Meeting tips

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  • Meeting tips

    The past several years I have managed to get meetings with about thirty production companies, a lot of them major players on the studio lots. I thought I’d share what to expect so you’re ready when that day comes for you.

    My meetings were the result of several scripts going wide. The creative executives liked my writing and requested a meeting to check me out. That’s the best kind of circumstance.

    Don’t dress up. Prodcos are very casual places, even the big ones. But don’t dress down either. This is a job interview.

    Most CEs are in their low to mid-twenties. Don’t let this throw you. It doesn’t matter what your age is as long as you’ve got great stories.

    Keep in mind a CE can’t buy your screenplay. Their job is to work with writers on existing projects and find new material. If they like your material, they can send it to the next level, but that’s about it.

    The vast majority of CEs are very nice, normal people doing a hard, unglamorous job.

    Production offices vary from great opulence on top of skyscrapers to little bungalows in bad need of a paint job.

    CEs are VERY busy. They live in meetings. Don’t be put off if yours is rescheduled.
    Don’t be late and don’t be early. Be on time. Sit in your car if you have to. And the CE will almost certainly be late.

    Ask about parking or you may find yourself burning up time trying to find the mythical empty parking space in the Mid-Wilshire district.

    If you’re going into a studio, ask which gate.

    At the studio gate, you’ll be given a pass (if you’re on the list) and a map. You’ll be told where to go and where to park. Don’t deviate. Don’t wonder around.

    You’ll walk into these offices and see scripts EVERYWHERE. Scripts stuffed in bookcases, covering desks, covering floors. Outside one office I saw a refrigerator-sized box filled with scripts to be recycled.

    Chat up the receptionist if they’re not too busy. He/She could be a CE next week.

    Take copious notes. Write down people’s names.

    In prodcos big and small, you’ll always be offered a bottled water (except at Castle Rock where they give you the water in a huge glass filled to the brim with no ice, very awkward. So bring your own.)

    Hopefully you’ve done your homework and know something about the person you’re talking to as well as the company. Most prodcos will have posters of their movies on the wall. Look around the CEs office and see if you can spot anything you have in common. For example, one office I visited was decorated with action figures from the Dark Crystal. Also being a fan of the Hensen Company, I started our conversation from there. It was the longest meeting I ever had at forty-five minutes.

    The average meeting will be between twenty to thirty minutes. That may sound like a long time, but it goes by fast.

    The first part of the meeting will be idle chitchat “How long you been writing?” “What movies have you seen recently?” I get that a lot. “What are your favorite movies?” That too. “What did you think of (the company’s latest movie)?” Tell them you loved it.

    The CE will give you a description of the company and what they’re looking for. If you’re lucky, they’ll tell you a specific idea they’ve been toying with ““ THIS IS YOUR INVITATION TO COME UP WITH A TAKE ON IT. If you can’t come up with anything instantly, say it’s a really interesting idea and you’d like to think about it and get back to him with a fax or email.

    ALWAYS leave a business card. Giving the CE your card (at the END of the meeting) will almost always result in their giving you their card. THIS IS A CONTACT. THIS IS NETWORKING. THIS IS AN IMPORTANT EMAIL ADDRESS. Cherish it. Don’t share it. Don’t abuse it. Only use it to share your ideas, if they’ve invited you to.

    Don’t be in a hurry to pitch. You’ll know when it’s time. Ease into it. Pitching is a whole other subject. Keep it to two minutes or less or their eyes will glaze over. If they want to know more, they’ll ask questions. And it’s okay to read the pitch from a sheet, as long as you keep some good eye contact.

    I always give them a logline first and if they’re interested continue with the pitch.

    Don’t waste their time. Don’t pitch a comedy if the CE has said they don’t do comedies.
    Sometimes it’s clear very early you have nothing this company is looking for and things grind to a halt. That’s okay. It happens. Tell them maybe you’ll have something in the future. Whip out your card and hopefully get theirs. CEs move around a lot. This person may be at a whole different company three months from now that needs exactly what you’ve got. 50% of the CEs I’ve pitched to are no longer at the company I met them at.

    Don’t even schedule a meeting unless you have three or four specs as good as the one they’ve read and a bunch of amazing high concept ideas. This is your chance. Don’t waste it. Be prepared.

    Good luck!
    Last edited by Done Deal Pro; 06-13-2008, 03:14 PM.

  • #2
    Re: Meeting tips

    Awesome. This should be in the FAQ section.
    Fortune favors the bold - Virgil

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    • #3
      Re: Meeting tips

      Please tell us more about the business card. What should it say, since "aspiring screenwriter" is the true state of job existence. My "real" job is in a creative field, would it make me appear more professional if I include that information on the business card for CEs?

      "Until the Lion writes his own story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter." -African Proverb

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      • #4
        Re: Meeting tips

        What's wrong with name and contact info? Why do you need a title?
        Fortune favors the bold - Virgil

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        • #5
          Re: Meeting tips

          Originally posted by yvonnjanae
          Please tell us more about the business card. What should it say, since "aspiring screenwriter" is the true state of job existence. My "real" job is in a creative field, would it make me appear more professional if I include that information on the business card for CEs?
          Just put "SCREENWRITER," because that's what the CE will need to remember about you. Also phone and email info. Keep a separate card for your other field.

