Magic Bullet Quickie: Hollywood Loves My Script?! Oh #%&! Now what?

Aspiring writers focus so much on finishing the screenplay and trying to get it read that sometimes they aren't prepared for their once-in-a-lifetime golden opportunity when it finally comes. Arm yourselves with this knowledge, and you'll be well on your way when the time comes.
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When we're aspiring writers, our whole mountaintop is to finish the script. Then it's to actually get it read by Hollywood. Then it's crossing our fingers that they love it and want to make sweet money babies with our screenplay. But we never focus on what happens next, which can be just as nerve racking. My job is usually focused on helping writers with that front end as well, so when this question came in from a client of mine today, I remembered that I've only been writing articles about half the battle. Because my client's meeting is in the future, I've blocked out who he's meeting and the names of his scripts in the reply. Here's his question:

Hi Michael,

I have a meeting with [Manager] this Thursday. Thanks for helping to make that possible! Do you have any additional advice for me going into the meeting or anything I should anticipate? Thanks!

I know what you're thinking, and yes, it's one of those "good problems" to have. But if you don't know what you're getting into, how to get the most out of it, and what to do when you're there, you might miss a golden opportunity.

So, here is what I wrote back:

D,

Do you have a list of potential script ideas? I know you've got O-S and you're working on M-R, but what other ideas do you have? If you have a list I can help you weed it down, and if you don't have a list we need to come up with one as soon as possible. Both O-S and M-R have great commercial potential, and it's vital that every idea you bring up during the meeting has the same sensibility (high concept, easy to grasp it's mass appeal, easy to see how the movie might play out from a couple sentences, etc.).

On top of that, while it's okay to be nervous, you should know that they are also going to evaluate how you come across "in the room". I had a client once who was an absolutely brilliant comedy writer, but he came across very serious and stilted when he went out on meetings. He basically went from a sure thing to getting the gig to "we're still evaluating" and then eventually losing the job. It's a common thing, and many times jobs are won or lost based on how good someone is "in the room", and what that means is:

1. Are they funny themselves, or humorous in general (do they laugh at others' jokes)?

2. Are they easy to talk to?

3. Do they have good stories (both the script ideas you bring up, or personal stories that are funny/captivating)?

4. Do they have a good sensibility for what makes a good story, and for what makes a good commercial story, etc.?

5. Are they confident? (This can be either about their own ideas, or their own ability to write.)

Now, I said before that it's okay to be nervous. But you need to not appear like you're about to have a nervous breakdown. And even if you aren't feeling confident, you need to at least appear confident. I'm not saying you can't be yourself - I'm saying you need to be the best possible version of yourself.

When it comes to meetings, it's going to depend on who you're meeting with to know what to expect and what they want to see. Because you're meeting with a manager (and this is true of agents as well), they are evaluating whether:

1. They think they can work with you - your personality, your temperament, your expectations, etc.

2. You're more than a one or two trick pony (the script or scripts they read and liked isn't the extent of your talent, that you have more great ideas).

3. Your demeanor/ability "in the room."

4. What your ultimate goals are, and if that will make them money or leave them wishing they never spent 5 minutes on you.

5. What your other abilities are.

Number four and five are important to you because you're also a great director, and have shown that ability by making an award winning short film. Which leads me to my last point: What to bring. So make sure and bring:

1. A DVD of your short film (you may not watch it together, but I've seen it and it's definitely worth leaving behind if they ask for it).

2. A list of your ideas (make it bulleted, and with little to no description, so that it jogs your memory when you're talking about it, but if they ask for you to leave it behind, you're not leaving a document that reveals great script ideas in someone else's hands).

3. A great attitude

4. Dress "Hollywood Writer Business Casual" - Dont wear a suit, but definitely don't wear flip flops and shorts either. Nice jeans, nice shoes, and a nice shirt (it doesn't have to be button up). If you want to wear a suit jacket or sport coat over a T-Shirt, that's the norm and I say go for it.

richard simmons

Not Hollywood Business Casual

Also, if you can rattle off great ideas without ever pulling out your bulleted list, that's way better than going over them while you hold a sheet of paper. Several reasons:

1. You keep eye contact (very important).

2. You look like you know your stuff (also important).

3. It looks like they are more than just slivers of ideas, but like you've had them in mind or been working on them for a long time (even if you just came up with it 2 seconds ago).

Next, when you get there or while you're waiting to be called in, make sure and be friendly to everyone - ESPECIALLY the assistants. Many times, industry players rely on the opinions of others, and sometimes that means their assistants or interns. If you're rude to them in anyway (and I know you wouldn't be), it could hurt you big time.

As well, if it helps make you less nervous, think of this whole thing as a game. It makes the whole thing seem less daunting, and I know that has helped other clients in the past.

Finally, enjoy yourself. You've been working on this script for a long time, and we went through a couple drafts to get it to where it is now. You've worked your butt off, so enjoy the fruits of your labor. No matter what, you've earned this, so have fun.

So I hope that helps you guys, whether you need that information now or later. If you want, I can do more articles on this and do the same kind of breakdown for other types of meetings (producers, pitches, execs, etc.) so you know what to expect for those as well. Just let me know in the comments or email me at Michael@scriptawish.com.

As always, if you guys ever have any questions, feel free to email me.

Happy writing!

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