Plain and simple, stuff just happens sometimes and there is no point in explaining or trying to rationalize as you often just have to go with it. On the exterior this business of show can be one that is pretty cold and often ruthless and make no mistake, it often is, however it can be very collaborative and informative as well, if only so that those in key positions now can impart some wisdom for those coming up. This past weekend, the Toronto Screenwriting Conference did exactly that and it is the perfect forum for not only seasoned professionals to learn tricks of the trade but for arm chair screen writers like me (and undoubtedly a lot of you) to not only get that story out of your brain and on the page, but how to get it sold and made into a feature or TV show.
The morning started with the keynote speaker of the entire weekend (I had to take a cab to make it, I don’t do morning’s well on Saturday’s) and we heard David S. Goyer the man behind some films like Blade, Batman Begins & the upcoming Batman vs. Superman who is also the show runner on DaVinci’s Demons to talk about his experience navigating the midfield that is Hollywood. I’ll just say that it was worth getting out of bed that morning as Mr. Goyer waxed philosophical on a number of topics as he basically admitted that That Dark Knight Rises is Rocky III, that he spent his formative years watching the original Dark Shadows TV show and draws on many of his own personal experiences to flavour every script that he is working on. We got insights about working with Christopher Nolan along with the challenges on being a show runner while working on multiple projects simultaneously.
Undoubtedly a bench mark in success, you could tell that he was brought in to be the one to light a fire under a room full of writers…and it worked as the creative energy was flowing throughout the weekend at what could only be described as a fever pitch.
Next up we got an intensive overview of the inner workings of the TV industry with author and industry exec Carole Kirschner as we went into the pure minutia and importance of a pitch during pilot season and how a few scant words can make or break your chances to get your script made. It was a fascinating talk where I personally learned a lot to be able to apply to my life. Pitching and pitching something right can often be more important than how good your script is.
I ended my day one by taking a look inside the a writer’s room and how you ultimately write on a collaborative basis. The writers and show runners of the Canadian hit, 19-2 allowed us to see how a team puts together multiple acts into a cohesive hour of serialized entertainment.
The Canadiana keeps going on Day 2 as a packed house gets some pearls of wisdom from the likes of Eugene and Dan Levy and talk about how they turned their idea of a rich family going up Schitt’s Creek into a hit on both sides of the border. After that and for my final event of the weekend I got the chance to sit at the feet of Jeff Melvoin, a writer and show runner on things like Northern Exposure, Alias & Army Wives to name a few as we get a crash course intensive of everything that a show runner has to do and how easily it can come unravelled.
I know that for a lot of people looking on the outside looking in, the movie and TV industry is a cold and vicious beast that runs like a machine while the rest of us are flying by the seat of our pants, but in reality those people are only half right. If you can’t fly by the seat of your pants and need order and structure, then the movie and TV industry might not be for you. However my major take away from the weekend is just how many people were sitting, talking and bouncing ideas off of one another. For anyone in the industry or looking for a foothold in, the Toronto Screenwriting Conference is as good of a place as any to go get some ideas and learn just a little bit more about this business that we all call “show”. If you are so inclined, make sure that you register for next year, as soon as you can.