The 2021 ScreenCraft Writers Summit is right around the corner and is set to be an online screenwriting event like no other.
I can’t wait for the chance to dive into a weekend dedicated wholly to education and advancement in my favorite pastime, my daily ritual, the reason for my being — Screenwriting.
Writing and learning about screenwriting are my two favorite pastimes, but then… what? The question of how to “get out there”, the ominous term “networking” – trust me, it’s not so bad! – how do we do that in quarantine? This means meeting industry professionals who can move your career forward, but also just the fellow writers who will become your community, maybe give you feedback, form a writer’s group, or just be a source of inspiration to keep going!
Over the weekend of April 9th-11th, thousands of attendees from around the world will be coming to the ScreenCraft Summit to learn from Oscar and Emmy-winning writers, showrunners, producers, competition directors, executives and more. The folks at ScreenCraft have heard our requests, and are building into the schedule a LOT of opportunities to connect, with each other, and with industry professionals. I’ve tried it, it’s the closest I’ve felt to just hanging-out with people since this whole socially-distanced world began.
I don’t know about you, but even though quarantine has been great to focus on my writing [sometimes… thanks Netflix!] I’m constantly wondering, how do I meet people who can help me take the next step? Everyone talks about the importance of “networking”, but what if that sounds intimidating? And how do we do that while safely socially-distanced? I’m excited to say, this might be the answer.
More on that soon, in the meantime I’m also very excited that the closing of the weekend is a chance to watch, as the ScreenCraft Pitch Competition Finalists pitch live in front of a panel of award-winning judges. It’s “The Voice” for screenwriters, and I’m looking forward to learning what makes a good pitch, and what does not. Best of all, I can do it all from my home, from my desk where the best writing comes through me.
I’ve attended ScreenCraft’s conferences in the past – both in person and online – and this year offers the familiar awesome panels and programming I would have seen in Nashville or Atlanta. And the one big difference is the new virtual venue, called Hopin. I got an insider’s peek into the event space, with the ScreenCraft team, and I have to say this is the first time I felt like I was really “in” a space with other people, just like real life. We writers are not the best at the cocktail-party schmooze, amiright? Thankfully, the ScreenCraft team thinks like writers, and has set up the event to welcome even the most shy and timid among us, making it easy for us to connect. This is an event that wants you to succeed – they’re even having live ASL interpreters for many of the panels – and it’s more welcome these days than ever.
Allow me to take you on a little virtual tour:
The Virtual Venue
The virtual venue includes a main lobby, where you can find information such as current live events and the schedule.
A left-side navigation menu gives you access to the main stage, networking rooms, one-on-one networking sessions, and the event Expo where you can find resources provided by our sponsors and even interact with them.
On the side of your screen will be the main chat room for the overall event, but there’s always a separate chat for the panel that’s going on, or the networking rooms, or even the expo booths! Unlike an in-person event, you don’t have to sit quietly during the panels. When someone says something that excites you, you can immediately jump into the conversation. And if you spark a conversation with someone in the chat, you can plan a virtual meeting (over video chat) at any time!
Now, let’s enter each virtual event space.
This is where you will find panelists and keynote speakers discussing the craft and business of screenwriting during the many scheduled live events. Each panel will have its own dedicated chat room, polls, and Q&A’s. Last year these guys had J.J. Abrams, I can’t wait to see who comes up this year.
Perhaps the coolest feature of the venue is the group networking rooms. These are where you go during the scheduled mixers, like the Genre Mixer on the first night (Friday, April 9th) or the Mixer with Room Experts on Saturday, April 10th. Each room allows 20 people to be on-screen at a time, so you can join a fun group conversation. Or if you want to hang back, you can simply listen in on the discussions if you wish. Remember how I mentioned we are all shy writers? That’s why the Friday night mixer has rooms for Comedy writers, Horror, Sci-Fi and more. You don’t need to worry about not having anything to talk about, and for the first time, “networking” sounds like actual FUN.
That’s me and some of the ScreenCraft crew, in a good-natured argument about season 6 of SUPERSTORE.
One event that I’m particularly excited about is the Room Expert Mixer on Saturday, 4/10, from 5pm to 6:30pm. This time, every room will have an “Expert”, and I’ve seen the list: Managers, Executives and more. I can join a room and speak directly to these people, or just learn from their experience. This is a great way to build a rapport with key industry players. You never know if they’ll remember your name when they come across your query in the near future.
The Networking option on the platform is where you can connect one-on-one, like having a private chat. You can be randomly matched with other attendees of the event, or invite other event attendees to chat. The random sessions are scheduled for five minutes, but you can extend if you’re having a great conversation, or leave early. This will be open throughout the entire event, and you can participate as many times — and meet as many other writers and attendees — as you choose. When you find someone with whom you jive and you can both hit “connect,” you will be sent each other’s contact information so you can continue building the relationship.
The ScreenCraft Writers Summit Expo will feature virtual booths for many great brands, including the Writers Guild Foundation, Roadmap Writers, Coverfly, LaunchPad, and more.
Some of these organizations are hosting workshops in their booths, others are posting coupon codes… It’s a fun place to browse any time you want. While visiting the booths, you’ll have access to vital writer resources provided by each sponsor, and during live hours, you can meet with representatives and speak to them directly.
No matter what you’re most looking forward to — panels, peer networking, mentorship talks, or all of the above — the ScreenCraft Virtual Summit is a step beyond the usual zoom room. I’m looking forward to this chance to build my networks and communities, and take those key career steps. It also looks like a lot of fun! Who knows, we might run into each other in the chat, during a mixer, or in a networking session. If we do, I hope you’ll say hi.