The Crime Writer’s Weekend: Get the 411 on 5-0!

It’s nearly impossible to flick through TV channels or look at the movie listings these days and not find show that involves law enforcement. Whether it’s CSI, Dexter, a gritty thriller feature or even Boardwalk Empire the authorities are involved at some level. And if there’s one thing that will make the show fail, it’s getting the unique dialogue and tactics of the various agencies wrong. Knowing this, Filmmaker Junction is pleased to announce a new event, The Crime Writer’s Weekend, aimed at giving screenwriters and novelists (and even directors and producers) a chance to interface with those that have done the job day in and day out. You will get first hand advice on what’s true, what’s not and new ideas to keep your brain percolating long after the event. Some of the topics covered include: SWAT, working undercover, narcotics, Gangs, search and rescue and victim trauma.

fsg-crime-scene-response-unit-01The Crime Writers Weekend
April 13-14, 2013, 9a-5p
Venue: John Adams Middle School, 2425 16th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Price: $205
Info and schedule: Click Here

Andrew Zinnes is a writer/producer in Los Angeles, California.  He is the US Editor of The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook US Edition (Aka The Guerilla Film Makers Hollywood Handbook). His company Script Tonic provides story analysis and script notes to screenwriters and independent filmmakers. Andrew is a founding partner of the film company Crazee Pictures.

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Jeff Lyons:  What is Filmmaker Junction and what is its mission?

Andrew Zinnes: Filmmaker Junction is the live event division of our international successful book series: The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook. The books are Q&As with working industry pros in each of their respective fields of filmmaking. So as an indie filmmaker, if I want to know something about stunts,  I would like to get my answer from a stuntman who does this day in and day out for a living. Same if I’d like to pick the mind of the screenwriter of Iron Man or Silver Linings Playbook. However, arranging some of those meetings might be nigh on impossible, whether due to location, budget level or access, so as filmmakers and authors we sit down to have the interview and then share that interview in its entirety sharing this experience and knowledge. The mission for Filmmaker Junction follows that premise: to provide filmmakers, screenwriters and other media creatives with first person access to working professionals so they can network and get advice on how to better their projects.

Jeff Lyons:  Can you describe the Crime Writers Weekend 2013?  Is it going to be panel discussions with Q&A, or one-off speakers with Q&A, or both?  How will the event unfold?

Andrew Zinnes

Andrew Zinnes

Andrew Zinnes: Think Inside The Actors Studio with cops. For the most part, I will be moderating a one-on-one discussion with a former or current member of LAPD or the LA Sheriff’s Department about how their division really works. Each session will offer the audience a chance to ask the speaker direct questions too. In one or two cases, the speakers will be making unmoderated presentations, but there will always be Q&A. So once again, we are providing writers in this case with access to law enforcement professionals from Narcotics, Gangs, SWAT and a host of other topics with the aim that the delegates’ writing will be more authentic and informed. And as far as networking goes, all the speakers will be available for consults, so the relationships don’t end when the weekend is over.

Jeff Lyons: So, the law enforcement participants are going to do more than just “teach a class” about how they operate.  Are they also going to get into the nuances of culture, special language, little-known operational factoids, etc.?

Andrew Zinnes: That’s exactly correct. One of the hardest things to get right is police lingo. Just getting that right will make things more authentic. But yes, procedures, tips on how they collect evidence, how undercover really works, etc. are all going to come out during the sessions. In addition, the attendee will get a better sense of what type of personality works in each of the police divisions – how does it affect a person going undercover for months or years even? How different is a SWAT guy to a cop working NARCOTICS. What are their lives really like?

Jeff Lyons:  Genre writers have an amazing opportunity attending this event.  It can be so difficult to get direct and knowledgeable expertise about crime scene forensics and all that serial killer profiling stuff.  How did you come up with the idea for this event?

Andrew Zinnes:  We are screenwriters ourselves and have always felt that this is an area that is always ignored. Access is limited and difficult to get. There are many movies and TV shows that show procedures and the life, but how accurate are these? And who are these characters who take on these life threatening positions? How do we get inside their heads? What makes them tick? It’s all about ACCESS. The idea was to apply our format that we use for our books and other events to the field of law enforcement. Let’s have a expert discuss the ins and outs of L.A gangs, another discussing hostage negotiations, another SWAT, and so on…

Jeff Lyons: How much of a driver for this event is the current popularity of crime-genre shows on TV and in film?  The genre seems to be huge on the Internet as well.

Andrew Zinnes: That was the primary motivation for doing the event. Recently, a TV executive told me one of the factors that they use to determine if they are going to program a show is, “Are the stakes big enough?” He then asked me, ” What would be the biggest stake that could happen to you?” The answer is “to die.” That’s why there are so many CSIs and Law and Orders. Then you start coupling that with other aspects of crime ,which usually have some element of danger or near death and you can see why crime permeates TV, film and the internet. Add a mystery element to it and off you go!

Jeff Lyons:  Did you find any resistance from law enforcement officials when you asked them to participate?  Aren’t they concerned about spilling the beans about how they really operate?

Andrew Zinnes: A bit. But the truth is that what the police might consider mundane, like roll call or basic stake out procedures are unknown and fascinating to writers. So that issue was quickly dispelled. Mostly it came from the fact that the forces are overworked and understaffed and they have more important things to worry about. Soon, all the police we spoke to were excited about being able to share the reality of their jobs as they are also sick and tired of seeing themselves portrayed incorrectly on TV. It’s like a pilot watching a film about an airline pilot but the film character doesn’t use the right lingo, he doesn’t know what buttons to press, he doesn’t connect with the real guys.

Jeff Lyons:  Will you be doing an East Coast version of the event or any international events, like in London?

Andrew Zinnes: We have discussed both and that may be something for 2014. The one that we are doing next in this series in the fall will be the same format but with cons (ex-cons of course!).  So this one is Law and the next one is Disorder if you will. Stay tuned!

Jeff Lyons: What question should I have asked that I didn’t?

Andrew Zinnes: “Why should a screenwriter or novelist make this a priority to attend this event?”

And the answer my end would be: It’s very rare for someone to have access to this many police department experts all at once. You will have the golden opportunity to ask the questions you need answered about your project as well as to hear some war stories that could open up the possibilities for numerous projects to come. We hope to see you there!

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