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View Full Version : Best Way to Use Connections to Break In?


jojofromsoflo
12-11-2006, 01:09 PM
Hey everybody. Here is my situation:

I graduated from USC's Screenwriting program in May. I took a full-time, non-industry job. Shortly thereafter, I was offered a position as a reader for an A-list director (who is also an accomplished screenwriter and producer). I couldn't take the job because of my commitment to the job I already had, so I offered to work for him from home on a part-time basis, for no pay. He agreed.

So I've been working for him since late August, and he's been very impressed with my performance thus far. Ultimately I hope that my hard work for him will lead to some sort of benefit in my goal of becoming a working screenwriter, so I was wondering how and when to take action. Of all the scripts I've written, I have only three feature scripts that I feel good enough about to show people (I hold myself to relati vely high standards), and only one that even closely matches this director's genre and style. I write mainly comedy, and he has done nothing but drama, although he claims that he is interested in some day directing a comedy.

I was thinking of asking him to read the one script I have that I think he would like, but I don't want to "blow it," especially as I've only been working for him for 4 months.

Any adivce would be appreciated. Thanks, everybody.

phatgirl
12-11-2006, 01:23 PM
I've only been working for him for 4 months.
For free? Wow, you're really nice.

I recently went to a workshop given by a well-known writer/director. It was for 4 hours. Afterwards I sent him an email, thanked him for the workshop and asked him to read my script. He said yes.

I say ask away.

Bellabell
12-11-2006, 01:27 PM
You're in a great position, but I would wait for several reasons. First, your post sounds like you may be a little unsure of your material. Second, it also sounds like you haven't established enough of a relationship with him to feel comfortable giving him material. On the flip side, make sure he knows you're not out to use his hard earned fame to make a quick buck, but you value the opportunity he's given you. Your game is all about timing. You can't wait too long or opportunity will pass. Use your instincts. They're usually correct.

In your case, your relationship with this director is far more valuable than a read.

Marine66
12-11-2006, 01:31 PM
Can you marry his daughter or son?

CutteRug
12-11-2006, 01:38 PM
This is what I would do personally. . .

Enter your features in some reputable contests - Nicholl, Austin, Chesterfield, etc.

Keep working with the Director as you are, maybe even ending your non-industry committment and taking a full-time, paid position with the Director. And of course, continue to wow him with your astute appraisals of the projects that cross his doorstep.

As (assuming there's a good chance it will happen) your scripts start placing in the contests, share this good news with everyone, including the Director - while STILL not asking him to read anything.

By this time, you will have a more-established relationship with him, AND you'll have external vouchers for your writing. Basically anyone in the industry (who doesn't know you) and who says your scripts are good.

Eventually, the Director will ask to read your material. Ahh, a solicited read. Nothing better.

Just my two sense.

Cheers,

Cutt-

CutteRug
12-11-2006, 01:39 PM
Can you marry his daughter or son?

Also a good route. If the contest thing doesn't work out.

;)

Cutt-

jojofromsoflo
12-11-2006, 01:41 PM
Hahaha. No daughters or sons to marry. Also, my gf might not like that too much...

In regards to your "unsure of my material" comment, Bella, you're right. I am extremely proud of the script I was thinking of giving him to read, but that script has been passed on by the 7 or 8 people who have read it. I'm at somewhat of an impasse in rewriting it; the current draft is the third one (plus some minor tweaks), and it's pretty polished. Most of the people who have read it liked it (including a couple of reader friends of mine and the professor whose class I wrote it for), but the people I have actually "submitted" it to thought have passed for various reasons that all seem like personal taste.

I welcome any more advice. Thanks, everyone.

jojofromsoflo
12-11-2006, 01:44 PM
In repsonse to Cutt's comment:

that sounds like great advice. Aren't the Austin and Nichol almost a year away, though?

I did enter the Nichol this year; didn't even make it to the second round. I don't take this as an absolute statement that my script is bad and.or needs more work. Should I?

Marine66
12-11-2006, 01:52 PM
Also, my gf might not like that too much...


First, find a woman committed to your career. Allowing you to marry a director's daughter is the least she can do. This is LA.

Second, let me get this straight: You're doing the work for free that he offered to pay you for? I realize you went to USC and probably independently wealthy, but why? This is LA. You diminish your value when you give your labor and talent away. Don't let the guild hear about this.

Also, sorry about the UCLA game. Cheers.

CutteRug
12-11-2006, 01:54 PM
I did enter the Nichol this year; didn't even make it to the second round. I don't take this as an absolute statement that my script is bad and.or needs more work. Should I?

