Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Real men Don't Sleep:
Santa Fe Adventure 2

By the time the pocket sized plane lands at Santa Fe, you just needed to add a little mustard to me and you’d have a pretzel. I wait until every one else, including the transvestite who stole the bulkhead seat, have deplaned before I move into a crouching position, grab my computer bag from the overhead glove box, and duck walk down the aisle to the little hatch they call a door (about chest high on me). The Santa Fe airport is tiny - they unload the bags by hand and carry them to the miniature lobby.

I was late for the plane, the plane was at some far away spur gate at LAX, and I fear that my bag may not have made the plane. This is a big problem for two reasons:

1. There really is only one flight a day into Santa Fe. The plane arrives at 2pm, and then returns to LA at 2:30pm. If my bag didn’t make the plane, the next flight arrives *tomorrow*, *after* my first class `and the panel.

2. Because I am a complete idiot, I am wearing my usual comfortable but ugly travel clothes... but have seemed to learn nothing from my London Adventure a few months ago when they lost my bags and I was forced to wear the same clothes until they found my luggage... except for those forward-thrusting underpants I bought in some store in London. Why hadn’t I packed a shirt and other stuff in my carry on bag? I am an idiot!

But a goofy looking gal in pig tails with a toothy grin in a ground crew uniform pulls my bag off the plane and drops it in the lobby. I grab it and wheel it to the center of the lobby, a couple of feet away, where there’s a gal with a cardboard sign that says Santa Fe Screenwriting Conference. Instead of getting my own personal driver with a list of strip clubs and biker bars, there is *one* driver for the whole conference. She’s a school teacher by day, and owns an ancient boat-like Lincoln Continental which belonged to her grandfather before he passed away. There are two other people on the plane she is picking up, cute Wendall Thomas who teaches screenwriting at UCLA and has worked in the biz for years... and the transvestite who swiped the bulkhead seat. A short, stout, woman who is a script consultant. She says she needs help with her bags... so I end up carrying them. That’s my job, right?

We drive to the venue - then her luggage is my problem again. I have no idea why this is. And the Transvestite is telling me to be careful with one of her bags because... Well, I already am being careful with her bags - they are not mine - but I am starting to think maybe I should drop one just so that I can be bitched at for something I actually did. But soon her luggage becomes someone at the hotel’s problem, and I check in.

I am exhausted. I have not slept and think about taking a nap... but can’t seem to fall asleep. I splash cold water on my face and go out to the hotel lobby...

Where there are some people I know, including Peter Hanson co-writer and director of TALES FROM THE SCRIPT who did a screening and Q&A in the morning. We talk, and more folks I know - many from the Dallas Screenwriters Association. They have a great organization, and often go to events like this in groups. DSA members always travel in flocks. There were five or six that were all there together and a couple of others who were there but hanging out with other people.

One of the Conference volunteers spots me and gives me a full tour of the conference location - the room where I’m doing my morning class, the room where we will have our mega panel the next afternoon with all of the teachers, the restaurant where I can get all of my meals for free just by writing the code word on the bill, and she asks if I need anything special for the class - I say a white board would be nice. Sometimes I like to draw pictures.

I also hint around to find out what Conference attendance is like these days - in those early days there were 300 to 500 people every year, but the first couple of Screenwriting Expos had somewhere in the 4,000 range... and now it has shrunk down to under 1,000. The “Screenwriting Conference Boom” has gone bust. It was dwindling *before* the economy went south. All kinds of explanations from easy access to info on the internet (like my website) to people leaving screenwriting for the next boom - YouTube videos and blogs. I brought 80 assorted classes on CD, and that will probably be enough for 300 people... but I find out there are around 100 people for the classes with *many more* for the producers events (when I’ll be on my way home). I could have brought 20 CDs and left my big piece of luggage at home.

I go back to the lobby, and there are more people who either I know or who know me. We sit around talking screenplays and movies and just life stuff until other groups begin drifting off to dinner - some in the hotel restaurant, but many go into town where there are a lot of great restaurants. Even though I have free dinners in the hotel (the conference picks up meals but not drinks), when the group asks if I want to go to dinner with them, I say yes. Most of the people are from Dallas, I think. A few locals are in the group and end up transpo captains.

Dinner is Mexican/Southwest - and I can not remember the name of the place. Marias? Pasquales? We had all of these possible places to go and this was the decision. I think it might have Maria's - but if any of you guys who were there that night read this and I am wrong, correct me. Anyway - Margaritas. Lots of them. I mostly drank Negro Modelo beer. The food was great. I had a tamale plate - 2 pork, 2 vegetarian, rice and refried.

Afterwards - back to the hotel... and the hotel bar.

Here is my problem with the hotel bar at a screenwriting conference - everybody knows me. Or, at least enough people know me and want to buy me drinks that I have several drinks. Several drinks I probably should not have the night before I teach a class with a brand new format I have never done before. Several drinks I probably should not have had on no sleep. But I want to be social, right?

