Monday, September 26, 2011

The cure for a movie pitch with too much set-up....

First, a clarification. I said a few days ago that you could apply for an I-539 visa extension if you're in the States on a 90-day tourist visitor visa. My helpful visa lawyer has clarified that this is not the case - actually you can't extend the 90-day Visa Waiver Program (otherwise known as the VWP).

The I-539 allows people who are on a B-2 Visitor's Visa (like, a business visa) to extend their stay but, unfortunately, people on the VWP are unable to do the same. And this would be a bad thing to get wrong - you could end up being unable to get back into the States because you've outstayed your visa.

Here is some information on the VWP: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/without/without_1990.html

My bad, folks! It did sound a bit too good to be true....

On another note, I was talking recently to another writer about pitching. We both had a script idea that's difficult to pitch because the story requires a lot of set-up before you can get to the good stuff. There is just too much stuff to explain before the hero can get cracking on his/her journey. Anyway, between the two of us (although Jason, I think it was your big lightbulb moment!), we cracked the solution.

You start the pitch by describing the climax of your movie. So for example, Minority Report, which requires a lot of set-up before the plot really gets going, would begin with Tom Cruise already on the run, a cop convicted of a crime he has yet to commit.

Double Jeopardy would begin with Ashley Judd escaping jail and vowing to kill her husband - whose murder she is already serving a life sentence for.

Or to use a horrendous example, Snakes on a Plane (which took forever to deliver the snakes, let alone get them on an aircraft) would start its pitch with Sam Jackson already battling the snakes on the plane.

Basically, put your hero in a really tight spot - and THEN describe how he came to be there. The audience will be hooked by your opening situation, and then follow your hero on the rest of his journey.

I hope this helps other writers struggling with the dreaded set-up - it's certainly taken the fear out of it for me!

The cure for a movie pitch with too much set-up....

First, a clarification. I said a few days ago that you could apply for an I-539 visa extension if you're in the States on a 90-day tourist visitor visa. My helpful visa lawyer has clarified that this is not the case - actually you can't extend the 90-day Visa Waiver Program (otherwise known as the VWP).

The I-539 allows people who are on a B-2 Visitor's Visa (like, a business visa) to extend their stay but, unfortunately, people on the VWP are unable to do the same. And this would be a bad thing to get wrong - you could end up being unable to get back into the States because you've outstayed your visa.

Here is some information on the VWP: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/without/without_1990.html

My bad, folks! It did sound a bit too good to be true....

On another note, I was talking recently to another writer about pitching. We both had a script idea that's difficult to pitch because the story requires a lot of set-up before you can get to the good stuff. There is just too much stuff to explain before the hero can get cracking on his/her journey. Anyway, between the two of us (although Jason, I think it was your big lightbulb moment!), we cracked the solution.

You start the pitch by describing the climax of your movie. So for example, Minority Report, which requires a lot of set-up before the plot really gets going, would begin with Tom Cruise already on the run, a cop convicted of a crime he has yet to commit.

Double Jeopardy would begin with Ashley Judd escaping jail and vowing to kill her husband - whose murder she is already serving a life sentence for.

Or to use a horrendous example, Snakes on a Plane (which took forever to deliver the snakes, let alone get them on an aircraft) would start its pitch with Sam Jackson already battling the snakes on the plane.

Basically, put your hero in a really tight spot - and THEN describe how he came to be there. The audience will be hooked by your opening situation, and then follow your hero on the rest of his journey.

I hope this helps other writers struggling with the dreaded set-up - it's certainly taken the fear out of it for me!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

IFTN publishes my report on Moondance....

The link to the full Moondance report is here. Thanks to IFTN for publishing the story!

Also, my helpful Texas contact has provided some other useful information for anyone moving to the States - this time on phones!

Phone

Obviously I will need a mobile phone (other known as a cell-phone or cellular). I'll also need a way to keep the phone number if I have to leave the States and go home for a while, and I need a way for people in the States to call my American phone number and get some kind of voicemail in the meantime.

This can go disastrously wrong. I have a friend who screwed up setting up his voicemail service but didn't realise this and thought no one was calling him. He ended up losing three months worth of calls from American contacts -including about 30 from a scary Hollywood agent, whose ignored voicemails got more and more furious...

First of all, mobile phone numbers and landline phone numbers in the States are the same. In other words, mobile phones don't have a special prefix like they do in Ireland and at least some other European countries.

