Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hollywood, Here I Come

From April first to the third, I blew my budget on a trip to California for the Sisters in Crime Hollywood Conference at the Hilton Hotel in Universal City. The SinC organization put on a great conference, and it didn’t cost the Sisters one cent. Well, except for travel and hotel, but the conference was free.

Every morning started with a continental breakfast except for Saturday when the Los Angeles Chapter of SinC put on a magnificent spread. Lunch was provided Friday and Saturday, and I have to say the Hilton food was outstanding.

The conference included panels with Hollywood industry veterans that included writers, producers, editors, screenwriters, cable and network professionals, directors, program and development honchos, literary agents and managers, and even an entertainment attorney. The speakers explained their jobs, told antidotes, gave us ideas how to connect, and graciously offered five minute pitches to the attendees.

Before the pitch session, we had pitch specialists help us compose a one line pitch to grab a producer/director/agent's attention. If you think it’s hard to explain your book in a sentence that would knock a producer’s socks off, you’re right. The person who helped our group was terrific. When the time came to pitch, most of us were nervous. I pitched the first book in my series, Mind Games, to a lovely gal who is director of development at Cartel. When the timekeeper came in to signal the end of my five minutes, I slipped the development director my bookmark containing all my books in living color, and was ushered out the door.

The subjects of the six panels:
1. Who’s Looking for What?
2. What Makes a Good Character?
3. From Page to Screen
4. Getting Past the Gatekeepers
5. The Steps from Development to Green Light
6. Let’s Make a Deal

My take was what a lot of us felt: MIXED MESSAGES. We want your book, we want to find you, BUT, you must have an agent with connections to film and TV in order to get your book in front of the right people. This was something I suspected but it spelled disappointment nevertheless. Not that I thought anyone would walk away with a contract. I'm not that naive. One writer I know wangled an invitation to send her book, so best of luck to her. I gave my bookmark to the woman who said they were always looking for good material. We’ve since connected on Facebook. I hope she’s curious enough to check out my stories. But the best way to gain the attention of Hollywood is to write a bestseller, a la Gone Girl, get lots of reviews, and then maybe, just maybe, someone will find your book. We all know how easy that is. :-)

The highlight for me was an hour speech by bestselling author, Megan Abbot, who’s adapting two of her novels for film. She, like Gillian Flynn, has the star power and writing creds to be able to negotiate that kind of control. Advice for the rest of us, should we be lucky to ever land an option or contract: stay out of it. They will do what they want with your words and your story. Megan was funny, natural, and informative about the ins and outs of writing for film. Everyone thought she was great. I know I did.

The other delight was actress-turned-mystery writer, Harley Jane Kozak, interviewing actress, writer, director, and producer, Alison Sweeney, who stars in Murder She Baked on the Hallmark Channel, based on the books by Joanne Fluke.

Hallmark produces ninety movies a year, and is the best outlet for cozy mysteries, which unfortunately, I don’t write. I’m a Lifetime Channel gal myself. (Hear me, Lifetime? I’m ready. Got eight stories you can adapt to the small screen. Even wrote a screenplay for one of them.)

Best of all was the camaraderie of the Sisters. I met a few Sisters I knew from online, got to know a few more. To top off the weekend, three of us did Rodeo Drive. We sauntered into all the designers' stores, checked prices, and hot-footed out of all the designers' stores. But we had a fun afternoon. Even our actor-to-be Uber driver drove us around and pointed out the high spots. Was the trip worth it? Every penny.

What’s next for me? I wrote a screenplay for my book Hooked in 2014, entered it in a contest—one of the things they suggested we do to get our work into the hands of film professionals—and though it didn’t do well, I plan to learn how to do it better and rewrite it. I also want to finish the two books I’m working on. So full plate for 2016. Wish me luck.


Polly Iyer is the author of seven novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and three books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, and Backlash. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

22 comments :

  1. Great post, Polly. The highlight of the conference for me was meeting my Sisters (like you) from the east coast, dining with new and old friends every night and swapping stories. I learned a ton and came home fairly enervated. I can't thank national SinC for putting on this terrific conference.

    Now get that screenplay done. I'm ready to watch it on Lifetime!

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    1. I feel the same way. Great meeting you. I'm going to rewrite the screenplay I wrote, and look forward to watching both yours and mine on Lifetime.

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  2. Sounds like it was a fabulous learning experience. Glad you were able to connect with industry professionals and other Sisters--always the best part of a conference :-)

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    1. Missed that you weren't there, Daphne. You were on my wish list.

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    2. :-) Looking forward to that, whenever it happens!

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  3. Agree with Cindy! Definitely the best part was meeting other sisters and reconnecting with those I already knew! Great post, Polly!

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    1. Absolutely, Robin. That was the best part for me too. And thanks.

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  4. I can't believe the conference was free! how wonderful! Sounds like a good time, even though getting a movie contract may not have been the result! By the way, when I want to watch something light to unwind, I love watching the Hallmark Channel.

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    1. There was a lot about the Hallmark Channel, Morgan. Perfect for all the cozy writers' series.

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  5. Wishing you luck. Having your novel adapted is both a writer's dream and the stuff of nightmares. :)

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    1. I can't remember who said this, maybe Elmore Leonard, but it was to the effect of "Take the money and run." And probably never watch the movie.

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  6. Good luck Polly! You're the best!

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  7. Informative post, Polly. Although I’m no longer a member, I applaud SinC for looking at alternative outlets for both creativity and income potential for their writers. Add camaraderie and inspiration, and it sounds like a valuable (and fun!) weekend.

    VR Barkowski

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    1. I didn't know you left SinC, VR. It's the only organization I belong to because I think it's the most helpful. It was a very well organized conference, and you're right, valuable and fun.

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  8. Good luck, Polly! Wish it had been in this year's budget. Sounds like a lot of fun.

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    1. It was, Linda. Budget? Sometimes you just have to do something because it's fun.

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  9. Wow, sounds like an excellent conference. And it was free? More of that, please!

    I always feel so much tension in the air at conferences featuring agent and editor pitches, everyone hoping to be the exception to the rule of "Thank you, but..." When I do those I try to think of it as practice. However, I did land my first publisher at a conference. It was a small press, but it does happen.

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  10. I don't think anyone went into their pitches with grand illusions. No matter how prepped we were, five minutes gives no time to sell a story. My interviewer was just about to ask me a question when the hook was extended. Still, it was a great learning experience.

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  11. Wonderful report on the conference. Makes we want to write a cozy! Shared.

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    1. Thanks, Jackie. Yes, Hallmark is all cozy. Lifetime would be more my style.

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  12. What great information! And how lovely to have that special time with other Sisters in Crime.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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