Toronto Screenwriting Conference 2015: Day One

 

Sue and I have been very fortunate in our dealings with those folks involved in film and television here in Toronto. One of these have been the wonderful folk who are involved with the Toronto Screenwriting Conference, now going into its fifth year, and we’ve been lucky enough to cover the past two, and now are back for 2015.

We both go into this eager to share the moments and do a little networking, but each time we end up becoming completely engaged in the sessions, and take innumerable notes to benefit our own writing, and once again, part way through the day, those creative juices started flowing, and I had to stop tweeting, and taking notes to send myself a couple more story ideas. And if one had any plans on being creative, this place was the place to do it.

At a new venue this year, Daniels Spectrum on Dundas, the building was abuzz and alive with folks trading stories, catching up, and brandishing their works in progress. I wasn’t waving mine about, it’s still percolating in my mind, but the Conference always gives it some much needed nutrients.

In the past the TSC has brought in some amazing writers, showrunners, executives and actors to talk with the attendees, and this year was no different. The opening session, for me, was worth it. Writer/director/showrunner David S. Goyer taking a quick break from his work with DC properties (Batman Begins, Man of Steel, Batman Vs. Superman, the forthcoming Krypton, Constantine) and the Starz series DaVinci’s Demons to give a presentation on myth in modern storytelling.

I loved this session, hearing him talk candidly about his career, tease playfully around the edges of Batman Vs. Superman, and address the polarizing moments of Man of Steel, and how all of his work has its ties in mythology, giving all viewers a touchstone to relate to.

It was very cool.

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I didn’t think anything else could top that session today, but the organizers knew what they were doing…

Next up, we settled in for an incredibly fun and informative session with Corey Mandell, an accomplished writer who has worked with Ridley Scott, Harrison Ford, John Travolta and others. As a teacher at UCLA he helps writers with their process and today, he talked about how to create a successful TV series engine, using something called bisociation.

Using a number of examples, he illustrated how this writing and creative device served some of the most successful shows to ever grace television screens. He coached a number of people in the room, was funny, easy to talk to, and left a number of us envious of his students in California. It was here that my creative juices really started flowing and I sent myself an email about combining a couple of story ideas I had and pushing the bisociation to the extreme (if I can… we’ll see…).

Even after his time was up, no one seemed to want to leave as he fielded one question after another, told great stories and involved the entire room in his discussions.

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After a quick lunch break, it was time for a new session format, the inaugural Writing Room Intensive. A group of writers had been asked to join 19-2 showrunner Bruce Smith in his writers’ room to pitch and then hammer out details for an episode. The session would then cover what happened, getting input from Smith and the writers, and executive Tom Hastings.

I found this one slow to get going, but once it really started rolling, at about the halfway mark as the story was broken, and discussion about character an season arc needs came into it, I was fascinated. When Tom joined to give his notes on behalf of the channel, I was hooked. It was a very interesting look at the cooperative nature that I’m sure permeates a number of writers’ rooms.

The last session of the day featured Salim and Mara Brock Akil (Being Mary Jane, Girlfriends), who talked about the use of television as a change to address social issues, as well series arcs, the much hated need to write a character’s death, and challenging the system with your storytelling.

It was a stunning, information packed first day, that got my brain fired up, and the need to write and tell stories becoming an almost overwhelming desire. I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow!!

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