Written by Matthew Hawk Eldridge
This past weekend, Screencraft partnered with the Atlanta Film Festival to put on the first annual Screencraft Writers Summit. Close to five hundred screenwriters and filmmakers from around the world attended the three-day event to enhance their knowledge with panels, workshops, and classes taught by over forty industry professionals from major networks, studios, and production companies.
The event opened with a reception, sponsored by SAGindie, at the Georgian Terrace, where budding artists shared stories and swapped business cards with one another, followed the next morning by the opening Keynote session, The Best Lesson I Ever Learned, where seven industry execs and writers shared personal stories of starting in the entertainment business.
The variety of panels offered information from the business side of screenwriting to include topics on agents, managers, studio executives, producers, networks, cables, and streaming from industry leaders Julie Plec from the CW, Chad Kennedy from Warner Brothers and Lionsgate TV, and Ben Cory Jones from BET and HBO among many others.
For the creatives at the conference, John Yorke, author of Into the Woods, offered creative intensive sessions such as, What Novelists Can Learn from Screenwriting, and The Power of Structure. One of the most memorable things Yorke proved was how Harry Potter was a direct rip-off from Star Wars in every way, but why both stories worked well. Award winning screenwriter and producer, Jacob Krueger, led intensives called The Secrets of Writing for TV and Web Series, and The Secret Language of Producers, the latter being an extraordinary class that taught how to please both producers and directors, and keeping your integrity (and your job) as a writer.
One of the highlights for me was meeting Julie Plec, the showrunner of The Vampire Diaries, who co-wrote the episode for my character as a street musician in Season 2, working alongside Daniel Gillies (who plays Elijah), for a powerful scene where he placed a hundred-dollar bill in my guitar case as I performed, took some coins from it, and blew out the glass in a coffee shop across the street. It was one of my first jobs in Atlanta.
Attendees were offered the chance to buy Elite badges, which gave access to view the films entered in the Atlanta Film Festival. However, it was probably more affordable to just pick the films you wanted to see and pay just to see those films individually, because the conference took most of the day and night, with little time for viewing films.
There was a vanity pitch competition for screenwriters, where over 300 writers pitched their stories for nothing more than practice and bragging rights. While this was a fun exercise, most of the judges were volunteers who didn’t have true screenwriting industry experience, until the finals, where about ten contestants competed in front of the panelists who stayed behind. I was proud of my screenwriting partner in crime, up and coming female screenwriter, director, and producer, Jessica Henric, who writes in the horror genre. She made it to the finals but didn’t place in the top three. That didn’t stop an agent from approaching her and asking for material, making the trip from Miami well worth the cost.
The ScreenCraft Writers Summit was a success and next year’s conference is already in motion. Make sure to get your badge early and save some cash with the early bird discount.
Matthew Hawk Eldridge is a sleepless, coffee-addicted renaissance man living in Atlanta Georgia. When he’s not passionately penning screenplays or novels rich in musical history, he’s writing songs on his guitar or acting, playing music, or doubling in film and television. Learn more at www.matthewhawkeldridge.com