Tuesday, August 25, 2009

To Expo or not to Expo

if you're on Creative Screenwriting's mailing list you've probably been inundated with emails from them of late. Expo is upon us once more, and it's time to make some decisions.

For two years I volunteered at Expo, and the second year I had an awesome time as the volunteer coordinator's gofer, so I got to really see the thing from the inside out in a year when organization at the top was nonexistent. For the next two years I volunteered as Bill Martell's assistant, which was great because I got snuck into a part with free booze and got to sit in on Bill's classes, which are always terrific. Unfortunately Bill is all booked up this year and can't make it, more's the pity. So now I have a decision to make: volunteer again, pay, or don't go?

For new writers the Expo is an absolute must if you can. The interviews with successful writers, the workshops offered by some of the teachers, the networking opportunities - all of these things are a huge benefit to a growing writer who may feel overwhelmed by all the wheels you have to spin to get this career going.

I highly recommend the Expo to new writers. Highly.

But for me, I just don't see the sense in paying for another year at Expo, and volunteering has been handled poorly in the past, so I'm not sure I want to deal with that again. I entered Not Dead Yet in the contest, although now I'm not sure that was a good idea since I've been hearing some negative feedback from last year's winners. Still, the emails coming from CS seem to indicate some of those problems have been solved. Winners last year got their money, it would seem, but none of the promised industry exposure, which is the real prize. So I don't know.

But if you're a finalist you get tickets to the Expo anyway.

Then there's the Open. I almost considered going just for the day to do the Open, but then CS came up with a pretty brilliant new plan for that. You can now enter the Open from anywhere in the world. And I love me some Open.

The Open, for the uninitiated, is a three-part contest that in the past has taken place during the Expo. You pay $10 would go into a very cold room with 100 others and then some volunteer would hand you a prompt. You have an hour and a half to write the best scene possible within the given conditions. You get your scene back a few hours later with coverage and a score. The top 3-5% return the next day and do it again, and the top 3 of those get their scenes produced on stage. Then the audience votes for the winner. It's a terrific exercise. I've done it the past two years, gotten a higher score each year and some good thorough coverage.

This year they're changing things up by making the Open an online task. They'll send you the first prompt before the Expo and you email in your response. Then the second round is done over a weekend. The third is done during the Expo. I like it. Julie Gray and John August have similar contests on a regular basis and it's always a terrific learning experience. And this way you get coverage no matter how high you place.

So I'm just going to stay home Expo weekend and enter the Open contest, unless of course I win with Not Dead Yet.


  1. Yeah, I'm skipping it.
    Didn't enter anything this year.
    And the online open thing, I don't think I like it. I kinda dug being in a room with all these other people doing the same thing. And entertaining myself waiting for the results.

  2. yet another reason why this my last winter outside of LA.

    I've been to the FadeIn events but it's too expensive to do a lot from NYC.

  3. I'm going because I have to see how a certain someone will scerw up my chances THIS time.
    just kidding. not really. no, I am.
    I signed up and THEN they had that whole long-distance idea...which sounds like a great idea, doesn't it?


    But that's not the only reason to go. There's seeing Bill of salmon BBQ fame and some of the workshops are good. I always get a burst of focus from going, until...last year (shudder).
    So, I'll do the on-site thhin and the web thing. Why not?

  4. Sorry - I don't think the Raindance Int'l Film Fest or the Hong Kong Film Academy would let be bring an assistant (and if they did, um, I'd be looking for a Polish starlet to help me).

    Can someone else smuggle you in? And get you in to those parties?

    Heck, Fun Joel lives halfway around the world, now!

    - Bill

  5. You clearly did not think of me when you scheduled your prior engagements. I will not forget this.

    I guess I'll just have to sell some screenplays so they'll let me in for free next time.

  6. We're still pondering the Expo...

    And we'll more than likely go, albeit without buying Gold Passes this year. The event appears to be downsized a fair amount...

    And we'll probably skip the networking parties...

    And do another night of drinks at the Cat & Fiddle!!

    (Sorry, Bill... but you'll have to suffer with really fresh Guinness in London)

    -Jim Sullivan


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