Monday, October 29, 2007

Saw You At Expo!

I survived Expo! Actually, this Expo was easy for me thanks to two things:

1) Last year, every other class was in the other hotel, so I was constantly running from hotel to hotel. And constantly setting up. And constantly dealing with small rooms. And constantly dealing with bad a/c.

This year I was in the exact same room for all of my classes. No running. I set up once, never had to dig through my bag for my notes - they were already out. And being in one room also helped my CD sales - I dragged a table from the front of the room to the back and laid out my CDs. Last year, they were in my bag and I had to dig them out... plus, nobody really knew they were in my bag, so I hardly sold any.

The downside of being in one room all day - you never get out. I usually run over with my classes - they’re supposed to be 90 minutes and they often end up closer to 110. The last one on Sunday went *way* over, because there was nothing else on the schedule. The problem is, class is over and people have those individual questions they want to ask, which is okay, but I’m not getting a real break between classes. And I’m usually talking when I’m not talking... which makes the voice really ragged on that last class on Sunday. But I’d rather be in the same room all day than have to run to the next class. The other thing that really helped was...

2) Emily from WHITE BOARD MARKERS was my assistant. I owe her a million thanks. Originally the plan was to get her in as my assistant just to get her in. She was a volunteer for the Expo last year, and this year Expo wanted volunteers to work full time for 2 days with no time to go to any of the events. That sucks. I figured she’d get in free, and maybe spend a few minutes helping me here and there, then have the run of the Expo... but it didn’t work out that way. What happened is, there were almost no volunteers this year, so Emily ended up working full time 2 days for me with no time to go to any of the events. And she didn’t complain. And she sold my CDs as if her life depended on it... which meant I actually sold out of almost everything!

So, Emily is the greatest person in the world.


So I picked up my badge and lanyard on Friday, so that I could get into the Networking Party that night and drink. There’s a greenroom upstairs where the drinks are free to speakers, but if all of the guest speakers and guests of honor are upstairs drinking, who the hell is there downstairs to network with? I always think that part of my “job” at events like this is to talk to the folks who paid to be there.

I check out the greenroom, basically looking for the handout with the hotel room maps and class room assignments. Hang out and talk with some folks, including Guest Of Honor Tina Anderson (WHY DO FOOLS FALL IN LOVE starring Lorenz Tate) and a guy I talked with at Austin a couple of years ago who has since won the Disney Fellowship (I think) and is on staff on a TV show now. That’s cool when someone you talked to a couple of years ago is trying to break in... and now they have broken in and is a working pro. It’s so difficult to break in, that when someone not only breaks in, but is a success story, that proves good writing pays off.

I left the greenroom when the Networking Party began, went downstairs and paid for my beers.

Last week I was at the Final Draft Big Break Party that had loud music you could not talk over, and now I’m at Expo where they have obnoxious stand up comics so loud you can not talk over them. You have to scream to be heard, and that’s not good on the throat if you have to speak all day the next two days.

As I’m sipping my beer, this guy comes up to me and just pitches his script. I try to ask him why he’s pitching to me, but he just keeps going. When he finishes, he asks what I thought. I, um, am polite and probably a little evasive. Then he says, “So, you wouldn’t be interested?” “No. I have my own projects,” I reply.

As soon as he lives, some other guy comes up and pitches me *his* script*. I’m polite to him, too... but after the fourth or fifth person pitches me their script, I’m wondering what kind of networking party this is... did someone encourage these folks to just pitch their scripts to other people at the party? Is that in the program I haven’t looked at yet?

When the next person starts pitching me, I try to stop him... but he just keeps going. I keep trying to stop him, he talks over me. When he finishes, I ask why everyone is pitching to me. “Well, you’re a producer, right?” “Wrong. I’m a screenwriter.” “But you *are* here to hear pitches.” “No... I’m teaching classes.” “But your lanyard is red, teachers have green lanyards.” Okay, now this is all making sense... sort of... they gave me the wrong colored lanyard and people think I’m part of the pitch fest.

I’m so glad I’m *not* here to hear pitches, because this last guy who pitched me had the worst pitch I have ever heard in my entire life... and I’ve heard some really awful ones. It’s like he took the top three Google search things for the day and tried to combine them into the most topical script ever written. No heart. No soul. Not even a story.