When you buy a U.S. mobile phone it is assigned an area code which is based on where the phone was sold. For example, the area code in Austin is 512. If I buy a phone in LA, I'll get a LA-based area code.

The number that is attached to the phone will then belong to me. I'll be able to transfer it to other phones or voicemail services, providing that the number is still current and the bill is paid. (So in this instance, you wouldn't cancel your mobile phone and then move the number, you'd move the number, and then cancel the service.)

There are several big mobile phone companies in the States and lots of little ones. The big ones all operate on a contract basis - but I'll be getting a prepaid service. I'll probably buy a phone from them as my Irish mobile is an ancient relic and I'll then pay in advance month by month for phone service. I'll then have my own LA phone which I can take with me.

Here's the best part - using Google Voice. See here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Voice

If I need to go home to Ireland, I can transfer my LA number to Google Voice. When people call my LA number, it will go to a web-based voicemail, and I'll get a email or text that there is a voicemail waiting for me.

I hope this helps anyone else who's hoping to do a similar move.

As always, if anyone has any further info or other suggestions, I'll be glad to accept them. Thanks!

IFTN publishes my report on Moondance....

The link to the full Moondance report is here. Thanks to IFTN for publishing the story!

Also, my helpful Texas contact has provided some other useful information for anyone moving to the States - this time on phones!

Phone

Obviously I will need a mobile phone (other known as a cell-phone or cellular). I'll also need a way to keep the phone number if I have to leave the States and go home for a while, and I need a way for people in the States to call my American phone number and get some kind of voicemail in the meantime.

This can go disastrously wrong. I have a friend who screwed up setting up his voicemail service but didn't realise this and thought no one was calling him. He ended up losing three months worth of calls from American contacts -including about 30 from a scary Hollywood agent, whose ignored voicemails got more and more furious...

First of all, mobile phone numbers and landline phone numbers in the States are the same. In other words, mobile phones don't have a special prefix like they do in Ireland and at least some other European countries.

When you buy a U.S. mobile phone it is assigned an area code which is based on where the phone was sold. For example, the area code in Austin is 512. If I buy a phone in LA, I'll get a LA-based area code.

The number that is attached to the phone will then belong to me. I'll be able to transfer it to other phones or voicemail services, providing that the number is still current and the bill is paid. (So in this instance, you wouldn't cancel your mobile phone and then move the number, you'd move the number, and then cancel the service.)

There are several big mobile phone companies in the States and lots of little ones. The big ones all operate on a contract basis - but I'll be getting a prepaid service. I'll probably buy a phone from them as my Irish mobile is an ancient relic and I'll then pay in advance month by month for phone service. I'll then have my own LA phone which I can take with me.

Here's the best part - using Google Voice. See here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Voice

If I need to go home to Ireland, I can transfer my LA number to Google Voice. When people call my LA number, it will go to a web-based voicemail, and I'll get a email or text that there is a voicemail waiting for me.

I hope this helps anyone else who's hoping to do a similar move.

As always, if anyone has any further info or other suggestions, I'll be glad to accept them. Thanks!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My first award! And an updated how-to guide on moving to the U.S....


Back from Boulder and apart from the ongoing jet lag, I have only positive things to say about it. I had a great time and the time and money spent getting there was well worth it. I've written a full report on the trip for the Irish Film and Television Network so I won't go into huge detail here.

I do have to say that Boulder is a really friendly place. Everyone I met made me feel so welcome and the festival participants were a fantastic bunch.

I want to particularly thank Moondance festival director Elizabeth English for putting on such a great festival. And obviously for giving me a cool award!

I'll post a link to the IFTN page as soon as they publish the story.

Also, a helpful friend from Texas has filled in some of the blanks from my previous post on moving to the States. Here is a bit more info on each of the essentials:

Car Insurance

Apparently you can definitely get car insurance with a foreign driver's license, from a crowd called "Progressive Insurance". Their toll-free number in the States is 1 800 7764737 and more information can be found here:http://www.progressive.com/progressive-insurance/progressive-overview.aspx

Housing

I was talking to several Angelenos past and present over the weekend and they suggested the following Los Angeles areas: Silver Lake and West L.A. I will check both of these out.
No matter where I decide to live, I'll probably need one of these:
http://www.theupsstore.com/products/pages/maiandpos.aspx

This is basically a "fake" but totally legitimate address. The address will appear to be something like this:

Eilis Mernagh
2525 Wilshire Blvd.
Suite 1576
Venice Beach, California

2525 Wilshire Blvd in this case would be the street address of a store and 1576 would be the number of a little rented mailbox. This is great because the store will accept packages from UPS, FedEX, etc, they will forward your mail anywhere, and text you when your packages have arrived. It's also an image thing: you can be living in your car or in some dodgy apartment somewhere, but your official address is Wilshire Blvd. And even if you move from one crappy apartment to another, your address won't change!

