Friday, November 02, 2007

Wooing Hollywood

This week I was in Los Angeles for the annual Screenwriting Expo. Wow. What an experience! Here are the highlights:

Day One.
I arrived in L.A., made my way from the chaos that is LAX to the airport Marriott. The place is crawling with screenwriters. How can I tell? Well, apart from the conference badges around their necks the look of cynicism and desperation in their eyes in unmistakable. I stand in three separate registration lines, get all my passes and go to my first workshop – one on honing the perfect pitch. Great workshop, very fun, interactive, I realize my pitch sucks, must give it complete overhaul.
Second workshop is about turning books into movies. The agent giving the workshop outlines the way to get paid three four separate times for the same book. (Must ask my agent about this!)
Had an early dinner and hit the hay in anticipation of a full day tomorrow.

Day Two.
Sleep in, call my good friend Jax Crane to see when she’s arriving. She has a date (the little scamp!) so won’t be in until afternoon. I head off to my first workshop solo. Another one on pitching. This guy contradicts what the first lady said. Hmmm… interesting. Spend lunch reworking my pitch yet again.
Have my first pitch session. Oh my – what a process! First we had to find the production company we were pitching to on a big board, then find the corresponding table number they’d be sitting at, then find that table on a big map of the room. Then we were called into a holding room in the order of our pitches. Once there we were reminded again to hold onto our table numbers, then we were herded (Moo!) into another holding room, waited there, then herded into a third holding room where we had to sit in the chair with the same number as our company’s table. Then, finally, we were let into the huge room full of pitch tables. I pretty sure by the time I sat down I didn’t remember my own name. But I knew my table number!
Jax finally arrived that afternoon and we went to dinner in lovely Inglewood (note the sarcasm here, Inglewood is NOT lovely) where we had the worst waitress ever, but were afraid to complain because it was the kind of neighborhood where she might be carrying a switchblade beneath her apron. Left a big tip (just in case) then hightailed it out of town. Went back to the Marriott where we met up with a few fun writer who bought us drinks. (Anyone who buys the drinks is fun in my book!)

Day Three.
Got up early and had breakfast with my lovely agent, Nephele Tempest. She took Jax and me to the Grove, a very cool Disney-eque shopping center in L.A. We walked around after breakfast exploring the farmer’s market and doing a little window shopping. I even got to sign a book at the local Borders!
After breakfast I had two more pitches. Both promised they’d call me. (Just hoping this isn’t like when a guy says “I’ll call” at the end of a date…)
Hit another workshop, then met with one of the producers involved in the SPYING IN HIGH HEELS TV show. Great guy, very nice, very un-typical Hollywood. Gave me some tips on pitching. Odd enough, completely contradicting what the other two workshops had said. Hmm… refine my pitch once more…
Had dinner with Jax then came back to the hotel to change for a Halloween party. I was a detective so Jax decided at the last minute to go as a cat bugler. (Involving another hold-your-breath-and-try-not-to-get-shot trip to Inglewood for costume pieces.) I think we pulled I off, yeah? The party was fun, free flowing booze, lots of great costumes, and Jax even got hit on by a baby-faced Mr. T.

Day Four.
My last day, packed full of – what else? – pitches. Have completely abandoned all pitch suggestions, winging it at this point. Am a complete pro at navigating the many holding rooms by this point, giving out pointers to the newbies.
Between pitches did a little exploring with Jax around L.A. and landed at an Indian restaurant for lunch. Gorge on veggies and naan bread before going back to the hotel for one more pitch, then off to the airport. Two hours sipping coffee at LAX and I’m back home!

The best part? When I got back there was an email from the last manager I pitched to requesting to see my screenplay. They like me, they really like me!

So, how did you all spend your Halloween week?

~Gemma "Trigger Happy" Halliday


Christie Craig said...

Wow, Gemma!

I'm soo thrilled for you. Sounds like you had a blast in Hollywood!!!

You go girl.


Gemma Halliday said...

Thanks, CC! It was a lot of fun, not sure if anything will come of it, but definitely eye opening to see how these producers think.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a fabulous time! Except maybe for those hazardous forays into Inglewood.

As for pitching, sounds like that's a crap shoot. *g* But great that one of them wants to see yours!!!

Angie Fox said...

I'm ready for a nap just reading about your trip. Good for you that you got lots done, survived Inglewood AND received a request!

Heather Moore said...

Sounds really interesting. I heard screenwriter David Sheffield speak at a recent conference. He was great. (I'm not a screenwriter, but a novelist). Good luck!

Lucy said...

Sounds like you had a good time. :-)

Gemma Halliday said...

I found a lot of what the were talking about as far as the story structure workshops was great for applying to novels, too. Though what amazed me the most was the information on how many novels Hollywood turns into movies. About 70% of all movies are adapted from books. One guy was saying that when the Oscars come around, it's often really hard for them to find five original screenplays (not adapted) to even nominate for the category.


Anonymous said...

Gemma, that's great news about the screenplay nibble. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you!


Gemma Halliday said...

Thanks, Faye!


Jenyfer Matthews said...

Oh! Sounds totally nerve-wracking - and exciting! So excited for you on the pitch! Fingers crossed!

As for what approach to take on a pitch, I imagine it much be as much a roll of the dice as to what works as it is with books. What works for one person may not work for another.

Gemma Halliday said...

Very true, Jenyfer. I actually got some advice from one producer to pitch using certain words to a guy and another set of words to a girl. Lol!


Estella said...

Great news, Gemma!

Michele L. said...

What an awesome opportunity Gemma! Always think optimistically because you never know what might happen! Have a great week!

Michele L.

Mrs. C said...


"Believe", that's my Motto. I honestly believe, "Spying in High Heels" is going to be the hottest tv show in 2008. We all must be positive about this and "Believe" Positive reinforcement..."Believe"
reinforcement..."Believe." Okay, I"m starting to sound like a parrot. Glad you had fun in Hollywood Gemma.

Mrs. C