Friday, October 26, 2007

I'm At Expo....

The Screenwriting Expo is on now. 3,000 - 4,000 screenwriters from all over the world at one event... along with pretty much all of the famous screenwriters in Hollywood. Oh, and I’ll be there, too.

Last year I taught 6 classes, which was a pain in the butt because all of the classes were at the other hotel. Before, when it was at the Convention Center, I might have to dash from one room to the next, but at the two airport hotels you have to dash down the street. There’s a shuttle, but it’s always just left. So I get to do a lot of running at Expo.

The plan for this year was to do 4 new classes and two old standbys. I had done two of the new classes at the Raindance Film Fest in 2006... just before last year’s Expo. The other two new classes were in the works at that time. Two reasons for doing new classes: Hey, *you* don’t want to go to the same old class, and I have audio versions of some of the old classes available, so I’d rather do something new.

But the Expo is under new management, and due to a glitch they had to go to press with the catalogue before they got my new classes... and went with the old ones.

Okay, here is my problem in a nutshell: If you took McKee’s class in 2000 and then again in 2007... it’s word-for-word the same class. He has it memorized. I hate that. I want to try to add something new all the time. The reason why the big 2 day class now has 5 different versions is so that if you were to take the class again, even though the underlying information is basically the same, you’d get a different perspective and different examples and now different film clips illustrating the points. I worry that someone who took the class before will take it again and feel like they didn’t get anything out of it the second time.

So, the big plan was to completely rework all 6 classes, starting with the Naked Character Class, which I thought had some problems last year. The problem was - I have, like, a million pages on character development (actually, well over 2 books worth) and when I set up my class notes, I duplicated some information. That had me stumbling a little bit trying to revise the class as I was teaching it.

So I did an inventory of all of my character articles, I wrote a logline kind of thing for each article on a 3x5 card, and I figured out what the class was supposed to be like... Then all I had to do was organize those 3x5s then organize the articles, then cut out any duplicate info from each individual article, then print a version for me to use in the class. Well, that was the plan. Unfortunately, it’s boring work. So... The 3x5s are still waiting for me to put them in order. Instead, I did a little more work on SLEEPER and wrote a couple of magazine articles and a couple of new Script Tips. I avoid writing by writing something else.

The other 5 classes were going to get new material - I outlined new articles for each... and I’m bringing those outlines with me. Never got around to writing the new material, but maybe I can incorporate it on the fly. That kind of depends on the amount of sleep I get and the amount of caffeine in my blood.

This may sound like I’m a lazy bastard, but the weeks leading up to Expo when I was supposed to do all of this stuff became really crowded. The staff of Script Magazine met for dinner and drinks, to discuss the course for the magazine. I ended up having more drinks than planned - I had put all the info into my phone’s calendar, and purposely put the time of the dinner a half hour early, to remind me to get my butt over the hill. The dinner was at Cat & Fiddle, a cool bar & restaurant with California-British cuisine. Huh? Well, they have fish & chips and other Brit food, plus designer burgers and things that require someone to sun dry a tomato. There’s patio dining, plus a large indoor section... and even dart boards. And they serve Guinness on tap. Well, I look at my phone, see the time of the event, and arrive a half hour before when I had it listed on my phone. That’s a full hour before the actual dinner... but I thought it was just a half hour. So I had some of that Guinness on tap. And then some more. And then I wondered where everyone was, and had another Guinness. By the time people arrived close to an hour later, I’d had 4 Guinness (or Guinnii). And I had a few more with dinner.

The weird thing is - I was fine. I think the tension of all of these deadlines and problems and, well, the fact that I need to sell a script and we’re about to go into a strike, just balanced out the beer.

Anyway, we had an interesting discussion of what we can do to make the magazine better next year - new features and new focus on the writing part of screenwriting.

And a few days later, I went to the Final Draft Big Break Party in this nightclub in Hollywood. Loud music. Disco lights. Screenwriters. Which of those things does not belong? Oliver Stone was the guest of honor and was supposed to make an inspiring speech... he ended up just saying “Be inspired!” They gave out awards to the top 3 screenwriters in the contest, and the cool thing is - pro screenwriter judges each spoke about how much they loved this writer’s script before they presented the award. So Ray Gideon (STAND BY ME) gave an award, Bruce Feirstien (GOLDENEYE) gave and award and Antoine Fisher gave an award. I wanted to track down Bruce afterwards, we have a friend in common... but he got swept outside and I lost him. Antoine was standing about 5 feet away from me. Oliver Stone was probably long gone. Lots of people I know, some I don’t know. A woman gave me a hug and said hello... I *think* I know her from a message board. My friend Robin was there, and we talked for a while. I talked with Michael Taab about the strike vote - while we were trying to hear each other over the loud music, they were counting ballots down at the WGA. I joked they should have a live counter on the video monitor behind the bar like on election night.

Then, Sunday, I went to ScreamFest horror movie festival to see my friend Anthony’s new film HEADLESS, which you can all watch on Saturday night on the Sci Fi Channel. I actually raced to get there, was running late, and when I got to the ticket window there were two guys in front of me tring to decide what movie they wanted to see... at the head of the line! They finally figured it out, I bought my ticket and ran upstairs... just as the movie was about to begin. Afterwards, there was a Q&A, and after that everyone was hanging out in the lobby. The next film at the festival was produced by a guy I know, Morris Ruskin, and he asked me if I was there for his movie... Um, no. He asked me if I was going to stay for his movie.... Um, I’m kind of with these guys, and we may go someplace after the film. Then he walked away. I feel like I pissed him off, but I can’t be everywhere. And I shouldn’t even be here... I should be working on those Expo classes.

