Are you an aspiring screenwriter in need of a helping hand? If so, consider attending the 11th annual Screenwriting Conference in Santa Fe (SCSFe), which will be held May 26-31 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A premier screenwriting event, SCSFe offers scribes a chance to interact with some of the most renowned instructors in the business.
MM recently spoke with Larry Stouffer, co-founder of SCSFe, about what attendees can expect from this year’s conference.
Kyle Rupprecht (MM): This years marks the 11th anniversary of SCSFe. To what do you attribute the conference’s continued success?
Larry Stouffer (LS): Spirit. The will to sincerely want to help screenwriters achieve. The drive to make sure that SCSFe remains the best screenwriting conference in the world. It gives screenwriters things both tangible and intangible that they can get nowhere else—save and except spending years at an accredited film school or university. From our perch in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico we bring in working Hollywood screenwriters and acclaimed screenwriting teachers to mentor our attendees. I mean, these people can really teach! And we bring in producers who have the ability to actually move projects along. And these producers (agents and managers, too) are aggressively looking for screenplays that come from our writers, who deeply feel their stories have something to offer.
MM: SCSFe is split into two components: Screenwriting Symposium and The Hollywood Connection. Briefly, could you describe the difference between the two?
LS: SCSFe is a six-day annual event. It always starts the Tuesday following Memorial Day and runs through 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. The Screenwriting Symposium component begins Tuesday after lunch and ends on Saturday at noon. This includes nine-hour classes spread out over three mornings, 90-minute seminars, a mentor panel, private script consultations, screenplay competition awards, keynote seminar, a social event and even a bocce ball tournament just for fun. This component, with classes and labs for beginning/emerging screenwriters all the way up to advanced screenwriters, is dedicated to teaching the art and craft of writing a screenplay that’s salable to Hollywood. I suppose that would be our mandate.
The other component, The Hollywood Connection, convenes just after lunch on Saturday and wraps up on Sunday with a Fade Out seminar. This component speaks to the business aspects of screenwriting, and is where we bring in Hollywood producers, agents and managers. And this is no mob scene; usually 15 (give or take) hand-picked, successful professionals who are aggressively looking for screenplays and screenwriters to represent. We hold two panel discussions and then have pitch sessions that are each five minutes in length and are held in private. Throughout, we have seminars for those who aren’t pitching or are between pitch appointments.
MM: What makes SCSFe stand out from other screenwriting conferences?
LS: First of all, size matters. We rarely exceed 200 people here. Class sizes are no larger than 30 writers. It’s an intense learning experience with ample opportunity for Q&As. At SCSFe, because of our intimacy (again, no mob scenes) we go a step beyond making contacts—our writers make connections. Big difference. I suppose that’s one major reason why each year 25 to 30 percent of our attendees have been here before. Some more than three times, a few more than six. And they come from foreign countries, too.
Another thing that’s unique about us is we’re a standalone conference; we aren’t owned by a magazine or a sidebar to a film festival. We are totally dedicated to teaching screenwriting and are not a place to come to party down. There are two social events, and that’s it. But this is a conference for serious screenwriters looking to be great.
MM: What special events or guest speakers can attendees look forward to this year?
LS: Of course all our speakers are special or we wouldn’t invite them. How’s that for politics? But it is true. Looking in on our Website, www.scsfe.com, will reveal that immediately. To name a few, though, peek at Kirk Ellis, Miguel Tejada-Flores, Rob Tobin, Cynthia Whitcomb, Wendall Thomas, Terry Borst, Marvin Acuna… the list goes on. These people are accomplished, successful, imaginative folks who are passionate about teaching. Others are yet to be confirmed.
MM: What’s the best piece of advice you can offer aspiring screenwriters?
LS: Write. You know you have something to say, so write. Learn about the craft and write more. Write, write, write. Accept that it’s anything but easy. Thomas Mann said, “A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Finally I’d strongly advise if you want to get ahead of the crowd, read every issue of MovieMaker Magazine and come to SCSFe.
For more information, visit www.scsfe.com.