A little over a week ago I was in San Francisco twice. Thursday night it was for the monthly IIFF (Institute for International Film Financing) meeting held at the Academy of Art University.
For anyone interested in learning about film financing, I highly recommend IIFF’s meetings as well as their workshops. If you’re not near the Bay Area, meetings are occasionally held in other areas. Just keep an eye on the IIFF website.
I knew four out of the five speakers Thursday night: an executive producer through whom I hired one of my story analysts; a lawyer who is also a distributor, producer, and investor; the director of IIFF; and my own lawyer. The fifth speaker was an accomplished screenwriter (has sold over 20 features), novelist, and producer, and I made a point of briefly talking to him and getting his contact info.
To give you an idea of the kind of information you can expect from IIFF meetings, the program was as follows:
- BLENDING ART & COMMERCE: Crafting Movie Deals That
- THE REEL DEAL: Getting Your Indie Financed, Produced &
Distributed Without Getting Ripped Off
- FILM BUDGETING & SCHEDULING: Key to Success for
Filmmakers & Financiers
- STARTING ON THE RIGHT FOOT: Legal Documents Any Film
- HOLLYWOOD PROFITS: Quantitative Drivers of Motion
Some of the information I’ve heard before, but I usually pick up some new tidbits at every meeting I attend and I consider them well worth my time.
Have you ever been in the embarrassing situation of walking right by someone you know and not even recognizing them? Well, that’s what happened to me at the IIFF meeting. I smiled and walked right by a bearded man in the hallway and it wasn’t until I heard my name and recognized the voice that I realized the man was my lawyer. You would think I would know my own lawyer if I saw him, right? Well, I haven’t seen him since last May. We communicate primarily by email and phone. So even though I knew he would be speaking that night, I had no idea that he had grown a beard and I didn’t recognize him. Amazing how much a beard can change some people’s appearance.
Last weekend was WonderCon. WonderCon is the smaller sister convention to Comic-Con and is run by the same organization. At 29,000 attendees, one would hardly call it small. In fact, it is the second largest comics convention on the West Coast. But when you compare it to Comic-Con’s 125,000+ attendees, it is dwarfed by comparison.
By the way, if you are planning on attending Comic-Con this July, you’ll want to hurry and get your tickets. It’s only March, but can you believe the four-day passes are almost sold out already?
WonderCon was held at Moscone Center South, just south of Market Street, in San Francisco. If the con ever grows to the size of Comic-Con, there’s plenty of room to expand as Moscone Center North wasn’t even used. I knew I was getting close to the convention center when I saw a storm trooper standing on a busy street corner…not your everyday sight in San Francisco. By the way, crowd control into the convention center was done by Darth Vader and some storm troopers. I found it rather amusing when a storm trooper told us to “move along.”
WonderCon is only three days long compared to Comic-Con’s four days plus preview night, but it has a lot of what you would find at the bigger convention. The big panels are there, although not as many. This year they had panels for Watchmen, Star Trek, Terminator Salvation, Chuck, and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, among others.
I was there for only one day (Saturday), so I didn’t attend any of the big panels. I came close to attending the Star Trek panel, but then decided against waiting in the long line and decided to check out the exhibition hall instead. It’s a big room filled with row after row of exhibitors’ booths, much like Comic-Con. The biggest difference was the noticable lack of big studio booths. I think Capcom had the biggest booth and it was pretty tame compared to the ones you find at Comic-Con.
I walked right by a booth where Adam Baldwin was signing autographs, but I didn’t get in line to meet him. The line to meet Mark Hamill was even longer and there were so many people crowding the booth, I couldn’t even catch a glimpse of him. However, I did get to chat briefly with Charlott Stewart, who I remember from Little House on the Prairie…a really nice woman. I, also, could have sworn that I walked right by big-time producer Jeffrey Katzenberg in the crowd. He was wearing a baseball cap, but it sure looked like him.
I attended a few smaller panels that were more industry oriented. One was a special effects makeup panel that was pretty cool. The special effects makeup artist gave some interesting demonstrations using some victims…er, volunteers. By the time he was done one girl had a bloody hole in her neck with raw flesh hanging down and the rest had a various assortment of smaller scars. Pretty gross, but fun to watch it being done.
I also attended a writing workshop by David Gerrold. He writes primarily science fiction, but, really, his advice could work for most other genres. One tip he gave that really stuck with me is that if you want to make your characters likeable, make them fun.
I ended up walking out of the last panel. It was supposed to be about how to do full-time creative work on a part-time schedule…something I’m all too familiar with. I figured I could pick up some tips, but the panel turned out to be more of an advertisement for the company’s website than truly instructional. It was poorly put together and very unprofessional. I wasn’t the only one who walked out. They were starting to have a serious leakage of audience members.
There was one area where WonderCon beat Comic-Con and that was with the food. It was just as ridiculously overpriced as it was at Comic-Con, but it was much better. I had the pizza and, wow, what a difference from the cardboard stuff they try to pass off as pizza at Comic-Con.
Now, I’ve attended comics/popular arts conventions as a regular attendee and as an exhibitor, but this was the first time I’ve attended one as a professional. I was able to get my paperwork together in time to qualify as one. What’s cool about attending as a professional is that you get in absolutely free. Can’t beat that price! Also, there’s no waiting in those long lines that everyone else has to wait in…just had to pick up my badge at the professional registration booth and I was good to go. For some reason WonderCon publishes a list of attending professionals on its website. I don’t remember giving permission to have my name published, but somehow I ended up on the list. Not sure that really means much because, seriously, does anyone know who all those people are?
I didn’t take pictures because I still have pictures from last year’s visit to Comic-Con in my camera that I need to download. My bad. I apologize for not sharing those with you yet. I’ve really got to try to get those up soon.