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          • #6
            Re: Meeting tips

            I wouldn't even put "writer" or "screenwriter" on it (I'm both novelist and screenwriter). It comes off as a little pretentious. But what I've done is design a card so that my name, in big letters, is in an old-fashioned Courier typewriter font: it tells them exactly what I am.

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            • #7
              Re: Meeting tips

              Agreed, Jake. Back in the day when all I was doing was writing novels, I was told to never put "writer" or "novelist" or any such designation on a business card or letterhead, and never put any other designation on there (unless it serves to help your cause). As in, don't put a Ph.D or M.D. after your name unless the project you're pitching is greatly enhanced by the idea that you've earned those titles. Otherwise, they have nothing to do with the job at hand.

              As a screenwriter, I've stopped even putting my address on the cards. Just name, email and contact number.

              I also rarely remember to give them to anybody, and don't even remember where they are.
              my webpage
              my blog

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              • #8
                Re: Meeting tips

                Screenwriting takes place in a whole other universe than book writing. Different rules, different players, different playing field, different strategies.

                There is nothing pretentious about putting SCREENWRITER on your business card. A CE or VP meets with dozens of people in the course of a week, both above the line and below the line talent. I want them to remember who I was, what I do, and have easy access to contact information (but you're right about the street address -- not necessary.)

                And as for â€earning†the title, I earned it the first time I typed FADE OUT on a completed screenplay many years ago. An artist doesnâ€TMt have to sell a painting in order to be considered an artist.

                Thereâ€TMs no such thing as an â€aspiring†screenwriter. I donâ€TMt know any producer or CE who wants to meet with an â€aspiring†screenwriter. You either write screenplays or you donâ€TMt. You may â€aspire†to make a living at it, but thatâ€TMs not who you are.

                And giving them MY card is a good way to get THEIR card. Until youâ€TMve made a name for yourself, itâ€TMs a good strategy. And donâ€TMt forget to give it out to agents, managers, teachers, fellow screenwriters and anybody else who might help your career.

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                • #9
                  Re: Meeting tips

                  Who gives a sh!t if you have a business card or not? If you want the CE's contact information, simply as for it as you part ways:

                  "Gee, this was so nice to be able to sit down with you. Do you mind if I ask for your card so I could maybe send you a formal thank you down the road?"

                  Speaking from experience, it works every time. And then you don't have to unload a card onto them. Where are they gonna keep it? A Rolodex? No one has those. It's all FileMaker Pro n' stuff.

                  Just send your follow up e-mail (which is a classy thing to do) and, in your sign-off, include your name and phone number. Every one I've ever sent out has been replied to, and I've maintained great relationships with the creative peeps.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Meeting tips

                    Originally posted by MacG
                    Just send your follow up e-mail (which is a classy thing to do) and, in your sign-off, include your name and phone number. Every one I've ever sent out has been replied to, and I've maintained great relationships with the creative peeps.
                    Yep, that's exactly what I do. I think it's the best way to end up in an exec's database, rather than counting on somebody taking a stack of business cards and typing the info in at the end of each day.
                    my webpage
                    my blog

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                    • #11
                      Re: Meeting tips

                      Originally posted by GreatOz
                      In prodcos big and small, youâ€TMll always be offered a bottled water (except at Castle Rock where they give you the water in a huge glass filled to the brim with no ice, very awkward. So bring your own.)
                      this is not true. castle rock has sparkling bottled water. calistogas. lime, lemon or regular. plus sodas.
                      but heaven help you if you get a meeting there. it is a company gasping its last breaths
                      If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed. -- Stanley Kubrick

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                      • #12
                        Re: Meeting tips

                        Originally posted by cluckyburger
                        this is not true. castle rock has sparkling bottled water. calistogas. lime, lemon or regular. plus sodas.
                        but heaven help you if you get a meeting there. it is a company gasping its last breaths
                        They must have been out the day I had a meeting there (late 2003) -- they gave me this humongus glass of water to carry around. I thought they were trying to be environmentally friendly or something.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Meeting tips

                          Originally posted by pooks
                          Yep, that's exactly what I do. I think it's the best way to end up in an exec's database, rather than counting on somebody taking a stack of business cards and typing the info in at the end of each day.
                          I always send a follow-up email, "Thanks for the great meeting...etc." So now they have my contact info in TWO places -- their business card holder AND their database.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Meeting tips

                            An artist doesnâ€TMt have to sell a painting in order to be considered an artist.
                            Right. To be considered a professional artist is a different matter. I still wouldn't put anything else other than the basic info on a card.

                            As for water, I had meetings with Morgan Creek and Summit, and both execs had to run out of the room and come back with a glass of water.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Meeting tips

                              I love this town! Earthquakes and all.

                              But this whole water thing is scary. I read somewhere on Done Deal that it's considered rude to turn down their offer of a beverage. WTF? Why water? What about a pop? If I ask for regular instead of diet will they write me off as fat and lazy? Should I drink the beverage or just hold it? What if I'm really thirsty, drink it all and then have to go to the bathroom? Help!

                              "Until the Lion writes his own story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter." -African Proverb

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