I'm advised that the US post office has a similar service involving a P.O. Box, but they won't accept packages from non-U.S. postal service package delivery companies which is a bit of a nightmare. The address in this case would look like this:

Eilis Mernagh
P.O. Box 541006
Venice Beach, California

Visa

On the visa dilemma, I've had opinions from several U.S.-based friends at this stage and I'm taking their advice. Which is basically: unless you can get an agent before January and unless that agent can line up some work for you, get the tourist visa. I have to agree - paying six grand for a visa when I have neither job nor agent would be insane.

Even better, I'm told that you can extend the duration of your 3-month tourist visa while you are in the States (as opposed to renewing your visa, which means leaving the country). All you need is a good reason, such as attending a film festival. To do this, use form I-539.

See here:

http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=94d12c1a6855d010VgnVCM10000048f3d6a1RCRD
http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/Resources/C1en.pdf
http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/m-752.pdf

Miscellaneous

Lastly, and this seems like a no-brainer to me (yet I had to be told!), make sure to use the U.S. version of Google as opposed to the Irish one when you are doing searches. This will bring up results more suited to living in the States.

My first award! And an updated how-to guide on moving to the U.S....


Back from Boulder and apart from the ongoing jet lag, I have only positive things to say about it. I had a great time and the time and money spent getting there was well worth it. I've written a full report on the trip for the Irish Film and Television Network so I won't go into huge detail here.

I do have to say that Boulder is a really friendly place. Everyone I met made me feel so welcome and the festival participants were a fantastic bunch.

I want to particularly thank Moondance festival director Elizabeth English for putting on such a great festival. And obviously for giving me a cool award!

I'll post a link to the IFTN page as soon as they publish the story.

Also, a helpful friend from Texas has filled in some of the blanks from my previous post on moving to the States. Here is a bit more info on each of the essentials:

Car Insurance

Apparently you can definitely get car insurance with a foreign driver's license, from a crowd called "Progressive Insurance". Their toll-free number in the States is 1 800 7764737 and more information can be found here:http://www.progressive.com/progressive-insurance/progressive-overview.aspx

Housing

I was talking to several Angelenos past and present over the weekend and they suggested the following Los Angeles areas: Silver Lake and West L.A. I will check both of these out.
No matter where I decide to live, I'll probably need one of these:
http://www.theupsstore.com/products/pages/maiandpos.aspx

This is basically a "fake" but totally legitimate address. The address will appear to be something like this:

Eilis Mernagh
2525 Wilshire Blvd.
Suite 1576
Venice Beach, California

2525 Wilshire Blvd in this case would be the street address of a store and 1576 would be the number of a little rented mailbox. This is great because the store will accept packages from UPS, FedEX, etc, they will forward your mail anywhere, and text you when your packages have arrived. It's also an image thing: you can be living in your car or in some dodgy apartment somewhere, but your official address is Wilshire Blvd. And even if you move from one crappy apartment to another, your address won't change!

I'm advised that the US post office has a similar service involving a P.O. Box, but they won't accept packages from non-U.S. postal service package delivery companies which is a bit of a nightmare. The address in this case would look like this:

Eilis Mernagh
P.O. Box 541006
Venice Beach, California

Visa

On the visa dilemma, I've had opinions from several U.S.-based friends at this stage and I'm taking their advice. Which is basically: unless you can get an agent before January and unless that agent can line up some work for you, get the tourist visa. I have to agree - paying six grand for a visa when I have neither job nor agent would be insane.

Even better, I'm told that you can extend the duration of your 3-month tourist visa while you are in the States (as opposed to renewing your visa, which means leaving the country). All you need is a good reason, such as attending a film festival. To do this, use form I-539.

