Like all successful business folk, you need to master the art of self-promotion to make it in the highly competitive world of screenwriting. Obviously you need to learn how to write a script and script format.
Half of your job is screenplay writing and the other half is to make the world take notice. Here are some useful strategies to come across as a screenwriting professional:
Create a reputation as a screenwriter people want to work with. It’s called expectation or relationship management in business parlance.
It may surprise you, but some writers are temperamental, they throw tantrums, walk off the job or arrive late. When film producers check your credentials, they are only partially investigating your writing talent.
They have probably already seen a writing sample, but they don’t know you as a person. Have people vouch for you. Become known for being efficient, professional, amenable and open to critique. Producers have almost certainly made up their mind to hire you before the meeting, but if you have a reputation around town as pain in the neck, watch out. L.A is a small town and people gossip. Treat each contact with a film or TV producer as a way to nurture your professional relationships.
Would you hire the best writer who nobody can work with or the second or third best writer that’s professional?
Just like you need to feel certain that a tradesperson can do the job before hiring them, movie producers need to know that you have both the writing ability and professionalism to deliver a quality film or TV script in a given period of time. Confidence is different to arrogance or hubris. I’ve met playwrights educated at Oxford, but I wasn’t convinced of their screenwriting potential.
Find out everything you can about the film producer you’re going to potentially work for. Social networking is ideal for this sort of thing if you can’t easily speak over the phone. Maybe you went to the same college or grew up in the same town? Find out which movie projects they produced and which ones stalled. A sense of familiarity will engage them as you establish rapport. It will also help relax both of you. After all, they are taking a risk with you, especially if you are a new screenwriter.
Also find out as much as you can about the project. Get as sense of the producer’s style. Watch as many episodes of the TV series you may potentially be working on.
A passionate script writer will always write a better script than a bored one. Share your view of the world with producers to they get a feel for your interests, concerns and themes. Are you an environmentalist, mad sports fan or political activist? A passion for life also indicates you are a true storyteller with many stories to tell. Write down your most life defining moments that shaped you. Did you obtain a degree, have a child, speak in public, run for office or win an Olympic medal?
BE RESPONSIVE AND CO-OPERATIVE
Show that understand your producers’ notes and be willing to take them on board even if you don’t agree with them. You can certainly argue a point if it affects the story logic or grossly alters the dynamics between characters.
If you’re right, producers will agree with you. If you are simply arguing a story point as a matter of personal preference you will come across as petulant. Producers must answer to investors and stakeholders, so their decisions reflect this. Listen and make eye contact. Nod to acknowledge them. Avoid controversial topics such as Obama’s health care legislation.
Even if you don’t get the writing gig, you have networked and established yourself as a screenwriting professional in the minds of other film and TV pros. Producers may subsequently recommend you for another assignment to a colleague.
You never know how things turn out in this crazy business.
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