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Script on Script: Keep the Buzz Alive

Andrew Shearer expands on Peter Hanson's article “The Screenwriter’s Second Act" in the Sept./Oct. issue of Script.

Keep the buzz alive.

That’s the phrase Peter Hanson’s article, “The Screenwriter’s Second Act,” inspired me to repeat over and over in my head the last few mornings as I sat down to organize my day. Or was it at the end of each night as I tried not to go to sleep? My best friend’s in town and everything’s a bit hazy. Either way, it works. In his article, Hanson outlines an approach for writers to make the most for themselves right at that golden moment in between the time when they sell a script to get produced and when the movie actually comes out. There’s some great advice in the article, but I want to expand on it. What if you have no scripts sold, but you still have some buzz?

If you’re not prepared, there are specific opportunities you can miss out on in the burgeoning of your career when you first generate some of that coveted “buzz.” Allow me to share my own story. When my rep sent out my first spec (co-written with my writing partner), it began to get lots of good responses at production companies, generating, you guessed it, positive buzz. So we did what every new writer in the industry does. We set up general meetings with the companies who had read us and began to show our faces around town. There are a couple things we did right. We went into the meetings with new pitches, thus showing we had more ideas than just the script they’d read. We took into consideration the company’s past films and upcoming pre-production slate, thus tailoring the pitches we brought to each meeting. Also, we were sure to tell everyone in our meetings who else we had met with that day, that week, the week before – we made them think everyone in town wanted to work with us. Based on the buzz of our script, it wasn’t total bullshit, but the point is, we played it up.

But more importantly, here’s what we didn’t have the foresight to do. Along the lines of Hanson’s advice, one of the things we should’ve done to increase our Rolodex at the time was to attend social networking events (such as festivals, seminars, screenings) and talk about our “circulating script.” As a writer, you don’t always have something to hype, and if you’re not a good bullshitter – like me – then you’re only good at it when it’s legit, so when you have the buzz, get out there and hype it!

When people think they hear something important, they do. And voila, one more person is reading your script. Then five more. Another thing you want to do before “it’s too late,” is bring fresh ideas back to the contacts you’ve made. If you had great chemistry in the room with a particular company during a general, make sure you find a way back into their room within a few months, whether it’s to pitch them a new idea or to follow up on your original meeting. Keep the buzz alive!

Read Peter Hanson’s article, follow these tactics, and avoid being your own buzz-kill.