Hey, let me take this time to thank all of you. Not just the people who bought me drinks, but the people who hung out with me and even the people who are just reading this blog. Writing is a solitary business (at least, until you get those stupid script notes), and it’s great to have friends in just about any place a pocket sized plane can land. Whenever I do one of these things and I’m miles from home, you folks make me feel at home. If I were ever wrongly accused of murder in Portugal and on the run from the police, I’m sure someone there who knows me from this blog or my website would hide me for a night and then turn me over and collect the reward the next morning. And if the reward was enough, I wouldn’t blame you. If it’s only a couple of bucks, well, I might be a little pissed off. But you folks are always nice to me, and I thank you for that.

After several beers which I did not pay for, I went downstairs to my room, set my alarm to give me enough time to coffee up and read over the 10 pages before my morning class.

And I can not fall asleep.

Might be that I am used to Los Angeles noise and the night noise is different here... fewer sirens and helicopter, more birds.

I finally fall asleep... and wake up 4 hours later before my alarm has gone off. About 2 hours before my alarm is supposed to go off. I try going back to sleep - it doesn’t work. I guess I’m awake, huh? More time for coffee and class prep, right?


An odd thing happens when I do these events - even with little sleep, I have a ton of energy. Might be nervous energy, because I’m really not comfortable doing public speaking, or maybe it’s because my blood is 75% coffee and 25% alcohol. Whatever it is, even without sleep I’m okay. I start the class, and try to match 10 page script segments to people - without remembering any of the writer’s names. So I try to do it by personality. Who is the funny person who wrote the comedy? Who is the person who wrote that script that seemed like it had been translated into Chinese and then re-translated into English? Who wrote the baseball movie? You try to find some clues.

Also, there are always people whose faces I recognize from someplace. Maybe they took a class from me somewhere else, maybe they are one of my facebook friends and I’ve seen their picture, maybe they were featured on America’s Most Wanted last night. While I’m teaching the class, part of my brain is wondering: Where do I know you from?

One of the other things I’m wondering is: where do I know you/your script from? One of the titles and loglines seems really familiar. I have read it before. The logline is problematic - it seems scattershot and loopy. I can’t remember where I have read it, and I’m scanning faces for someone I might have met with at some other event. Maybe I read it online somewhere - at Done Deal or MWSM or Wordplay or one of the other places I pop in now and then. When I was reading the student’s first ten pages, this one worried me. After reading the familiar logline, I thought was afraid it might be this crazy guy from MWSM who goes crazy and rants about the Hollywood Conspiracy whenever anyone mentions there is a problem with the logline or pages he posts. The last thing I wanted was a crazy guy who has a grudge against me from something I may have said online in the first row of my class. What’s in his backpack? A knife? A letter opener? One of those portable electric chain saws?

But after saving those ten pages for last, I read them... and they are funny! The second best pages in the class. I have notes on them - there are some places where they can be improved, but his pages are one of the two good ones. If these pages landed on the desk of a development exec in Hollywood, they could pass for the work of a pro. But, which one of my students wrote those pages and where the hell do I know them from?

At the end of the first 3 hour class, I have addressed some of the problems with the some of the student’s first ten pages without outing any of them, and everyone has been scribbling notes and nodding their heads when they hear something that makes that little light bulb go off over their head. At the end of class, a few students ask if they can submit a revised version of their first ten pages, based on this new information. I explain my lesson plan - that we may not actually tear apart the pages in class, instead just cover the weaknesses in the scripts with lessons on how to solve those problems and improve the writing of each element. But I tell them I *will* e-mail them notes on their 10 pages and logline. I have already scribbled this stuff down on the pages, no problem to type it up and e-mail it to them.

A few students come up after class to tell me that they’ve already learned a bunch after the first day, and a couple ask me if they can talk to me about their scripts outside of class. I explain that between classes, panels, consultations, I have very little time. Then the volunteer who showed me around yesterday and has been checking in to make sure all of the classes are running smoothly comes up and asks if I’ll read her 10 pages and give notes. I say that I have a hole in my consulting schedule on the last day, and if she wants that slot she can have it. After that I excuse myself to go to lunch... if I don’t get out of here I’ll be doing the afternoon panel without having eaten.

Off to the hotel restaurant, where the secret code words gets me a free lunch!

Friday: everything goes really wrong.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Character & Dogjuice - and BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM.
Dinner: Dennys BBQ chicken sandwich.
Bicycle: Yes - and it was hot, and I perspired.
Pages: Had a list of things to do and didn't get many done.
Movies: No.

I invade the UK again...
6/11 - M4M2 - 18:15 - Crash Dive - The crew of a nuclear submarine rescues supposed victims of a boat disaster, but the victims turn out to be terrorists intent on capturing nuclear weapons aboard the sub.

I am sorry!

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