See here:

http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=94d12c1a6855d010VgnVCM10000048f3d6a1RCRD
http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/Resources/C1en.pdf
http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/m-752.pdf

Miscellaneous

Lastly, and this seems like a no-brainer to me (yet I had to be told!), make sure to use the U.S. version of Google as opposed to the Irish one when you are doing searches. This will bring up results more suited to living in the States.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How to move to the U.S. to sell scripts in 100 easy steps...

Seeing as my move to the U.S. is now only four and a half months away, I thought I'd give an update on how this was going.

One promise I'm going to make is that if I ever succeed in moving to the States and finding work as a screenwriter (when I succeed?), I'm going to write a how-to book for all the other non-U.S. writers who like me, want to move over but have no idea where to start. Because there is no book like that. I know, I've searched Amazon. And some solid advice would be really welcome right now.

Here is what I've gleaned so far:

Visa
The motherload in terms of moving to the States. No visa, no In-N-Out burger. I did a consultation with visa lawyer and she has concluded that I am eligible for a fancy O1 artists visa, especially with my Moondance win. However - you can ONLY work as a writer. No day job to make ends meet and if you run out of money, tough buns. It's back to Ireland on the first flight you can afford to stick on your soon to be maxed-out credit card.

Also, you must have a manager/agent in place. While they're not going to be your "employer" per se, they act as a facilitator between you and the actual employer (i.e. the film company that will be hiring and paying you.) So if you can't get an agent, you can't get an O1 visa. (That said, I'm going to Moondance AND Austin this year so you never know!)

Oh and there's the lawyer's fees - $6,000 for the case. There's also a government filing fee of $325 and a union letter fee that ranges from $200-350. Gulp.

However, there is a Plan B, in the form of the humble three-month tourist visa. My back-up plan is to head over on one of these at the end of January, spend three months networking like a mother and hopefully end up with some decent contacts/offers of work/representation at the end of it. Being on the ground as opposed to 5,000 miles away might be what does the trick.

Money
As in, money to live on while I'm on a tourist visa and unable to work a day job. I'm aiming to save 10 grand and this is going okay - although going to Boulder and Austin has taken a bite out of this fund. I'm justifying it by claiming that the contacts and potential leads outweigh the costs - only time will tell.

I have, however, sold a lot of extraneous possessions and am now down to things like college books (if you know anyone studying English, Philosophy or History of Art, let me know) and an inflatable exercise ball (ditto). Of course, I still have a lot of crap - it's just crap I'm not willing/able to get rid of yet.

One thing we haven't managed to shift as yet is our house. It's lovely, it's just not for me or my sister anymore. Again, that needs to go before I do...

Health Insurance
You can extend VHI by paying through the nose for an overseas premium. U.S. insurance might be cheaper, but you can't avail of it without a proper visa.

Cars
I'd love to buy a beater to get around L.A. but I'm still not clear, despite extensive research, about whether you can get insurance if you haven't got a long-term visa. Any U.S.-based people know anything about this? You'll also need to apply for an international driving licence - see here.

Housing
I've only started to enter the maze that seems to be choosing a neighborhood in L.A. to live in. However, many of the Irish and U.K. ex-pats seem to live around Venice Beach, simply because the temperatures there don't reach the sizzling heights that they do in West Hollywood. And I am Irish, after all. Any thoughts on this will be gratefully accepted!

I'll continue to update on the moving saga as it gets nearer to D Day - meanwhile, I'm off to pack for Boulder....

How to move to the U.S. to sell scripts in 100 easy steps...

Seeing as my move to the U.S. is now only four and a half months away, I thought I'd give an update on how this was going.

One promise I'm going to make is that if I ever succeed in moving to the States and finding work as a screenwriter (when I succeed?), I'm going to write a how-to book for all the other non-U.S. writers who like me, want to move over but have no idea where to start. Because there is no book like that. I know, I've searched Amazon. And some solid advice would be really welcome right now.

Here is what I've gleaned so far:

Visa
The motherload in terms of moving to the States. No visa, no In-N-Out burger. I did a consultation with visa lawyer and she has concluded that I am eligible for a fancy O1 artists visa, especially with my Moondance win. However - you can ONLY work as a writer. No day job to make ends meet and if you run out of money, tough buns. It's back to Ireland on the first flight you can afford to stick on your soon to be maxed-out credit card.

Also, you must have a manager/agent in place. While they're not going to be your "employer" per se, they act as a facilitator between you and the actual employer (i.e. the film company that will be hiring and paying you.) So if you can't get an agent, you can't get an O1 visa. (That said, I'm going to Moondance AND Austin this year so you never know!)

