NCS ’09: What did I miss?

Tracy Richardson is a former Story Department student and client whose debut script LIGHTING UP has been moving forward steadily since being selected a finalist in a national pitching competition back in 2006.

Last year she worked with Michael Hauge as part of Inscription.

Last month Tracy traveled South to attend the NSC in Adelaide.
As a guest blogger on The Story Department, she gives us a de-brief.

“As an unproduced writer it was a huge outlay to attend the National Screenwriter’s Conference in Adelaide in February. Did I get my $1,000 worth? You bet.

I didn’t know a single person before I arrived. I departed clutching handfuls of business cards and felt like I’d found a new family.

The main thing that impressed me was how generous everyone was with their time. You could walk up to anyone, introduce yourself and have a chat. Tell me where else in the world you would find such diverse and interesting characters as Rolf de Heer (Ten Canoes) and Darren Star (Sex in the City). Clayton Jacobson (Kenny) and David Weiss (Shrek). Mike Bullen (Cold Feet) and Jan Sardi (Shine).

The Micro-Mentorships (30 mins) were also useful if feverishly short. Tim Ferguson gave me some great advice about Romantic Comedies and followed it up with some interesting articles.

Here are some tips I picked up from the speakers that will stay with me.

• Detail drives a character (Clayton Jacobson, Kenny).

Remember the scene when Kenny visits his Dad with the boy and has napkins placed on the floor, under his feet? The shot is very brief, and Clayton knew some people would miss it, but this tiny moment reveals so much of the Dad’s character.

• A script is a document in seduction.

So says Rolf de Heer. He doesn’t write a word until his plot and story are fully thought through. And he does this by using cards that he sticks up on a wall. The cards give him the flexibility to play around with structure and content, and to feel happy with the story before he commits a single word to paper.

• If you’re stuck, make a Vomit Pass. David Weiss (Shrek).

If you’re having trouble writing a scene, just get some thoughts down. Don’t worry if they’re bad. When you come back to it later, it’s much easier to evaluate something and make it work better than having a blank space in front of you.

• Choose crispy dialogue. David Weiss.

Avoid letting a character say exactly what she is feeling. For example, don’t say in dialogue ‘I’m afraid.’ Say it differently. What about ‘Would you mind if I slept with the light on?’

• Network or attach yourself to someone who can.

I found a friend in Helen who is a network demon. Watching enviously as she deftly worked the room, I started to try by myself. All it takes for the more shy amongst us is a deep breath, a smile and an outstretched hand.

Gripes? Not many. I wish it could have gone on for another morning. I wish that I had spoken to Jan Sardi. I wish I could have done an Hermione Granger and used the Time Turner to attend all the sessions. But most of all, I wish everyone the very best with their projects and can’t wait to see how far they’ve progressed when the conference happens again in 2011.”

-Tracy Richardson

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