10 tips to make the most of Screen Forever sessions: Emerging Producer Placement Pete Ireland
Planning which sessions to attend at Screen Forever can be crucial to any practitioners experience at the conference. We caught up with first-timer, Pete Ireland, to ask for his top 10 tips for emerging practitioners to plan sessions.
How did you choose which sessions to attend? And how did they turn out (were you happy with your choices or would you go another way next time)?
The schedule was probably the most difficult part of the entire Screen Forever endeavor, particularly when it's your first time. You receive a notification that the program is now online, only to find what seems like the film industry conference equivalent of the chaos dimension.
At this stage, your FOMO (fear of missing out) will kick into overdrive, and the whole thing will start to seem like impenetrable anarchy. If you persevere, however, and take a systematic approach, the opacity of the schedule soon fades. For assistance, my extremely loosely assembled new approach is:
1. Very early on, identify which projects you intend to pitch, or at the very least will bring up in conversation while you're there, and what the needs of those projects are e.g. is it a sales agent? Financing? A broadcaster? An international co-production partner?
2. Check the speakers list on the SPA website and research who they are. Find the ones that come from the places/service providers that match the needs of your projects.
4. When the invitation goes out for special events e.g. the international partnerships market. Research quickly and apply quickly if you are interested.
5. When the invitation goes out for roundtables and one-to-one pitching, it will literally take 20 minutes at most for them to book out. But you'll be prepared from steps 1 and 2, above. When the invite arrives, book immediately. Note: there is a limit to how many roundtables and pitches you can book, so be prepared and get your booking correct the first time. Otherwise you go back to the start of the queue and may miss out.)
6. Once the Hunger Games style frenzy of roundtable and pitching bookings are done, open your phone/email calender to the first day of the conference. Pre-populate the calendar with your roundtable, pitch, and special bookings.
7. Download the .ics calendar file from the SPA website to automatically populate all the conference sessions into your phone/email provider calendar e.g. your gmail calendar or Outlook calendar via the phone calendar app. If you don't know how to import a calendar, google it.
8. Once imported, go through the schedule per day in order, reviewing each session and what it's about. Make choices, based on those identified needs of your projects and your developmental needs.
9. Once all that is done, research places where you can eat a nice breakfast, and also where the designated post-event drinks and 'SPA nightcap' bars are.
While I had to work out the above system on the fly, I was happy with my conference schedule overall. I somehow managed to get the balance between different kinds of sessions (i.e. panel discussions, key note speeches, etc) correct for my needs.
At the next conference, what would you do differently?
While it all worked out in the end, I would have worked out the schedule sooner. The sheer complexity of the interweaving events over three days left me a bit overwhelmed at first, which could have been easily solved if I just dove in immediately. 20-20 hindsight is glorious.
I may have also pre-booked more meetings, however I think that's a delicate balance to strike. The whole point of attending the conference is to attend the conference, after all.
What advice do you have for emerging practitioners on being strategic with their time at the conference?
There are many ways to approach an open event like a screen industry conference, based very much on who you are as an individual, and what your priorities are for your work/projects. From a general perspective, I would simply recommend that you relax, and take a holistic view of what skills development you need, and what resources your projects need, to build the momentum you are seeking.
Once you know what these fundamental needs are, you can then make informed choices across the spectrum of things on offer from the conference program, while still being open to happy accidents that may arise from meeting new people and beginning new professional relationships.
If that's too touchy-feely for you as a piece of advice on strategy, the blunt answer is: ensure you at least go to sessions where you can hear what project buyers want to commission, and then spend plenty of time buying people drinks at the bar.
Pete Ireland is a recipient of the Screen NSW Emerging Producer Placement Scheme, a mentoring scheme for emerging Australian producers. He writes a weekly newsletter about his experiences as a filmmaker and film industry issues, Tales From the Opening Act, and is developing an animated series, several shorts and feature length projects through his production company 'Opening Act Films'