Oh and there's the lawyer's fees - $6,000 for the case. There's also a government filing fee of $325 and a union letter fee that ranges from $200-350. Gulp.

However, there is a Plan B, in the form of the humble three-month tourist visa. My back-up plan is to head over on one of these at the end of January, spend three months networking like a mother and hopefully end up with some decent contacts/offers of work/representation at the end of it. Being on the ground as opposed to 5,000 miles away might be what does the trick.

Money
As in, money to live on while I'm on a tourist visa and unable to work a day job. I'm aiming to save 10 grand and this is going okay - although going to Boulder and Austin has taken a bite out of this fund. I'm justifying it by claiming that the contacts and potential leads outweigh the costs - only time will tell.

I have, however, sold a lot of extraneous possessions and am now down to things like college books (if you know anyone studying English, Philosophy or History of Art, let me know) and an inflatable exercise ball (ditto). Of course, I still have a lot of crap - it's just crap I'm not willing/able to get rid of yet.

One thing we haven't managed to shift as yet is our house. It's lovely, it's just not for me or my sister anymore. Again, that needs to go before I do...

Health Insurance
You can extend VHI by paying through the nose for an overseas premium. U.S. insurance might be cheaper, but you can't avail of it without a proper visa.

Cars
I'd love to buy a beater to get around L.A. but I'm still not clear, despite extensive research, about whether you can get insurance if you haven't got a long-term visa. Any U.S.-based people know anything about this? You'll also need to apply for an international driving licence - see here.

Housing
I've only started to enter the maze that seems to be choosing a neighborhood in L.A. to live in. However, many of the Irish and U.K. ex-pats seem to live around Venice Beach, simply because the temperatures there don't reach the sizzling heights that they do in West Hollywood. And I am Irish, after all. Any thoughts on this will be gratefully accepted!

I'll continue to update on the moving saga as it gets nearer to D Day - meanwhile, I'm off to pack for Boulder....

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Adding a new lead character to an existing script - madness?

I'm currently doing a rewrite of a childrens' movie after reading a load of feedback on the existing draft (both professional notes and the thoughts of my writing group). This is one of those early scripts that never had an outline done for it - and I'm paying the price for this now. Always outline!

The current draft has an Act 2 that sags lower than Jabba the Hut's undercarriage and more prose description than the average novel. Its greatest strength - a novelist villain and his horrible creations, don't show up until about fifty pages in. But these are not its biggest problems.

I was driving home from work the other day when it hit me what was really wrong with it. This was a kids movie with very few kids in it. What children there are play only minor roles in the story and don't get to do much about from scared by the villain. I can't actually think of any kids movies where little 'uns were that absent, apart from maybe Gremlins (but even it has Corey Feldman and is arguably not aimed entirely at kids).

So I'm giving one of the main characters an 11-year-old half brother. Whether this will fix things, I don't know, but it will certainly force me to start thinking like a kid! It will give kids watching someone to relate to. And it will force me to do a drastic rewrite of the script, which it badly needs.

Has anyone else tried inserting a (main-ish) character after the script is written? Am I insane to do this? Thoughts on a postcard...

In other news, I've booked my flights to Boulder and will be mainly eating beans on toast between now and Christmas. But it'll be worth it to get some rays (I hope). Boulder is apparently over 20 degrees at the moment....

Adding a new lead character to an existing script - madness?

I'm currently doing a rewrite of a childrens' movie after reading a load of feedback on the existing draft (both professional notes and the thoughts of my writing group). This is one of those early scripts that never had an outline done for it - and I'm paying the price for this now. Always outline!

The current draft has an Act 2 that sags lower than Jabba the Hut's undercarriage and more prose description than the average novel. Its greatest strength - a novelist villain and his horrible creations, don't show up until about fifty pages in. But these are not its biggest problems.

I was driving home from work the other day when it hit me what was really wrong with it. This was a kids movie with very few kids in it. What children there are play only minor roles in the story and don't get to do much about from scared by the villain. I can't actually think of any kids movies where little 'uns were that absent, apart from maybe Gremlins (but even it has Corey Feldman and is arguably not aimed entirely at kids).

So I'm giving one of the main characters an 11-year-old half brother. Whether this will fix things, I don't know, but it will certainly force me to start thinking like a kid! It will give kids watching someone to relate to. And it will force me to do a drastic rewrite of the script, which it badly needs.

