Reaching the ScreenCraft Writers Summit in Atlanta

If you are reading this, we probably share the same dream: to be a working writer sharing stories that are close to our hearts. But it’s easier said than done. Some of us have more talent than others, but I find refuge in the idea that this is a craft that can be learned. Personally, being from outside LA and the system, I’ve had to rely on books and the internet, which I am grateful for, but have never felt the way I do after experiencing the camaraderie of the ScreenCraft’s Writers Summit presented by the Atlanta Film Festival.

It was a beautiful experience between not only inspiring fellow writers (shout out to Jerry and Shakirah), but down-to-earth industry professionals who made themselves available and were excited to help with insight and encouragement. Really, an insane amount of encouragement. From agents to managers, executives and successful writers, the panels and talks were ridiculous. A smorgasbord of no-holds-barred, informative sessions with panelists that opened themselves up and made me feel like they genuinely wanted us to succeed. I’ve scoured the internet, books and podcasts, but still found new perspectives listening and interacting with these titans of an industry that I am working to be a part of.

It was four days of blissful panels, pitch sessions and happy hours. So many happy hours. Memorable tidbits, conversations and new friends eager to collaborate helped make it feel like a fully-formed community. Truly beautiful.A personal highlight was hearing the incomparable Laeta Kalogridis (Screenwriter, Shutter Island, X-Men, Altered Carbon) talk frankly about her journey as a filmmaker and a human. She bared her soul to the audience, speaking about her failures, setbacks and what her methods were for overcoming adversity. Everyone in the room has their own personal issues (we are writers after all), but I feel like everyone felt that she was talking straight to them!

YOU CAN’T GET THAT BOND FROM WATCHING SOMETHING ON THE INTERNET! It was so flipping inspiring! And as the crowd descended on her and her fellow panelists, as they do in events like this, she spoke to everyone, which is something I’ve never seen at an event like this.There were so many incredible panelists and topics, from heavy hitters like JJ Klein (VP of Current Programming, FX), Mika Pryce (Creative Executive, Universal Pictures) and Cate Adams (VP of Film Production, Warner Bros. Pictures) giving insight on what makes a great project and how to get it made, to Eric Haywood (Writer, Co-Executive Producer, Empire) and Wendy Calhoun (Showrunner, Grey’s Anatomy, Nashville) preaching about the importance of diversity and how they dealt with responsibility to both themselves and their cultures. As a Latino writer, this stirred a ton of emotion inside of me and gave me the feeling that we aren’t alone in our struggles as minorities.

I could rattle off and name drop all of the panelists, but it wasn’t about any one speaker that shined, but rather the spirit of sharing that I felt was a theme of the whole event!

But for good measure; Scott Carr, Jen Ray, Keya Khayatian, and Jacob Kreuger were a couple that stuck out in my mind.But wait! There’s more…

A pitch contest that was open to all levels of attendees! I was able to pitch my project, Brown Gringo, to a couple industry professionals that I felt had a stake in my success. The experience and feedback was invaluable and was highly talked about by all the attendees. From novice to experienced pitchers, everyone was over the damn moon about that opportunity. For a New Orleanian who doesn’t get to interact with that high level of experienced producers often, I am grateful for the chance to be able to perfect my pitch so I am ready when I get my shot to make my dreams come true. After this summit, I am motivated and more hopeful than ever that I will get my shot. Thanks, Mike and Stu!

The great attitudes and camaraderie were fostered from the top down as the Screencraft staff led by example. John, Emily (also one of my favorite moderators) Scot, Tom and Mark, ran one of the most flawless events I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. They did it with heart, compassion and made it look easy.I am truly indebted to the organizers, as well as the New Orleans Film Society’s Emerging Voices Fellowship, who made it possible for me to attend this life-changing event.

Do yourself a huge favor and attend this summit. It was like a great Summer at camp with the friendships made, experiences had, and it felt like my own coming-of-age story on the journey to realizing my dream of telling stories through screenwriting… minus the weird camp counselors.

I hope to see y’all next year because no matter where I’m at in my career, I will be back.

Now, go write!

Nicholas Manuel Pino

P.S. Excuse the quality of the photos. Taken from my old Nokia snake phone.

Photo Credit: Zack Smith

Nicholas Manuel Pino – Writer/Director A 2017 New Orleans Film Society “Emerging Voices” Fellowship and career commercial and narrative filmmaker, Nicholas’s passion is crafting dramatic stories with comedy and heart. He has directed content for brands such as House of Blues, Sony Records, and Southern Comfort. He’s won “Best Music Video” and “Best Commercial” from Offbeat Magazine. His work has been featured in numerous film festivals, on Ellen, Ridiculousness and was called “Iconic” by Fader Magazine. He is a proud Chilean-American filmmaker committed to telling diverse stories.