The entertainment industry is a fickle one. It is often difficult to assess whether any meeting is successful or not. The purpose of any meeting a screenwriter takes with an agent, manager or producer is to establish a relationship. It could be short or long term. They may want to work with you personally or recommend you to their industry colleagues. They may be interested in you as a person, you as a writer, or you and your project. They may just want to gauge the current marketplace of screenwriters.
More often than not, it will be a combination of many of these factors. Every contact you make with an industry executive is a networking opportunity to enhance your reputation.
Screenwriters should target their meetings strategically. Try and meet the people you connect with the most. This might sound obvious, but some screenwriters will approach every agent and manager rather than the right one for them. Representation can only take you so far. If you differ too much creatively, their professional networks won’t be as well-aligned with you as they should be.
Just as industry people have their agendas, you as a screenwriter should have yours. At the very least, the main driver of a business meeting should be to market yourself. Get your name and your work in the public sphere, in front of people who can move your career forward. Get yourself some brand recognition.
Value both your time and theirs. Don’t apologize for taking up their time with a meeting. They’re looking for writers and you’re looking for a script sale. Understand the limits of your meeting. If your story doesn’t resonate with them, acknowledge the fact. Don’t give them reasons why your project will perform well in the marketplace and they should take it on. Their opinion is not wrong. It is different. Everybody is entitled to their personal tastes. Even you!
That’s why it’s important to research your meeting targets. Although it can be difficult to determine exactly what a producer is looking for based on their past projects, you can make an educated guess. Their tastes or their remits may have shifted with the marketplace. Ask them what they’re looking for. Quite often the answer might be “anything good.” Not very useful, but it’s a start. Make sure your screenplay is something “good” they can sell. If they like the concept, a good script can be rewritten, either by you or another writer. If they don’t like the concept, move on. You can’t force chemistry.
Once you’ve secured some time with an industry executive, there are a few aspects of your meeting you should be aware of. Put yourself in their shoes. Consider why they chose to meet with you and what they want to find out. Sometimes, it may feel like a blind date, but feel the mood of your meeting. Can this work? Will this work?
CAN I WORK WITH YOU?
This is the most underrated aspect of being a working writer. Good writing can become great, but a bad attitude cannot easily be improved. Are you open to re-interpretation of your ideas, or are you steadfast? Are you too easily swayed and don’t stand by your core ideas? The main issue is to determine if you gel creatively. After all, you’re building a team to advance your career.
They may only be interested in one project or a slate of projects. The main advice for writes is brevity. Less really is more. When they ask what your project is about, be as short as possible in your response. They don’t want to hear an overview of your entire screenplay, beat by beat. They want a taste of the overall concept, they can easily remember and recite to potential buyers. Something like “a high school student love story between a vampire and a werewolf” captures the entire vision of this project.
Pitch your Concept, not your Story.
These are some key questions executives ask themselves as you speak:
- Do I like this?
- Does this fit into my development slate?
- Do I have anything similar in development?
- Is this a genre I’m pursuing?
- What is the likely format? (film, TV, web series etc.)
- What is a likely budget range?
- Who might play the leads?
- Are there any attachments – cast, equity, distribution etc.
- How does this fit into the current marketplace?
Remember that half your job is writing scripts and the other half is networking.