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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Investing in Yourself

Are you like me? Do you tend to spend money on the necessities, then loved ones, then any other obligation but yourself? I'll spend $150 on taking a manager out to a nice dinner, or buying a good friend a fancy gift or attending a business-related event - but $150 for a gym membership? Ohhhh that is steep. Or how about spending $75 on a massage to help deal with stress and tension? Noooo I'm tough. And I need to send so-and-so flowers as a thank you for a meeting.

But Wavers, we need to put ourselves first. If mama's not happy, ain't nobody happy. It's amazing how much money we drop easily on dinner out or gifts for others but do you have a budget set aside for yourself? Are you really taking care of yourself and setting aside the money to invest in your screenwriting career, specifically? Even if your family doesn't quite understand? Do you have the budget set aside for screenwriting books, software, dvds, receiving notes or going to screenwriting events? Can you set aside maybe $2500 a year for all of that stuff? In the big picture, I bet you can. I'm amazed at how much money I drop unconsciously on all sorts of stuff. But that stuff is generally about and for anyone but me, personally.

To touch briefly upon my Unified Unicorn Theory of Life, I find that when I feel good about spending money, it shows up for me. But when I am in scarcity mode, it does not. It's about making a mental adjustment, Wavers, about how important you and your happiness are and knowing, for sure, that you deserve to fulfill your ambitions and that spending money on you and your screenwriting aspirations is as important as spending money on Aunt Clara's birthday gift. Stake a claim for your personal ambitions. Know that you are important and that what you are doing here is important and the money will show up. You'll never look back from your deathbed and regret the people you met, the classes you took or the experiences you had with your writing.

In my opinion, at the very top of your list of Me Money, should be the CS Expo. The Expo is an annual event sponsored by Creative Screenwriting Magazine, for those of you unfamiliar with the event. It is the premiere screenwriting conflagration to end all conflagrations.

It generally takes me two or three days to recover from being at events like the CS Expo, Fade In Pitch Fest or Great American Pitch Fest. Two, three, four days under fluorescent lights, talking constantly with hundreds of attendees and dozens of colleagues; it's exhausting. But I love it. There was grumbling on message boards about this year (and last's) CS Expo and the prices and administration of the event. I do think attendance was down this year compared to previous years because the prices did go up, the economy is not great and the holidays loom. That said, the event was still well populated and the attendees seemed happy with what they experienced. I recognized many faces from previous years events and of course many new faces as well.

The thing is this - through good years and bad, what other event can get the likes of Aaron Sorkin, William Goldman, Nancy Meyers, Tim Kring, Simon Kinberg, Jason Reitman, Josh Olson, Steve Faber and Marshall Herskovitz all under one tent to talk with aspiring television and feature film writers about their experiences? It's like the Woodstock of screenwriting gatherings; they should give each writer a complimentary bic lighter.

And there were dozens and dozens of classes. Everything from Scaling the Great Wall of Hollywood, taught by Gary Goldstein (producer, PRETTY WOMAN) to Beyond the Chick Flick: Writing the Female Driven Screenplay taught by my friend and colleague Pilar Alessandra to Anatomy of the Harry Potter Series (John Truby), Crafting Vivid Description for Emotional Impact (my dear, sweet Karl Iglesias) to Setting Up Character and Story (Syd Field). I mean, wow. I think it's probably really hard to choose which class to take since there are so many great ones.

Not to mention the after-parties where writers get to network and get to know one another. The writers I talked with felt pumped up and inspired after the event - which is precisely the point in my view.

If you didn't go this year, I highly, highly recommend staying tuned and going next year. You're right where the industry lives, in Los Angeles, and you can hear A-list speakers and take classes from some amazing teachers and you get to know writers from all over the world. Is it worth the $350 or $400 or whatever the Gold Pass cost was? For an annual event, plus hotel and airfare, you're talking what - $1000 or so? Is your screenwriting career worth that investment? God, I hope you think it is. I mean, seriously, at the end of the day, that's not a lot of money when it comes to making an investment in your writing career.

Put yourself first, Wavers. Take care of yourself personally. Eat well, sleep a lot more than you are now (the national sleep deficit is an epidemic, I tell you!) get a massage once in awhile, get some exercise and take your writing seriously. Yes, you do need to spend money on your writing career by attending events, purchasing books or dvds and getting notes and feedback on your script. It's not a luxury, it's a necessity. Don't let anybody tell you differently. There are all sorts of budgets and all sorts of ways of attacking that. But if you put yourself dead last on the list, you'll feel it, I promise you. I know from personal experience, trust me. If you want to take an online screenwriting class from the UCLA Writer's Program Extension, yes, that's going to cost you $500. But that's money so well spent I can't even tell you. I've done it many times and never regretted a penny of it.

Look at your budget for 2009 and ask yourself how important your personal happiness and fulfillment is. Go get a massage now and again. And save up and get revved up for screenwriting events in which you can immerse yourself in classes and networking that will pay off in any number of ways over time. Because you're worth it. And so is your writing.

The year is winding down but here are two upcoming events that I absolutely adore:

The UCLA Writers' Program Writers Studio
, February 5th - 8th, 2009. I love this event and have attended many times. I cannot say enough about it.

The Great American Pitch Fest, June 13th and 14th in Los Angeles. I have never attended a better organized, friendlier pitch event than this one. Really fun, really relaxed atmosphere, extraordinarily organized pitching.

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Luzid said...

Definitely planning on attending both the Expo and the GAPF next year. I couldn't afford it this year, and didn't feel I had scripts that were ready to pitch, but given that I just placed in the quarterfinals for the Expo's contest (with the first script I've ever entered in any contest) and I'll have a couple more ready to go (both you and Pilar have been amazing teachers), I feel confident in giving them both a go.

Plus, I want to talk story with people, including you, face-to-face!

millar prescott said...

I just signed up for my fourth class at UCLA Extension. Definitely been a great experience and boost. I highly recommend it.

E.C. Henry said...

Julie, I TRIED to come this year. At one point I had about $500 saved and earmaked to go the Expo, BUT then some bills came up, and I overexpended myself with a credit card and suddely I didn't have enough to go anymore.

The Expo IS important to me, hopefully next year I'll be in a better financial place and will be able to go. The WILL is there. And yes, given all it ofers I feel very strongly it's worth the money. AND I would have love to see you, and get a feel for what you're like in person.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

Luzid said...

@ E.C.

Julie is very nice in person - and has the mouth of a longshoreman, lol!


And she's very smart with story. Pitching to her is a great lesson in itself!

Julie Gray said...

What the *#@! are you talking about, Luzid? ;)

Seth Fortin said...

You know, this reminds me -- I keep meaning to save receipts for movie tickets and DVDs. Business expense! (And criminy, what an expense!)