If I had to sum up this year’s ScreenCraft Writers Summit in Atlanta in just one word, it would be: Energizing. Sure, it was also informative and educational, engaging, entertaining, and an awesome networking opportunity, but all the know-how and who-you-know in the world doesn’t amount to much unless you’ve got the ambition and the energy to put in the work. So for the hundreds of screenwriters in attendance, and more around the world, this weekend’s meet-up was just the thing they needed to make connections, get to that next step in their career, and to go into the future with a renewed purpose.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the summit hosted by ScreenCraft, an organization that seeks “to foster the careers of emerging writers and filmmakers by providing inspiration and insight into the craft of screenwriting and the business of Hollywood, and by connecting emerging talent with working industry professionals,” as their mission statement goes. But I had yet to attend said summit here in Atlanta, the second for the boutique consultancy. Now, having sampled but a fraction of the available panels during the event (an inevitability with so much content to take advantage of), I can absolutely recommend attending next year’s summit if you want to take that next step forward in your screenwriting career, or just get an encouraging kick in the rear end to start writing in earnest.
The first thing I noticed at the summit was that the attendees weren’t overwhelmingly from one demographic or another. Much like the host city of Atlanta, the hundreds of hopeful screenwriters came from a broad range of races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and nationalities; there were a lot of unique and diverse voices represented here. And it wasn’t just the attendees offering a range of perspectives but the special guest panelists as well. They ranged from industry veterans like Steven E. de Souza (Die Hard), Doug Jung (Star Trek Beyond),Julie Plec (The Vampire Diaries), and Meg LeFauve (Inside Out, Captain Marvel) to relatively new up-and-comers like Ben Cory Jones (Boomerang), David Rabinowitz (BlacKkKlansman) and Gabrielle Fulton Ponder (Ambitions). Everyone had their own particular insights to offer, mentions of the certain sparks of storytelling talent they were searching for, and an individual story of how they got to where they were, but one bit of advice from the gathered talent was universally given: Keep writing, keep working hard, keep making stuff.
It was this simple but inspirational message that really cut through the chatter and the excuses that every writer concerns themselves with now and then. Sure, the summit did answer questions about agency representation and the difference between agents and managers, the minutiae of the screenwriting craft itself, and how to get discovered if you don’t live in Los Angeles or New York City. But the greater overall lesson learned in this summit was to keep writing, keep getting your stuff out there, and be ready with more finished work in your portfolio should an opportunity for success come knocking.
For me personally, the best panel of the bunch was LeFauve’s early Sunday morning intensive on “Creating Emotional Characters That Audiences Will Care About.” The two-hour presentation featured some unique insight from LeFauve who drew from her experience working as a development executive for Jodie Foster before writing her own scripts (and earning an Oscar nomination for the effort). LeFauve wasn’t afraid to get personal and let some vulnerability show, a key element in the creation of emotionally compelling characters.
Other more specific highlights included a chat about science reality in science-fiction, moderated by the Science & Entertainment Exchange‘s program director Rick Loverd, and a panel that focused on connecting local talent in Atlanta and Georgia to the booming TV and movie-production industry that’s driving a $10 billion local economy, annually. Those talks might have been more my speed, but the greater point is that the ScreenCraft Writers Summit has such a wide range of topics on tap that there’s something for everyone, no matter your interest or focus.
For more on the summit, be sure to visit Mitch Olson‘s write-ups on the opening day festivities and 8 lessons learned from the event. The 2020 event will be here before you know it, so get involved with ScreenCraft today and keep it on your radar (and your calendar). Who knows, you might even win next year’s pitch competition!