Not really. I've had two scripts get to the semis in different years - and those same scripts have tanked at *lesser* contests, and even tanked in the Nicholl in different years. There is a lot of subjectivity to it.

But even one *first round* is enough to chat up your script to anyone who will listen.

And a year is nothing. Look at it this way - by that time, you'll have another script written, and a rock-solid relationship with this Director, as well as other people who work with him.

I worked with a Director once, reading scripts for no money. This other guy and I sat around the office bitching about the crap scripts we had to read, and talking about our own *genius* projects. He quit to intern at an agency, and I later left too, but we kept in touch, and when 'The Matrix' came out, his Agency had a meeting saying, 'find any sci-fi scripts you can!'. He knew of one of mine, called me, and I ended up getting an agent.

So you never know who the connection will be, or how many years down the line it will bear fruit. Keep writing, be nice to everyone, and tell anyone who'll listen about your stories.

That's just what has worked for me anyway.

Cheers,

Cutt-

jojofromsoflo
12-11-2006, 02:39 PM
Hmm. Interesting.

I'm working free for the guy because I didn't want to lose the opportunity. I'm making enough money from my other job to support myself, and I figured that working for this guy would be worth it in the long run.

Has anyone been in a situation similar to mine? Thanks, everyone.

Bellabell
12-11-2006, 02:44 PM
Has anyone been in a situation similar to mine? Thanks, everyone.

YES. Except on the producing end. I never asked a favor of her and now we have a great relationship. Now, she asks what I'm doing and offers her help or contacts. It's so worth it to build a relationship.

I'm not saying to not take advantage of your position, but make sure you're confident in your material and your relationship.

Hamboogul
12-11-2006, 02:47 PM
The best way to break in is by writing a great script. If that means you win a contest, great. If that means that you get discovered by this director, great.

There are more than one proven path to success. Explore all the roads equally. Or pave your own road.

CutteRug
12-11-2006, 02:51 PM
The best way to break in is by writing a great script.

Amen.

I wish there was a way to have this given be assumed to precede all my posts on these sorts of topics. Perhaps there is - I should just write it. :D

Cutt-

amandag
12-11-2006, 03:47 PM
Jojo, years ago, I worked in many free jobs for the sole purpose of making contacts.

Having said that, I can honestly say that the best contacts I've made over the years, with the exception of one very dear friend, have been from none of those jobs.

I've handed scripts to actors, to agents, to agents assistants, etc. etc., execs, execs' assistants, with a whole lotta nada. (Granted, a lot of the better stuff I wrote was after I left those jobs.)

I think the downside to these things (and pardon any redundancy from other posts) is that sometimes people associate you with the 'help' and either want to keep you as help, or they figure if you had a good script you'd find another way. Or...they're sadists.

Having said that, the best reason to work for free is to capitalize on the guilt of your employer, so I say go for it! Use that guilt. Get a read. It will still take a few months anyway.

Good luck!!! :D

msmarinajb
03-08-2007, 01:30 AM
Jojo, I know this is late, but I had to answer this question because I actually have a similiar, but different situation. I have a lot of connections through an organization I belong to and I made them work for me by becomming a sort of a "pimp".

First, I always offered to act as a go between so I can make even MORE connections with the people that this director knows. Don't ask for anything, just start building relationship. Then I started exchanging favors by name exchanging. I happen to have several connections but you can start with your one and build. An example, I happen to know a world famous baseball player and while talking to another producer, he mentions that he would love to have a pro athelete do a cameo, so I mention to him that I know this guy and that I can ask if he's interested, and instead of giving them the contact information, I'll ask the baseball player myself if he's might like to do a project like that.

That's one example. My primary objective in utilizing my connections is that I NEVER go to anyone asking for handouts and favors, I only approach with things that I think will benefit their business and if indicate that they don't think it's for them, I drop it immediately so they know I'm not being pushy with them to give me a free ride. In the meantime, if I am able to shortcut them having to have their people contact his people, sometime they will offer that "if there's anything they can ever do for me". So far, this has worked really well for me.

Good luck.

This works really well

Hey everybody. Here is my situation:

I graduated from USC's Screenwriting program in May. I took a full-time, non-industry job. Shortly thereafter, I was offered a position as a reader for an A-list director (who is also an accomplished screenwriter and producer). I couldn't take the job because of my commitment to the job I already had, so I offered to work for him from home on a part-time basis, for no pay. He agreed.