Eventually they turn up the lights and kick us out... kicking out the bad comics, too.

A group of us ends up in the hotel bar, until they turn up the lights and kick us out.


I’m staying at the hotel. No way I’m going to fight traffic on the 405 every morning, then try to teach a class. I’d rather roll out of bed, shower, take the elevator down and teach my class. This also allows me to hang out after the networking parties instead of zooming home just to sleep for a while and then have to zoom back to the Expo.

Saturday I have 4 classes - basically 8 hours of teaching. The full day. The night before I bought a couple of bottles of water from the Liquor store near the hotel (the hotel’s water is almost as expensive as their beer). I brought some instant coffee packets in case of emergency... and the Starbucks line was so long in the morning (imagine 2,000 writers awake before 9 am... and one Starbucks) - I used the instant coffee to make a bottle of iced coffee. Got to my room and set up. Did a full day of classes. Got sidetracked and didn’t have dinner... then went to the Networking Party.

So, the guy with the awful pitch comes up to me and does the pitch all over again. The same pitch. Word for word. I keep trying to stop him - remind him that I have the wrong color lanyard - but he will not stop his pitch. When he finishes, I go through the exact same conversation we had the night before.

They turn up the lights, I go back up to my room... I really need to sleep, I’m exhausted.

But this is Halloween weekend (sort of) and the people in the room next to me are having a loud party that doesn’t end until 4am. I catch half a night of sleep, get up to teach classes... but my instant coffee packets are gone, and the Starbucks line is snaking around the hotel lobby a few times. But I have great luck this day - my “stalker” Matt is close to the front of the line and I offer to buy his coffee if he’ll order mine. I get my coffee, make it to my room and do 2 classes... then there’s a break and the closing ceremonies begin. I sit on a chair in the lobby, half asleep... waiting for Fun Joel’s annual Bloggers Meeting.


Every Year Fun Joel organizes a meeting in the hotel’s sports bar of all the screenwriting bloggers in town for the Expo. I meet Red Right Hand, spent a lot of time talking to Rouge Wave, and talk to all kinds of other people. Emily (White Board Markers) talks about her short film, which sounds cool, and Joel manages to say nothing about his recent trip to Africa. Man, I want to know all of the details! Guess I’ll have to read about it in his blog.

Eventually, I realize I’ve been drinking all weekend and not doing much sleeping, and I’d better head home. I take a final trip through the hotel to pick up any postcards still on the tables, go upstairs to the greenroom and hang out for a while *not* drinking, but talking to Heather Hale who did *12* classes over 4 days! They asked what she wanted to teach, she sent a list of 12 potential classes, they put all 12 on the schedule! I felt like a wimp - I only did half the classes she did! I said goodbye to Bill, the new owner of the Expo, who is a nice guy and did a pretty good job considering this was his first time running the Expo... then I headed home.

Thanks to everyone who took one of my classes, and if you have a question about the class or a comment, you can click *here* and post it along with any class discussion.

- Bill

PS: The guy I talked to on Sunday - man, I wish I could remember your name - you’re an animal lover and disagree with me on THE RING.... e-mail me!


Richard McNally said...


If you ever get surrounded by a swarm of aspiring writers who are pitching you without mercy despite your efforts to stop them, just turn and walk away. An eminent writer (and prick) once pulled that on me and it had a devastating effect. He walked into the next room and out of sight. And I wasn't pitching anything, just explaining why I had decided not to enroll in his super-select class despite having been admitted.


Anonymous said...

"I figured she’d get in free, and maybe spend a few minutes helping me here and there, then have the run of the Expo... but it didn’t work out that way."

So, would that be ironic?

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Anonymous said...


Be watchful how you treat those you meet as you move are sure to see them again as you plummet.

-aspiring writer

Anonymous said...

So Bill, you 'n' her hook up or what?

Come on. Hotel room close at hand, booze flowing.

You've helped so many aspiring writers. If the good guys don't win every once in a while, what's the point of being a good guy.

If you don't respond, I'll have to take that as a yes.

wcmartell said...

Well, no... Emily knows martial arts, I just write martial arts movies.

- Bill

Emily Blake said...

Good gracious, A.S.L.C. that is wildly inappropriate. You just ain't afraid are ya?

But for the record, I got a lot out of Bill's classes. Plus, I enjoy being in charge of things, even if it's a stack of CDs.

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