Marty Lang is a screenwriter, filmmaker, journalist and educator. His feature writing/directing debut, RISING STAR, won Best Premiere at the 2012 Seattle True Independent Film Festival, and was acquired for worldwide distribution by Content Film in 2013. His producing credits include the 2016 Independent Spirit Award-nominated OUT OF MY HAND, and BEING MICHAEL MADSEN, starring Michael Madsen, Virginia Madsen and Daryl Hannah. Twitter: @marty_lang.
Last month, I profiled John Kelley, a screenwriter with a thriving career who's living in Rhode Island. Proving that it's possible to establish yourself outside of Los Angeles. But what if you're a new writer? If you don't have any connections, how do you approach networking with people in the business from a place with no film business presence?
Keep reading. I can help you with that.
When I got out of film school in 2004, I moved back home to Connecticut, and was there for eleven years. In that time, I was able to connect with some seriously well-known filmmakers, and I’ve been able to put a network together of managers, agents and producers – all who are based in Los Angeles. In fact, I’ve gotten script submission requests from managers, and I have an open submission invitation from one of Hollywood’s most powerful management companies – and I got them all while living in New England. You can do it all from home, or you can increase your odds of success by traveling a bit, but it’s 100% possible to connect with the decision-makers when you live outside the City of Angels.
My first out-of-town networking came from a pretty simple place: Twitter. I make it a habit to follow literary managers, agents, writers and producers there, not only for the networking opportunities, but also for the advice they dispense to their followers. If you’re looking to meet and learn from the best on Twitter, start with Script Magazine (@scriptmag), and me (@marty_lang) then connect with these fine filmmaking folks:
Jeff Lieber (@JeffLieber) – The former showrunner of CSI: New Orleans, and one of the creators of Lost, Jeff often does Twitter question and answer sessions, where you can ask him anything about TV writing or showrunning. He’s got a tweet-series of around 200 Showrunner Rules, tips, tricks and advice for those running TV shows. He also just started releasing Pilot Rules, tips on how to write an original television pilot. They’re an invaluable resource for those who aim to work in TV.
Kailey Marsh (@KaileyMarsh) – Kailey is the CEO of Kailey Marsh Media, and the creator of The Blood List, an annual list of the best-liked new genre screenplays, in the tradition of The Black List. If you’re into writing horror, thriller, action or sci-fi, Kailey is the one to follow. She recently put a Twitter call out, looking for an action screenwriter – some lucky writer got to submit a script to her just by following her. Kailey also has great posts on the Bloodlist Website, pointing out new genre films to watch, and stories that can help aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers.
Brooklyn Weaver (@BrooklynWeaver) – Brooklyn is the CEO of Energy Entertainment, a management-production company that’s produced films like RUN ALL NIGHT and OUT OF THE FURNACE. He has occasionally done “pop-up pitches,” where he asks followers to tweet him 140-character loglines of their scripts. If he likes it, he actually requests to read your work! I got him to read a historical epic of mine just by tweeting him.
Michael Botti (@mbotti) – Michael is a manager/producer at Industry Entertainment, and is great to follow if you're looking for a raw look at the life of a rep. A self-described “smartass,” he pulls no punches, and often answers questions from aspiring screenwriters with thoughtful, multi-tweet answers. If you read his feed, you know what he likes – and what he doesn't.
Now if you want to take your networking to the next step, incorporating some travel into your strategy can work wonders. In 2011, I was invited to the Screenwriting Expo in Los Angeles to talk on a panel about crowdfunding. I thought that would be a great chance to network, so I researched all the other managers, agents and producers who would be speaking there. I thought, perhaps, I might have common friends with one of them, which would help facilitate an in-person meeting. And wouldn’t you know, I actually went to the same high school as a manager who would be there! He worked for a major management/production company; let’s call them Topnotch Media. So I contacted him on Facebook, introduced myself, and asked if I could buy him a beer while I was in town. Graciously, he said yes.
That meeting turned into a discussion about common friends from home, the state of the film and television business, and the kinds of projects Topnotch Media was looking to rep. When we finished, he gave me his card and said to contact him any time. It couldn’t have gone better.
Of course, I realize not everyone knows someone that went to LA and hit it big in the industry, but you don’t have to know anyone – or travel to LA, frankly – to make connections. If you haven’t been to the Austin Film Festival, in Austin, Texas, you’re missing out on a premier networking opportunity for the screenwriter. The AFF’s Writers Conference is four straight days of panels, discussions and workshops for the beginning or advanced screenwriter. There are writers, agents, managers, producers, and network executives as far as the eye can see. And after hours, all those folks commiserate in the conference’s host hotel – at the bar. It’s amazingly casual, which makes networking really easy.
My first time at Austin was in 2013. I listened to a panel with a screenwriter, his manager and his agent, to see how they all worked together to advance the writer’s career. And guess what – the manager was the head of Topnotch Media! When the panel was over, I introduced myself to him. He recognized my name – but not for the reason you might think. He knew me because I interacted with his company’s Twitter feed. (The lesson here: treat any company’s Twitter feed like you’re communicating with its president. Because in this case, I literally was.) Once we started talking, I waited a bit before letting him know I went to high school with his employee. That really got his interest. Ten minutes later, after I told him about a feature film I made, and new projects I was writing, he gave me an open invitation to submit my work to him once I thought it was ready.
A guy from Connecticut!
So if you're on the outside looking in, don't despair. It’s more difficult to reach the people who can help your career if you don’t live in the belly of the beast, but it’s not impossible. With a little social media savvy, a pleasant demeanor, and a little travel time (perhaps paid for with frequent flyer miles?) you can find the folks that can help move the dial on your career.
Breaking in Outside of Hollywood Webinar