Has anyone else tried inserting a (main-ish) character after the script is written? Am I insane to do this? Thoughts on a postcard...

In other news, I've booked my flights to Boulder and will be mainly eating beans on toast between now and Christmas. But it'll be worth it to get some rays (I hope). Boulder is apparently over 20 degrees at the moment....

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How not to disgrace your homeland at a festival.

Ah, film festivals. They're like alcohol-soaked minefields dotted with really interesting presentations, famous people and the odd film.


In a fit of insanity I've decided to go to Moondance and collect my award in person. This means travelling for two days total in order to spend three days in Boulder, but hey. I've never been to Colorado!


As I'm also going to Texas at the end of October to attend the Austin Film Festival for the third time, I thought I'd write something about going to festivals. What are the do's and don't's and what should you do to prepare for them?


Here are my top five tips - but I'd welcome more thoughts on this!


1. Look at the festival lineup as early as possible and decide what events you're going to attend. There's usually a lot on, and you may need to prioritise workshops/drinks receptions etc.


2. Also examine the list of people attending, if it's available. I'm not necessarily saying you should target people, but it's a good idea to see if there's a big writer/director/producer/whatever that you'd like to chat to for a few minutes, and maybe try and buy them a beer.


3. Stay up! The best conversation comes at 3am in a bar when everyone's forgetten that they earn a million per picture and you've a screenwriting minnow who once optioned a script for 5 grand. And get up early to make sure you hit the morning workshops. Basically, I get no sleep at film festivals - and I wouldn't have it any other way.


4. Do not get drunk. BIG mistake - you'll be that drunk person everyone remembers. Especially if you're Irish - you just end up fulfilling people's cultural stereotypes. Spanish people shout, German people eat sausage, Irish people get blackout drunk. Don't be one of those people!


5. Don't have any huge, unrealistic expectations. You may not (probably won't) get an agent or sell a script for big money. (Sell a script at all and you deserve major kudos!) Just go along, talk to people and have fun. Learn loads. And make sure you write descriptions of people you meet on the back of their business card so you remember who's who. Otherwise you'll have loads of cards and no idea who anyone is afterwards.


Oh, and if you go to Austin, make sure you visit the taco truck that serves amazing Mexican food on South Congress Avenue. Their burritos cost two dollars but are better than any restaurant.


Happy networking!

How not to disgrace your homeland at a festival.

Ah, film festivals. They're like alcohol-soaked minefields dotted with really interesting presentations, famous people and the odd film.

In a fit of insanity I've decided to go to Moondance and collect my award in person. This means travelling for two days total in order to spend three days in Boulder, but hey. I've never been to Colorado!

As I'm also going to Texas at the end of October to attend the Austin Film Festival for the third time, I thought I'd write something about going to festivals. What are the do's and don't's and what should you do to prepare for them?

Here are my top five tips - but I'd welcome more thoughts on this!

1. Look at the festival lineup as early as possible and decide what events you're going to attend. There's usually a lot on, and you may need to prioritise workshops/drinks receptions etc.

2. Also examine the list of people attending, if it's available. I'm not necessarily saying you should target people, but it's a good idea to see if there's a big writer/director/producer/whatever that you'd like to chat to for a few minutes, and maybe try and buy them a beer.

3. Stay up! The best conversation comes at 3am in a bar when everyone's forgetten that they earn a million per picture and you've a screenwriting minnow who once optioned a script for 5 grand. And get up early to make sure you hit the morning workshops. Basically, I get no sleep at film festivals - and I wouldn't have it any other way.

4. Do not get drunk. BIG mistake - you'll be that drunk person everyone remembers. Especially if you're Irish - you just end up fulfilling people's cultural stereotypes. Spanish people shout, German people eat sausage, Irish people get blackout drunk. Don't be one of those people!

5. Don't have any huge, unrealistic expectations. You may not (probably won't) get an agent or sell a script for big money. (Sell a script at all and you deserve major kudos!) Just go along, talk to people and have fun. Learn loads. And make sure you write descriptions of people you meet on the back of their business card so you remember who's who. Otherwise you'll have loads of cards and no idea who anyone is afterwards.

Oh, and if you go to Austin, make sure you visit the taco truck that serves amazing Mexican food on South Congress Avenue. Their burritos cost two dollars but are better than any restaurant.

Happy networking!