A Wicked Good Time in Hollywood

Julie: In MA, thinking about the lovely weather back in CA.

The contest winner of the sock contest is Edie Lewis! Please email your address to Sherry at Sherryharrisauthor@gmail.com

IMG_8330Sheila, Jessie, Sherry and I all went to Hollywood for a Sisters in Crime conference: Adapting to Hollywood. There we joined 121 other SinC members from across the country, learning about the business of film and television and what we needed to consider when doing an adaptation of our own work. We also got to pitch to a Hollywood producer. I know I am still thinking about the weekend, and mulling over all that I learned. Today, we’re going to chime in on a highlight of the weekend, a favorite memory, and something we learned.

Alison Sweeney talks about working with Hallmark, being a producer, actor, and author.

Alison Sweeney talks about working with Hallmark, being a producer, actor, and author.

Jessie: First off, I wanted to send out an enormous thank you to all the people involved in organizing this event. What a tremendous amount of work this must have been! I had such a wonderful time. I learned that while the film business and the publishing business tell stories really differently, they are both industries that require a lot of patience and tenacity. Nothing is over until it is over and enthusiasm goes a long, long way. One of the highlights for me was listening to Megan Abbott talk about her journey towards a seat in the writers’ room on a television show. She was funny and sincere and generous. A favorite memory was sitting with G.A. Maillet, Leslie Budewitz, Sheila, Sherry and Julie late into the evening on the hotel patio talking life and business.

Sheila: Talk about intense! We spent two full days listening to an amazing array of speakers, with different areas of expertise in the film/television/I don’t know what industry, telling us what it’s really like behind the scenes and how to break in. A huge thank-you for Sisters in Crime for putting this together.

IMG_8424I took a lot of notes, but they don’t always make sense. The first thing that jumped out at me what a comment made by writer Megan Abbott, the keynote speaker: “people in the business don’t live in the same world as other people.” You could say the same for writers. The question we all wanted answered was, where do these two worlds intersect?

Other messages? You’d better know someone to get your foot in the door. You need an agent, but your agent needs to know a California agent with connections. There is a lot of demand for IP (intellectual property, which I think means something you wrote that isn’t based on something else) because there are so many outlets for new work–but you still have to get it on the right desk or in front of the right eyes or whatever.

And then there’s the stuff we already know: write a good story, and tell it well. Make even your synopsis or screenplay entertaining. Trust yourself, and don’t lose your own voice. Be persistent and enthusiastic. And keep your fingers crossed!

Sherry: What a fabulous weekend! Thank you Sisters-in-Crime and the LA Chapter of SinC for putting on such a great event. I’m guessing getting all the speakers lined up was right up there with herding cats. And when someone didn’t show up you fixed it! To add to what Sheila said, if you don’t have an agent you can hire an entertainment lawyer to pitch your work to producers, etc. But never send anything on your own or unsolicited.

IMG_8389Most of you are probably familiar with the IMDb website which is full of information about movies, actors, and TV shows. But I learned in LA there is also an IMDb Pro which lists contact information for producers and executives. They have a thirty day free trial which I

Nancy Parra aka Nancy Coco, Leslie Budewitz, Jessie, Sheila, and Julie

Nancy Parra aka Nancy Coco, Leslie Budewitz, Jessie, Sheila, and Julie

signed up for because I wanted to email someone I had hoped to speak to but didn’t get a chance. So now you can find me on IMDb (for the next 25 days)! I wrote a quick note thanking him for being there and asked if he like my agent to send my books. (Okay, I’m trying not to check my email every five minutes to see if he’s answered.)

Another thing that really struck me is something that Laura DiSilverio said and was reiterated by the speakers over and over. Your art (book) is your art. Hollywood will change it into their art. They might use one aspect, they might not for legal reasons be able to use the names as they appear in your story, they might cut characters for smaller budget TV movies. Lastly, it is always fun to hang out with fellow authors and we had so much fun!

Julie: I took a screenwriting workshop years ago, and couldn’t

After a day of listening to Hollywood insiders, walking around the City Walk was fun.

After a day of listening walking around the City Walk was fun.

do it. Telling the story through dialogue rather than exposition? I just wasn’t there. But now, one of my takeaways is that I want to try again. The conference was just terrific at explaining in very clear terms that Hollywood is commercial, which is about making money. It doesn’t mean that they don’t care about story, or art (necessarily). It does mean that budgets and potential income matter.

I also thought about how lucky we are as novelists. Though we need people in our production pipeline (editors, publishers, booksellers, librarians, readers, etc.) our imagination is our own movie studio. It is a special skill, but not necessarily transferable.

What a terrific weekend. I learned a lot, and look forward to learning more. The dream is still to have a movie on the Hallmark Channel. I am grateful to Sisters in Crime for helping me realize this will be as big a challenge as getting published.

Any other sibs want to weigh in on what they learned last weekend?

14 thoughts on “A Wicked Good Time in Hollywood

  1. I agree with Julie’s comment: telling an entire story using only dialogue is daunting. We were told that most screenplays are 90-120 pages total, including stage direction. It’s hard to imagine reducing a whole book into so little, but obviously it happens all the time. One more skill to learn!

    I should also say that I’m watching the credits of television shows much more carefully now. When I see that the (female) star of a show I admire is producer, director and star, I want to applaud!

  2. Sounds like it was a fascinating conference. I was nodding along with much of what you shared because it all seems logical to me. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived too close to Hollywood for so long. Or maybe it’s my business background coming through.

    And it was great to get to meet Julie and Sherry and see Sheila again on Thursday night. Jessie, I’m sorry I missed you, but I’ll see you on Malice in two and a half weeks.

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