During this past 2019 summit in Atlanta, I woke up to find an email with the updated schedule for the day. Saturday’s email was especially delightful as it announced a secret, last-minute seminar by Oscar-nominated writer Meg LeFauve (Inside Out, Captain Marvel) who is an absolute screenwriting genius. Although this conference is only 4 years old, all aspects of the event are thought out. From the check-in process to the final pitch event, the ScreenCraft Writers Summit is not only incredibly valuable in concept, it is also exceptionally well executed.
When I encountered the ScreenCraft staff, they were down-to-earth and helpful, and seemed to genuinely care about the attendees of the summit. The staff even invited me over to their house for fried chicken on Sunday.
The ScreenCraft team is genuinely trying to get your screenplay in the hands of those who can make it.
Here are my top four reasons to attend the 2020 ScreenCraft Writers Summit in Chicago:
1. Guest Speakers
The quality and variety of the industry speakers are exceptional. As previously mentioned, Meg LeFauve was an enormous wealth of knowledge and inspiration. And she seemed to be interested in helping inexperienced writers find their voice. She was sassy, funny and charming.
Writer Steven E. de Souza (Die Hard, Commando) was also an absolute pleasure to hear speak. Not only did he explain to everyone why Die Hard is a Christmas movie, but he also shared some great anecdotes about genre classics ranging from films made in the 1940s to new releases. Steven is obviously a huge fan of film, and it’s hard not to be intoxicated by that love every time he spoke.
Recent Oscar-winner David Rabinowitz (BlacKkKlansman) was also a ScreenCraft instructor. His humility was revealed when he explained that he had only been a full-time writer for 18 months. It was motivating to learn that the difference between sitting in the audience at a screenwriting conference and being an Oscar-winning writer and guest speaker at a screenwriting conference, is merely one exceptional screenplay (and some luck).
The ScreenCraft Summit it coming to Chicago in 2020 for the first time. While it’s well-known that Chicago is hometown to many great writers (Shel Silverstein, Ernest Hemingway, Carl Sandburg, Gwendolyn Brooks, to name but a few), and it’s been the backdrop for countless movies and TV shows, the Windy City also boasts some of the best architecture in North America, and this creates an inspiring backdrop for the summit. Simply walking around is an absolute delight to the senses. The town has cool jazz clubs, excellent theater and an acclaimed comedy scene. Even if there wasn’t a screenplay conference, I would still suggest visiting Chicago for a slice of deep dish. The ScreenCraft Summit will be headquartered at the Kimpton Allegro Hotel, which has a long and colorful history in Chicago’s theater district.
3. Non-Stop Learning
Starting early, the classes, seminars and mentor sessions were always good. I could leap from room to room learning everything I wanted to know about writing, pitching, getting a manager, negotiating fees, how packaging works, and lots of craft-focused classes.
It was especially exciting to know that every single person next to you was also a like-minded aspiring writer. There was a wide range of diverse writers of all ages, genders and backgrounds.
Every day I could talk, pitch and share my creative ideas and questions with people who wanted to chat. The ScreenCraft Writers Summit is a dream for any type of writer, whether you are writing your first draft, or you just won an Oscar (like David)!
4. The Networking
My experience at the 2019 summit was incredible. The evening parties and networking events were an absolute blast. Friday night was a “meet and greet” held in the hotel’s grand ballroom. Free drinks were offered ranging from a great Sauvignon Blanc to a local pale ale. Mingling was effortless because of the cozy environment. Even the most introverted writers were caught up in conversation. Within an hour I had met a wide range of people, including some shy writers (who admitted they were well out of their comfort zone). Every single day I made new friends.
Every evening had planned reservations for dinners or cocktails and the mornings had brunches. I will admit, having a gin and tonic with an Oscar-winning writer was a dream come true.
From top to bottom, this is a trip for any aspiring screenwriter. I’d recommend every writer to run (don’t walk) and sign up now before it sells out again. And if you’re feeling extra fancy, why not sign up for the Elite badge while you’re at it!
Jon Gagnon has performed stand-up comedy across Canada and appeared on the CBC program “Canada’s Smartest Person Season 2.” Jon is a writer and producer for Yuk Yuk’s “The Brett Martin Show” and Jon is also an award-winning screenwriter and performer of improv which gives his sets comedic versatility.