I went to my first screenwriter MeetUP last night and I have to say it was very enlightening and I met some very interesting people.
Although, I thought were we met was very strange. The place the meeting was held was at this huge wine/beer discount store (Kind of like a Sam’s Club for booze). The store had a conference room in the back that we used. While the room was good I questioned meeting there – maybe the store let them use the space for free? I could have used some refreshments while listening to scripts being read and pitches and feedback and thought a coffee place would have been more suitable. One of the organizers said as the group grows then they may break off into smaller groups that meet in nearby restaurants and so forth. I was envisioning a group meeting at the coffee shop up the street from my house instead of a wine store way outside the perimeter by the mall but that’s just me. I guess I can sacrifice not being in my little haunts with atmosphere. (I guess I am an atmosphere whore)
When we came into the room we were greeted by the Organizers – I got the impression there are three guys running it. They all have catchy Golden Age comic book names, too – Nick, Lance, and Kip. A woman walked in behind me and said hi to them like she was a regular but still filled out a nametag. I couldn’t quite make out the name as she scribbled a long name that started with an “M” and ended it with a smiley face. I thought, “Oh, one of those.” Meaning, those women/girls who put a smiley face at the end of EVERYTHING. I called her “MaryAnn” in my mind.
More people filed in and the conversation of movies bounced off the walls. Most of the movies they were discussing I hadn’t seen and reminded myself that this was a screenwriting class so probably many of the people in the room were film buffs. During this time Nick put up a powerpoint presentation of what the group’s intentions were, what they do, etc. There were several lulls in the conversation and I wondered when he was going to begin. They finally got started at 7 which, I thought was a little late. I told myself at the next meeting I would come in at 6:45 and not hurry.
After starting, Nick wanted to know who was going to do pitches that night. Three people who already had scripts written raised their hands. Nick wrote down the names and asked if there were any “maybe’s” I volunteered as a “maybe” even though I had not written one word of this idea I’ve had. Kip’s pitch was a thriller set in Korea where he was stationed in the armed forces. Something about finding bodies that had reassignment surgeries on them. People threw out questions and gave feedback of the story and also ideas of where it could go. I was impressed with all of the feedback he received for just a pitch. The next two pitches were for cartoon-like comedies. I got up and did my pitch – mine is horror/thriller for a TV series. Like The Walking Dead – it’s apocalyptic with the main character trying to get somewhere to start a new world/life with lots of things working against her. (That’s it in a nutshell) The difference is that she is more of a savior type not so much a project manager type that takes the lead, like Rick. Also, there are many environmental things going on in the world that are working against her along with other people. I saw many raise their hands with questions. They asked where specifically she was going and about story line specific things and also threw out some great ideas. I thought it was all very helpful.
After that, they did table readings of scripts. Two people had brought theirs in to read. (I think you have to submit it to the organizers and they tell you when they will read it). The first one was by an older gentleman who was there. He kind of reminded me of the older guy I work with who gets on my last nerve. His script was a cop mystery/thriller genre along the lines of girls getting kidnapped by this psycho doctor and these cops trying to run down clues as to what happened. I found the dialogue between the cops to be funny and entertaining, although, I’m not sure he really meant it to BE funny. The generation difference between him and the rest of us was very apparent in the language he chose. He had written some things like “Ok, so you’re going to go off with Billy and get horizontal and do the mambo-pambo.”
I thought, “Huh? Who SAYS that?”
Then, in the body of one of his descriptions he had written “Rick was over in the corner talking to some little filly……” Referring to the woman he was talking to as a “filly”.
Again, I thought, “Who says that?”
After it was read, MaryAnn jumped up to mediate the Critique. They had specific questions such as Gut Reaction, Genre, Story, Protagonist, Antagonist, Supporting Characters, Dialog, Action, Scenes, Style, Structure, Format, Theme, Commercial Appeal, Author Questions and General Comments.
There were also guidelines in providing criticism. Raising your hand to give feedback and/or ask questions. Be concise and focus on making one or two points. Help improve the script, provide constructive criticism, be objective and show support for comments you agree with by snapping your fingers.
It was a very thorough review. I thought he had a good storyline – it reminded me of my own book, however, we did question the horizontal mambo-pambo and the use of the word “filly”. Nick said that some could find it offensive. I found it more hilarious, honestly. One of the other things about being respectful is not laughing at some of the things in the script that aren’t supposed to be funny. I had to look at the ceiling a few times to keep from cracking up over his use of words in the script. I thought I did a good job in holding it back but I was entertained none-the-less.
The next script was named, “Dinosaurs and Lasers”. As you can tell from the title it was very futuristic, sci-fi and just as it was named – about dinosaurs and lasers. It started out as a battle scene of people on top of all these different types of dinosaurs fighting each other. As the different names of the dinosaurs flew by I had a hard time following. I kept getting stuck on “is that the type of dinosaur that has the long neck?” instead of focusing on the storyline. It was very different. I couldn’t say that I was a fan but as we were critiquing it grew on me a little more. He really brought out the scenes even if it was of a genre that I rarely read or watch. The old guy whose script we had read earlier said that his scenes were too long. One guy in the back of the room said, “Yeah, but if you were here two weeks ago and heard his pitch the fact that he was able to come up with this script is amazing.” We all snapped our fingers in response and then clapped.
It gave me hope of producing something before the next meeting. In fact, I have to submit 10 pages of my pitch before they will let me come back so I guess I’d better get to working.