Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Expo 6 recommendations

It appears I will be attending the Expo after all as Bill Martell's assistant. So if anybody wants to drop by and say hi (or slap me in the face if you've been part of the Great Irony debate over at Wordplayer), I'll be where he is during the Saturday and Sunday sessions. And you want to sit in on Bill's seminars anyway because they're worth the $5.

If it's your first time at Expo let me give you a hand deciding what's worth your money.

I don't recommend bothering with the pitch fest unless you just want to hone your skill in pitching. Out of the insane amount of people pitching, maybe one will end in a sale. Most of the execs there don't want to talk to you and aren't being very well compensated. Listening to other people pitch at this thing, however, is a valuable education. If you can, take some time and just listen and cringe. Or you can watch this educational video.

If you're good at writing on the fly, try the Open contest. It's only $8 and is a great test of skill. This will be the first year I'm going to try it.

Most of the guests of honor are worth sitting in on, especially since you don't have to pay extra to see them speak. You learn a great deal from just listening to the experiences from successful writers. My favorite interview ever was last year's conversation between Harlan Ellison and Ron Moore, which was more like an informative comedy routine than boring interview. You should also make sure you sit in on William Goldman and listen to his great wisdom and crankiness. He's fantastic and has enough clout to tell it exactly like it is.

As for the classes, most of them are a waste of your time. The speakers spend all their time dealing in common sense. But there are a few gems that are very much worth the time and money:

Bill Martell
Two years ago I sat in on about 5 classes and felt like I actually learned something from one of them. Bill was that one. He's sold screenplays that have been produced and he runs the Script Secrets website with a daily tip that never fails to make me think of my script in new ways. He's great, and I'm not just saying that because I'll be selling his CDs after each seminar for a low price that you can easily afford because I'm saving you money right now by telling you what not to waste your dollars on.

Joel Haber
Joel's a personal friend, but also the most enthusiastic human being I think I've ever met. He brings that enthusiasm to the classroom where he waxes excited about what makes scripts work. It's basically a literary criticism course from the perspective of the studio reader, which is a job Joel has held for many years. He knows what will get past the reader because he was one, and now he is also a professional writer working on his first feature film.

Tim Minear
This one's a big favorite for anyone interested in television. In case you haven't heard, Tim Minear has written for and created some great TV shows including Firefly and The Inside. Tim treats the class like a writer's room and uses a white board to take story ideas from the group. He goes through what works and what doesn't, and breaks down what it takes to get from idea to episode. If you want to write for television you absolutely must sit in on his seminar. He's also a super swell guy. Last year he went to lunch surrounded by writers asking questions which he patiently answered, then he came back from lunch early to work a little extra time with the class.

Fran Harris
Last year one of my many jobs was to sit in a room and keep things going while that room's volunteer ran off to the bathroom. I sat in on about a dozen different classes and hers was the only one I didn't want to leave. She was amazing. In this particular case she was having people stand up and pitch their films, then the class would critique the pitch. Sometimes it was pretty harsh so bring a thick skin, but it was excellent advice and the woman is definitely not boring. I saw her later when I was overseeing lunch distribution and I told her how fantastic I thought her class was. She was very modest and pleasant and kinda sparkley. She's an empowerment coach and she empowered everybody in that room, including me.

These are the people I recommend because I've had personal experience with them. But there are other speakers I've heard good things about even though I haven't seen them speak myself.

Maggie highly recommends Bill Marsili. I've also heard good things about Jeff Kitchen and Karl Iglesias, and this year Syd Field himself will be there. I also noticed Chris Soth is on the list. I will be checking him out for sure.

Anybody got any other recommendations? Feel free to discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly.


  1. LOL re: The Great Irony debate!

    I checked Mon and that thread had 2 innocuous posts, today, 70 something.

    You (and Scott) were correct about trying to define the two terms properly. And Terry was sloppy in his definitions. That's a surprise, he's usually very precise.

    I try not to get in online debates, people can get so bullheaded. It's hard to have a friendly discussion cuz of all the egos. Everyone wants to be right.

    Have fun w/ Bill at Expo!

  2. Now that I'm finally back in the country, I'm catching up on my blog reading. Wanted to say thanks for the shout out and recommendation. In turn, I will second your recommendation re: Bill Martell. His classes are great!


Please leave a name, even if it's a fake name. And try not to be an asshole.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.