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Taliesin Nexus Filmmakers Workshop

August 22, 2013


After over a year sleeping in a coma, it’s about time I brought this blog back to life…

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to be one of 27 filmmakers who were chosen to participate in the Taliesin Nexus Filmmakers Workshop, held in Los Angeles on the beautiful UCLA campus.  Room, board, and travel were covered by the workshop, so it ended up being a free trip to LA to hang out with cool filmmakers and connect with industry professionals.

Taliesin Nexus is a non-profit organization whose mission is to connect up-and-coming filmmakers and experienced industry professionals who share a passion for a free society.  Who doesn’t love freedom? No, this workshop is not solely for people who are making overtly political films or documentaries. All genres, media, and experience levels were well represented.

Aside from being free (both philosophically and monetarily), one of the major benefits is that the workshop affords some quality time with industry professionals. Starting on Friday evening and running through Sunday afternoon, the workshop included seven panels ranging from 60 – 150 minutes in length. Through these panels, we were able to interact with a great range of talented folks including (but not limited to) Paul Guay (screenwriter, Liar Liar), Daniel Knauf (television writer/creator, Carnivàle)David H. Steinberg (screenwriter, American Pie 2), Warren Zide (producer, Final Destination), and Kailey Marsh (manager/producer and creator of The Blood List).  

There wasn’t a dull moment the entire weekend, but the highlight for me was getting the opportunity to pitch a feature comedy idea to Paul Guay and David H. Steinberg. The entire class was “forced” to give the two screenwriters their best pitch, while Paul and David asked questions, poked holes, and offered suggestions in the same way a Hollywood exec or producer would. It was more stressful than that time I was awaiting a call from the Blue Man Group, but it ended up being an amazing learning experience.

Takeaways from some of the other panels include:

  • Content is king.
  • Kailey Marsh is queen (of horror).
  • Go Do. Don’t waste time thinking about a project or developing it. Just make it, then make something else, then make another thing, and then another…repeat 10,000 times until you get paid for it. Then do it 10,000 more times.
  • Stop writing good scripts. Write amazing stories. “Crap plus one” doesn’t cut it.
  • If the people you work for like Fruit Loops, then always have a backup box of Fruit Loops. I.e. be the best at whatever menial job you have…even if it’s hoarding cereal while taking notes in a writers’ room. (For more on working hard, check out my favorite podcast interview in the history of time: #5 – Stephen J. Cannell.)
  • Be prepared to eat shit for AT LEAST five years. If you do not quite prefer the taste of fecal matter, then perhaps this industry is not for you.
  • It’s a fun time to be involved in online media content. It’s the wild west and everyone is searching for gold on a level playing field.
  • It’s a sad time to be involved in features. It’s harder than ever to get anything sold, produced, or even considered. HOWEVER, a brilliant script by a passionate writer will always prevail…eventually.

Almost more impressive than the panelists, were the students. I was truly humbled to be surrounded by 26 young, talented filmmakers. Many were local to LA, while other students came from as far as South Africa, Australia, and even San Diego, CA! It was a bit intimidating to see so many filmmakers, most of whom were younger than I am, who have already accomplished so much. However, more present than the intimidation, was the motivation. Everyone had a refreshing drive and optimism that can sometimes get lost in Hollywood. Although I hadn’t stopped writing completely, my production had slowed down over the last year or so. This workshop and this group of people provided exactly the jolt I needed.

It’s now a couple days since the workshop and my inbox is full of emails from the people I met, my Facebook friends list is a bit longer, and my twitter account has THREE new followers. Everyone has been very open to working with each other in the future by providing equipment, helping out on shoots, and even providing feedback on scripts. Who knows if we’ll all stay in touch, but I sure hope so.

Needless to say, I highly recommend anyone interested in filmmaking apply to this workshop next year. All the details can be found here:  Taliesin Nexus Filmmakers Workshop. In addition to the workshop, there are other internship opportunities that occasionally become available. I also encourage my classmates to chime in with their two cents in the comments section if they want to add any details.

Other Random Things I Learned:

  • Fosters is Australian for beer, but not in Australia.
  • Mr. Habibi knows how to party
  • It is possible to transport a dozen doughnuts across the country in a checked bag. I recommend the blueberry fritter, as they hold up pretty well…even three days later.
  • In-N-Out is a great way to end any trip to Los Angeles.
  • Milk Jar Cookies is worth checking out. ESPECIALLY when you lock your rental car key in the trunk of your 2013 Mazda3 on Cloverdale Ave.
  • This is not a food blog, no matter how hard I try to turn it into one.
7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 22, 2013 11:10 am

    Thanks for the update! Been wondering what happened to you. So, how did your pitch go? What did they think about it? Also, are you still sticking with TV as your main focus, or have you shifted to features? Hard to tell from this summary. I’ve been working on TV pilots, but have shifted to some 5 minute short ideas to learn some story-telling methods, and will attempt to put to film soon.

    Looking forward to hearing more. Really appreciate you writing about your journey.

    • August 22, 2013 11:25 am

      Hey Brian – Sorry to leave you hanging, but I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the blog. The pitch went okay; definitely a few story elements that needed work, but I don’t think I made a complete fool of myself. It was kind of like stand up comedy (for me), where I was very nervous before, but during the pitch I started to relax, then when it was over I wanted to do it again.

      I’ve branched out a little more into some features with a writing partner, although my main love will always be sitcoms. I’d also like to get some shorts and sketches made in the next couple months, so be on the lookout for links to those. I’m also perpetually making a webseries…hopefully that happens next year.

  2. June 27, 2014 12:28 am

    Hey Evan,

    I applied to the Taliesin workshop 2014, do you remember when they notified you of your acceptance? The deadline was June 15, and the conference is mid August, so I’m assuming end of July?


    • June 30, 2014 9:35 am

      Hi Lisa!

      I was notified early July, so you should definitely hear something by the end of July. Best of luck with the workshop!


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