So I've been working for him since late August, and he's been very impressed with my performance thus far. Ultimately I hope that my hard work for him will lead to some sort of benefit in my goal of becoming a working screenwriter, so I was wondering how and when to take action. Of all the scripts I've written, I have only three feature scripts that I feel good enough about to show people (I hold myself to relati vely high standards), and only one that even closely matches this director's genre and style. I write mainly comedy, and he has done nothing but drama, although he claims that he is interested in some day directing a comedy.

I was thinking of asking him to read the one script I have that I think he would like, but I don't want to "blow it," especially as I've only been working for him for 4 months.

Any adivce would be appreciated. Thanks, everybody.

La Femme Joyeuse
03-08-2007, 08:39 AM
JoJo - I wouldn't ask for a read unless you happen to know the script rocks. If 7 or 8 people have passed for whatever reason, I would take that as an indication of something. I think it would be more than appropriate to ask for a read but here's how you blow a great connection: with bad material. Your reputation rides on the quality of the material. Wait, I think I mean me - I do screenwriting consulting as you might have gathered here on DD. I have some great connections and have gotten reads for my clients through them. But boy, I have to be so in love with a script before I pass it on. So in love with it that I think, well, if they pass, they're an idiot because I know it ain't the script. Because the one time I pass on a script that's so-so? I just lost that connection for some time.

I know you care a lot about the script; I would find a way to check in on the material to see if it really is read-ready. You'd be cashing in on a pretty big favor. You could lose his respect in the space of 90 minutes flat.

Develop more connections, for one thing. And keep writing. You are being very generous with your time for this director and this connection could be a great thing for you. You are really in the cat bird seat; you see what his slate is, what his interests are, what his tastes are - does any of your other material fit the bill?

erinchap
03-08-2007, 03:46 PM
Why don't you send him coverage on your script (from an outside, reputable source), so all he has to read is that? If he likes what he reads, he'll ask you for the script....? Just give him a heads up and attach a note to the coverage that it's your script. Then ask him what other producers/directors would like a comedy such as yours.... A referral is GOLDEN.

Chakala
03-09-2007, 08:52 AM
Given my newbie status, I hesitate to add to the woodpile, but I have discovered one thing in this business (and in the other businesses I work in):

Don't ask someone to do you a favor. Set it up so that they offer to do it for you.

People hate to be asked to read. I know I do. But I've snookered people into reading my material by asking their opinions on specific issues with my script without asking them outright to read it.

Many pros are generous with their advice, and your directed questions may activate this. If your questions are interesting enough, you might get them to say, 'well, let me take a look at it...'

This has worked twice for me-- once with a showrunner, and another with a produced pro.

You're doing really well, and congrats.

IanFraser
03-15-2007, 11:55 AM
I see 'connections' as that mythical 'one all-purpose solve everything' phone call which you can make. You don't use it up until you're damn sure that what you have is good enough..

I'm lucky enough to have connections with a semi 'A' list actor - and I've a screenplay I'm tweaking and refining, which I know he'll be perfect for. But I'm not going anywhere near using up that 'one phone call' with him, until I'm certain that the script is at a polished level of quality that will override the awkwardness of raising it with him, as well as exceed his expectations.

So my take is: use connections respectfully, as they're probably a onetime shot - so make sure that what you're offering, is worth it.

sppeterson
03-15-2007, 02:20 PM
If he's more a writer-director who produces his own movies then it might be best to ask him to read your script and give you his thoughts -- and whether or not you should take it out and to whom.

If he's more a producer, then those guys read scripts all the time so I'd say just ask him to take a look. You also form relationships with producers merely by having them read your work, whether or not they pass on it. If your writing shows any promise, they'll often be more willing to look at your future material -- though not always all of it.

I'd only show him a screenplay -- definitely not coverage notes or even a treatment. Let him see your writing so that he can see your talent, or give you advice on how to improve.

If he is an A-list director, then his schedule is likely pretty full, so I suspect your best chances won't be setting up a film with him as the director, but having him help you get your writing on-line and your script out to some people hungry for new talent.

BROUGHCUT
03-16-2007, 10:11 AM
Ultimately I hope that my hard work for him will lead to some sort of benefit in my goal of becoming a working screenwriter,

If your hard work involves copying his rolodex and sneaking onto his computer to get personal contact details for agents and producers, etc, then it may indeed be of some benefit.

theturnaround
03-17-2007, 02:06 PM
it sounds to me like your scripts are good, very good, but not great in the sense that they are ready to be produced... and not in his genre...

if this is an A-list director, I would develop a pitch/idea in his wheelhouse, ask him to co-develop the idea to his liking, and then go off and write a draft...

i'm sure i'll get eviscerated for the whole "free work" idea, but you're already 4 months down that path... why not get a script with an A-list advocate out of it?

tt