After that I was in panic mode over the post cards for a while, but they were delivered without problem. I also had other things to do to prepare for Expo. Somewhere on the list was buy new shoes. My shoes are at that perfect place - completely broken in... and that means they’re kind of scuffed up and ugly. Time for new shoes. I haven’t gotten around to that, yet, so I may be at Expo in my scuffed up old shoes. Probably better than nice new shoes if I’m going to spend a lot of time running between hotels.

So the classes may be the same this year as last year. Sorry. Next year, 4 new classes... maybe even 6 new classes.

See you at Expo!

PS: If you aren’t coming to Expo, you can still take some of my classes... on CD. I’m taking $2 off on my CDs for this Expo weekend only. Click below for more info:

CDs On Sale!

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Establishing relationships, using a couple of horror films (‘tis the season).

Yesterday’s Dinner: Anderson’s Split Pea Soup & a fresh Western onion bagel at home while organizing stuff for Expo.

MOVIES: HEADLINESS - um, a friend made it... I can’t really talk about it objectively. 7 white kids who all look alike and act alike and seem to be interchangeable are on their way to a Halloween party, take a short cut, van breaks down... in Headless Horseman country. Then they lose their heads one-by-one. Anthony told me one of the big problems making the film is that Sci Fi Channel has all of these rules. No more than 40% of the script can take place at night. And they actually analyze the script and if it’s 41% night, make you change it! No brothers and sisters, No dogs, No alligators, No hallway scenes, No... well, the list goes on and on. My guess is that the things on the list can be traced back to some film that sucked. Well, that film with the brother & sister sucked - so no more brothers & sisters in Sci Fi Channel movies! All of this stuff makes for one strange film. Anthony inherited the script, which had all kinds of problems, and he tried to fix them. I don’t think they got fixed. But that brings up another question - why is Sci Fi Channel buying scripts that suck this bad in the first place? Seriously. There are much much better scripts out there. I’ve read them. There are much much better writers out there - you write better than this crap. Sci Fi Channel movies will *always* be crap unless they start looking for better scripts.

MOVIES: WE OWN THE NIGHT. I liked the idea of two brothers on opposite sides of the law, reminded me of MANHATTAN MELODRAMA from the 1930s. But this film was bland. Unemotional. And when there was some big emotional scene, the *audience* didn’t feel anything. That was due to the choices by writer-director. They never establish that these brothers care about each other - or have ever cared about each other. So when one gets in big trouble and the other suddenly shows emotions about his brother... we wonder where all of those emotions came from. All they had to do was show us that these two were once close, but drifted apart. Establish that they once loved each other. Okay, they’re brothers, so maybe we’re just supposed to assume that... but I didn’t. So when one brother suddenly has this big emotional scene, it just rings false. You have to establish this stuff! Hey, all it takes are a couple of photos of the two of them as teenagers, arms around each other. Give each brother that same photo. Make the relationship between the brothers the center of the story. Instead, we have kind of a bland, gritty, cop movie. A car chase that tries to be FRENCH CONNECTION in the rain, but ends up kind of blah. Good to see Tony Musante on screen again.

DVDS: DOUBLE INDEMNITY again... and the relationship between Robinson and McMurray really is amazing in the film. It shows you how a simple thing like lighting someone’s cigar can be used to symbolize a friendship.

PAGES: Are you kidding me? A couple of new magazine articles. Nothing on the script (except some touch up work).


Anonymous said...


My do you do all this?

I'm sure the guy who "walked away" is ok...I'm sure he understands just how busy you are.

I mean as Rick says:
"The Tips are highly learner-friendly in their one-a-day availability. There's no possibility of being swamped by information overload and not keeping up with the instructor.

But maybe it's better karma if they remain just as their are-- friendly." (end)

I think you offer a great service to aspiring, as well as, established screenwriters...I do hope that the EXPO gives you the return that you deserve.


English Dave said...

Bill, you are waaaaay to self effacing. And you pay for your rounds. More than that fucker Mckee ever does!

Richard McNally said...


Stick with the old shoes. Just apply some shoe polish to take care of the scuff-marks. You know the saying: "Old friends are like old shoes, comfortable." I can't stand the slightest irritation from shoes. I have finally found a pair, Rockports, one size too large for plenty of room, which fills the bill. I add heel pads so that my ankle bone doesn't rub against the top edge of the upper, and adhesive-cushions from life-saver Dr. Scholl inside the top of the upper at the heel so I don't get rubbed the wrong way there--and I'm in shoe heaven.

Very delayed reaction to a fine touch of irony at the end of SOFT TARGET--the two detectives pull multiple Mexican standoffs on each other throughout the film, yet at the end one pleads with the other to shoot him to put him out of his pain. I read that script maybe three weeks ago and just "got" this touch of artistry last night or the night before, just popped into my mind from out of the blue.

Good luck with your classes.


P.S. Greetings to Anonymous for quoting me. said...


Met you at the Expo (I'm the guy with the Thulsa Doom shirt who talked to you about horror comedy yesterday).

Just wanted to say, your sessions were great; I went to your guerrilla networking and horror presentations. Like I told you yesterday, the guerrilla one was my favorite of the weekend -- no bullshit.

Thanks again for kicking ass!

- Scott

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