Weekend of romance with Michael.

Thanks to a visit from a filmmaker friend, I spent last weekend with Michael Hauge.

Well, Michael and about 150 romance writers, a dozen female screenwriters, and at least one guy writing in each of those forms.

Hauge, a Hollywood script guru and consultant for Will Smith and others, was brought to Vancouver by the Romance Writer’s Association of America. But that didn’t skew the presentation — except perhaps that he may have felt outnumbered, and he chose to illustrate his story points using the popular romantic comedy Notting Hill.

Unfortunately, this in not my favourite rom-com, since the third act “crisis point” — where Hugh Grant’s character is finally offered the love of movie star Julia Roberts and refuses — always makes me cheer. I mean the girl is bad news throughout the film, no? And it’s not just me seeing it that way – a rousing 7% of the romance-heavy room also thought that fictional movie star wasn’t worth his time. But Richard Curtis‘s film does redeem itself through lovely dialogue and quirky secondary characters.

It also does a good job or illustrating Hauge’s model of good story structure, which I will summarize as: 1) create emotion by 2) making people empathize with your character, then 3) put them into worse and worse situations that will 4) bring them ever closer to their true essence.

Moving away from ego and closer to true essence sounds like the journey we’re all on in life. So this description of a character’s inner journey was definitely worth the price of admission, especially in how Hauge broke down the major characters as foils to help or hinder the hero.

For a short article that gives the highlights of what we learned this weekend, check out Michael’s article in the March/April 2011 issue of Creative Screenwriting Magazine.

And for even more fun with Hauge and fellow structure master Christopher Vogler, check this out (of the library, and put that $50 towards caffeine.) Though it’s probably worth buying — I loved Vogler’s book. It’s infinitely more readable than Robert McKee’s (though he’s way more fun to listen to live than these two gentlemen, smart as they are.)

While we’re on the topic of CS, I was supremely relieved to find that my biggest addition, Jeff Goldsmith’s stellar interview podcast, is still alive and kicking. It’s been rebranded as “The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith.” Fewf. For a few days I thought I’d lost my supplier and I was already jonesing for the soft, sardonic voices of screenwriters.

Finalist at LA Comedy Shorts

I think he's a pirate.
Chillin’ with Pirate Frank (an official Shortie Shorts Boy) at the Elevate Lounge on awards night.

A great weekend of watching way too many short films — about 145 in four days — but well worth the price of admission, since it was included in the prize for being one of three finalists in the short script competition!

Fab photos by Frank Lee.

A few festival highlights:

– an amazing red carpet gala on awards night.

– a great panel on writing/ producing for TV featuring Kevin Shinick (MAD, Robot Chicken), Phoef Sutton (exec. producer Cheers, Boston Legal), and Aaron Mcgruder (Boondocks creator).

– taking home Movie Magic Screenwriter 6 software, a wad of cash money, and a starry-eyed glimmer of hope that I will find the perfect production team to make my short and re-submit it as a finished film for a future year’s festival.

– staying at the lovely Kyoto Grand Hotel.

Thanks again to festival organizers (left-right): Ryan Higman, Jeannie Roshar, and Gary Anthony Williams. You people throw a helluva great party.

Huge shout out to winner Chris Fondulas, who’s working on shooting his winning script, and to my fellow finalist Kevin Avery. Kevin not only got his script made, but he now has a  WGA Award for his work on Last Week Tonight  — go  Kevin!

My fave films of the fest:

dik written and directed by Christopher Stollery [award winner]

Kevin Spacey – Dates on Tape by Chris Lagarce [Winner, Atom.com Best Comedy Animated Short]

Suiker by Jeroen Annokkée.

Karl Mulberry directed by Lorne Hiltser, written by Gregory Lisi. [Winner: Elevate Best Comedy Student Film]

O507 by the Blaine Brothers.

Chris Weisberg is Growing Bald by Payman Benz.

Six, Nine written and directed by Lisa Schurga.

Time Freak written and directed by Andrew Bowler.

Withstand One Night directed by Ryan Sage, written by Joel West and Anna Bocci.

When the Wind Changes directed by Alethea Jones, written by Richard Davies.