Hello Atlanta! Tonight was opening night of the Screencraft Writers Summit at the Atlanta Film Festival. Because it’s the right thing to do we started with a party. We also ended with a party. One night, two parties. Nobody said this was going to be easy.
The first party was in the ballroom of the historic Highland Inn. The hotel cat stayed upstairs. It doesn’t care about screenplays, it’s probably working on a novel.
I shook off the cat’s judgment like I do every day at home and got talking to a lot of writers and filmmakers from all over the country. Some of them had made several films, and some were just transitioning from other areas like radio or Jacksonville, Florida.
As is always the case when people in entertainment get together the question of “how” kept coming up. Here we are ready to learn, eager to do the work and put in the time and effort if we only knew what the right time and effort might be? We work on our craft and know that’s an important part of the puzzle but there’s that nebulous monster Hollywood out there steadfastly ignoring us. How do we get that Eye of Sauron to turn its gaze?
Asking people who have been successful seems like it would be a good strategy. And it is educational. But often when you delve down into individual success stories they can’t be replicated. If every successful path is a fluke how in the world do you plan for that?
What is a plucky screenwriter and/or filmmaker to do? Well, I’ll tell you. Right here in this blog post. In the very next sentence. Build a community at your own level at events like this.
See, as you build that community some of its members will start to move up. Somebody will get a crazy assistant job. Someone else starts working for a film festival. Pretty soon everyone you started out with (who hasn’t quit) has a cool job and you are all helping each other. You’re suggesting crew, you’re giving notes on each other’s scripts, you’re passing scripts to people who can get them made.
You blink and five years from now another writer you met at this very Writers Summit set up the meeting at the production company that is optioning your script.
So that’s the how. It’s kind of a who. All from here!
Everyone I talked to tonight was fascinating. All kinds of community was being built right before my eyes! I’m excited about all the incredibly cool scripts I heard about. I’m excited about the Atlanta Film Festival premier feature Lamp Light by Mason Rey who shot and starred in this tunnel collapse movie ALL BY HIMSELF. What!?! He figured out he could destroy his car and put it in a garage and shoot when he had time in his schedule on his own. How’s that for independent film? I’m excited about the woman my friend talked to who couldn’t find a crew in her small town so she’s just going to move to Atlanta to make her movie.
There are so many people with incredible grit and ability who made their way here.
And that was just the first party!
At the second party at Paris on Ponce, after eating a delicious fried southern tofu dish and a kale salad (my second vegetarian southern meal of the day thank you Atlanta!) I ran into friends I didn’t even know were going to be here with their amazing and hilarious web series Hug It Out. Then I talked with some LA friends about distribution and the organizations we belong to. Basically, I was working on the community I’ve been building for years. It’s pretty exciting to show up to something and have a bunch of your friends be there. That’s good work!
Lots of other industries have conventions, but events like this are the closest thing we have to that. Writing and filmmaking can be very insular and it is incredibly valuable both in the independent world and in capital H Hollywood to be able to compare notes. We all need help and it’s great to be able to help. Also, there were TWO parties in one night!
I’m looking forward to learning about a lot more of the attendees and all their amazing projects over the next couple days. And I need to get some biscuits somewhere.
Etta Devine is an actor, filmmaker, and writer with a script on the 2017 Blacklist and one of 2017’s Movie Maker Magazine’s 25 Screenwriters to watch. With partner Gabriel Diani she directed, wrote, produced and starred in the feature film “Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse” which premiered at the 2016 Austin film festival and won awards from the Mill Valley Film Festival, Spokane International Film Festival, Omaha Film Festival, San Luis Obispo Film Festival, and many others. She co-produced and starred in the horror comedy “The Selling,” ruined classic literature by creating “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Robotic Edition” and is a member of the Antaeus Classical Theatre company in Los Angeles and the Film Fatales. She recently recorded voices for the popular Frederator cartoon “Bee and Puppycat” and wrote multiple episodes of it’s upcoming second season.