

Some of the volunteers got together and played "two truths and a lie." That's how I learned that I suck at that game. I got every single one wrong. That's at least 20 times I fell for a lie. People were purposely guessing against me. Then I got one right just as the bar closed, and that was the signal that it was time to go. The bar closed at 11. Why did the bar close at 11? I don't know.

I had so much fun and met such cool people I volunteered to do it again Sunday. Or maybe I just hate myself.

By the way, a bunch of people have been asking why the Expo wasn't held at the Convention Center this year. The answer is simply that it was all booked-up in advance. According to the guy in charge of A/V, who busted his ass this weekend for minimal thank-yous, the Convention Center isn't that great a prize anyway. Perhaps if we hadn't been sharing the Marriott with a law school and the geriatric crew, people would be complaining a lot less.

Tomorrow, SUNDAY.


  1. Not a comment, just a rhetorical observation (if there is such a thing!)
    Why, oh why, did they schedule the Expo and the AFF - and Austin Screenwriter's Conference - for the same weekend?

  2. Hey Emily,
    I must have seen you in the volunteer room and not put two and two together! I was very, very impressed too with the vc who shall remain nameless because he is a classy human being, not a power hungry guy running the show. I enjoyed the networking and the classes of course, but mainly I enjoyed being around such a large group of people on their way in the industry in some capacity. It was interesting to take a look around and assess the facts of who will make it and who will not... and what really does "making it" mean after all? Lots to think about and process. Hopefully we'll get to meet up soon.


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