Willamette Writers Conference 2016 logo Jenny Schrader and Teresa Bergen

Willamette Writers Conference 2016

Registration for the Willamette Writers Conference 2016 is now open!

And I want to tell you that this is the best conference ever. I know I say that every year, but, honestly, every year gets better, so I feel like I’m not lying.

I also know that as current president of Willamette Writers, I’m biased, but really. It’s one of the best and biggest writing conferences around. It’s completely worth your time and effort if you want to find inspiration, motivation, and publication for your writing.
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Willamette Writers Conference 2014 Registration Open!

Willamette Writers Conference LogoJust so you know, registration for the Willamette Writers Conference 2014 (AKA, the best writers conference west of the Mississippi) is open!

And I don’t know if it’s the best west-of-the-Mississippi writers conference for sure or not. It just sounds good. But it’s definitely the best first-weekend-of-August-west-of-the-Mississippi writers conference.

I can’t begin to say how much I love this conference.

Granted, as current president of Willamette Writers, I’m definitely biased. However, I also think of this conference as one of the happiest places on earth, and I thought that years ago.

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Cynthia Whitcomb House Location for FiLMLaB Script to Screen Competition

Alis Volat Propriis poster Script to Screen Competition winning scriptThere’s a twist to the Willamette Writers’ 2014 FiLMLaB Script to Screen Competition this year: the Cynthia Whitcomb House for Writers is the filming location.

That’s right. Previously scripts had to follow a theme – Wild West, which was the 2012 Conference theme, and Fresh Brewed, which was the 2013 Conference theme. But there’s no theme this year. Only location, location, location.

This is good. Really good.

Why is a set location good for the FiLMLaB Script to Screen Competition?

Having a set location is a huge advantage for our script writers and for Willamette Writers. It gives our production team at Ampersand a better idea of both filming restrictions and possibilities. It’s a known quantity. They don’t have to stress about finding the perfect location for the alien abduction scene because they know exactly where the author envisioned that abduction scene should be. There’s low potential for scheduling snafus, and if a scene doesn’t take, the chances of being able to reshoot it at a later time, while recreating the exact time of day and ambiance, are much better.
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FiLMLaB at the OIFF Awards Ceremony

Thank you to the Oregon Independent Film Festival for a fantastic Awards Ceremony at the Clinton Street Theater on Saturday night!

The winners, the paparazzi, the glitz, the glamour...

The winners, the paparazzi, the glitz, the glamour…

It was everything an awards ceremony should be. Stars dressed up, film-goers milling about on the sidewalk and in the intersection of 26th and Clinton, paparazzi (mostly people with their camera phones), a red carpet (well, a red rug), and popcorn (natch). Willamette Writers and Ampersand Productions were there to represent and celebrate Alis Volat Propriis‘ win as Best Comedic Short. Producers Ruth Wittereid, Bill Johnson, Brynn Baron, and Stefan Feuerherdt (Stefan brought his mom – awesome!) arrived looking fabulous, as did director Christopher Alley, assistant director Anthony Forsyth, editor Eric Macey, production designer Emily Wahl, and actors Katie Michels and Randall Jahnson. And, of course, writer Haley Isleib!

Director Christopher Alley accepting the Best Comedic Short Award for Alis Volat Propriis at the OIFF Awards Ceremony

Director Christopher Alley accepting the Award for Alis Volat Propriis

The Press Club was the site for our pre-party celebration (and for our own after-party as well). Yummy drinks, sandwiches, a little music, and outside seating. We even had people at the bar buzzing about the film.

Perhaps they’ll want to submit their own script for next year’s FiLMLaB competition?

As one winner said, it was a little like a David Lynch-inspired awards ceremony, and it kind of was. Red curtained backdrop, host wearing a trench coat, spotlight on him so all that could be seen from the stage was inky blackness…

All we needed were some antlers.

Why is the FiLMLaB win at the OIFF awards ceremony so important?

The FiLMLaBoratory is completely experimental. When the conference committee came up with the idea in 2012, it was mere months before the planned premiere at the Willamette Writers Conference, and there was a lot of skepticism. A lot. Haley’s script was completely last minute (really – ask her! – it’s a great story), as was the filming location. Friends of friends were asked to help out and there was a lot of anxiety the night of the premiere at the conference. A/V (the bane of Conference Chair Stefan Feuerherdt’s existence) was malfunctioning, no one had seen the fully edited movie yet, and we had run out of food at the reception.

But there was popcorn (natch). And the movie was a hit. It has a lovely warm glow, and Katie Michel’s beauty only adds to the magic of it. Randall Jahnson’s performance as Max is quirky and funny, and the music is perfect.

To have such a wonderful group of people come together and make something so beautiful and entertaining and then have it win an award in its own right is just… Well, it’s flat-out amazing. I think it speaks highly of the quality of writers associated with Willamette Writers and the dedication that both Willamette Writers and Ampersand Productions have for such a creative idea.

And, of course, a big thank you again to everyone at OIFF and Clinton Street Theater! It was a fantastic night.

Randall offering up his appreciation and gratitude...or maybe he's just being silly

Randall offering up his appreciation and gratitude…or maybe he’s just being silly