You’ve polished your script, sent out a few query letters, have a few distant contacts in the film industry, but you still can’t seem to get that elusive meeting. Here are some tips from Suzanne Lyons on increasing your chances of initiating face to face contact with people who can move your script into production:
1) MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE ASSISTANT
If your goal is to set up relationship meetings with showrunners of hour-long television, start with a methodical, targeted approach. Do your research, organize a detailed folder with all the info on the executives and started making calls. You’ll soon realize that the ‘gate keepers’ – the assistants – were who you really needed to get to know. Today’s assistants are tomorrow’s development executives. Focusing on creating relationships with them over the phone which may open the doors to the next step… getting the meeting. Also, the assistant is a wealth of industry information. They are tuned in to what’s happening at their company, TV network, show and the entertainment industry at large.
2) GET REFERRALS
Go through your visual relationship display. Create a categorized list of everyone you know in the industry and how they are linked into each other and your career goals (relationship mapping). Who do you want to meet and who may know that person and be willing to make a referral for you? When you make your calls to set up the meetings make sure you mention the person who referred you right away.
Speaking of your visual display (presence), it’s time to double it… or how about tripling it? Can you imagine how much easier it would be to get meetings if you simply knew more people, had more authentic relationships with more people in the industry? Join new organizations. Volunteer at events. Make a point of scheduling industry events in your calendar. When you’re at an event, stick out your hand and introduce yourself. Even one networking event a month, with a goal of meeting two people is a total of 24 new people this year. Start a blog or have some other online presence, preferably with a photo. I’ve “friended” people on facebook I’ve yet to speak to over the phone or meet in person. Invite them out for coffee once you meet them and let them segue into industry talk. They’ll want to get to know you as a person first and as a colleague second. Ask them one little known fact about themselves. That should get the ball rolling.
4) VOLUNTEER AT EVENTS
To take the networking idea a step further. Consider volunteering at events, seminars and screenings. Be at the name tag table, meet and greet guests, help with RSVPs, set up furniture, anything. Make a list of organizations and events where you would like to meet more people, then offer to volunteer at their next function. Be giving. Don’t restrict yourself to only stalking people that can directly benefit you. Give them information that could could potentially help them. Watch the karmic energy return to you exponentially.
5) STAND OUT – ATTEND DIFFERENT TYPES OF EVENTS
This may or may not lead to a meeting but you’ll certainly get some face time. For example, if you’re a writer, script reader or script instructor and want to meet producers, attend a producers event for actors. Go to those events. There will be lots of actors lined up to meet them afterwards, but chances are you’ll be the only writer. You’ll stand out just for that reason alone and they’ll notice.
6) MAKING COLD CALLS:
Get on the phone. It’s fun. It builds your confidence, it creates relationships, and it makes it much easier to transition to getting the meeting. You’re probably on the phone most of the time anyway! It’s no different talking to strangers than it is to friends – it just takes practice. Practise your calls with your friends in a roleplay exercise . It makes it easier when you make actual calls. Give it a shot.
7) MAKE A SPECIFIC REQUEST & MAKE IT EASY FOR THEM TO SAY YES
Don’t ask them to produce your screenplay. Ask if they’ll read a logline, synopsis or treatment first. It is far more doable for them and far easier for them to say yes. When you are vague and don’t make a specific request, it makes it harder for them to agree. No one has that kind of time. So be respectful and thoughtful of their time and make your request something that will make it easy for them to say yes.
8) HAVE MORE THAN ONE PROJECT TO PITCH
I learned this one the hard way. Oftentimes, producers aren’t entirely sure or don’t know exactly what they want. Maybe they’ve read your writing and are considering hiring you for an assignment. Pitch numerous projects in a similar genre.
Call producers with a number of projects or a slate of projects. Don’t be a one trick pony. Have a stable of them. When you’re in the meeting and you’re pitching your projects in person, you will have a better chance of finding out what they are looking for and you may end up generating something completely unexpected. The project that you weren’t even going to mention may be the one they like best. It’s the writer’s job to engage the listener and get them enthused about the idea and “because passion can be infectious, it’s always best to pitch face-to-face.”
9) OFFER YOUR SERVICES
Be proactive. Get quality face time by offering to be a reader for a producer. Offer to help organize a producer’s table read for them. Writers can offer to write scenes for actors for workshops. Stop relying on your agents and managers. Brainstorm with friends and come up with ways you can meet those people on your target list.
10) THINK OUTSIDE (WAY OUTSIDE) THE BOX
Okay, this is a bit extreme, even for me, someone who loves to be outrageous. However, if you want to meet someone who is pretty much impossible to get to, then here is what Christine Comaford, CEO of Mighty Ventures, suggests: “If I can have five minutes of advice, I will give five hours to your favorite non-profit.” She wanted a meeting with Steve Jobs and she got it! She even brought a five minute egg timer and at the end when she stood up to leave he told her to stay and they talked for another forty-five minutes! Watch her clip on http://www.mixergy.com.
When you do get your meeting, be on time, be prepared, be present, remind them of the purpose of the meeting, make sure you initiate the conversation, listen, acknowledge them and finally, thank them for their time. Know when the meeting is over.