Communiqué from the front lines: The continual process of work and meetings…

February 14, 2013 § 2 Comments

charlie_chaplin02As I’ve mentioned before in my blog articles, even with credits or not, a screenwriter’s job never ends with regards to either creating new material or constantly meeting, pitching and building an ever-expanding network of your “fans.” It’s days, nights and weekends, folks. These past few weeks have been on both the creating side and the meeting side of the process. On the work side, I completed a new story treatment with a book author based upon her book’s character and the project is shepherded by a director that I worked with before. He’s going to meet with an investment group next week and this project is one in his arsenal.  It’s been budgeted and once the financing is in place—release the hounds! The screenwriter then goes to work.

One of the two meetings was a pitch meeting and the other a follow-up meeting after the exec read my TV pilots.  Both meetings went very well and my manager and I are extremely happy to add two more places with open doors.  The pitch meeting was with an independent producer that I pitched to before and this time I came ready with five new pitches—all in the same basic genre for her to consider. Now, what could have happened is that I pitched all of my ideas and nothing resonated with her, but luckily for me she picked three to further develop. We’re moving forward with the three pitches and will work to tailor them to three specific networks with regards to their tone and scope.  I have produced credits in the genre I was pitching, so it helped to make her feel confident that I could write the ideas I had pitched. Once we have a more detailed story locked down and she’s confident with it, she will schedule meetings and take me into the networks to pitch with her attached as producer.  I now go into the important research process and have to watch a handful of the original movies that have aired on these particular networks to enable me to capture the tone of their material. I’ll bet you never figured one day watching movies would be considered research. It’s the best part!

The other meeting was a lunch with a development executive who works for a successful, old school producer with mega Hollywood credits. She read my TV pilots as they are branching into series television and she really liked the writing, but the projects weren’t the right fit for what her boss is looking to produce. She’s now a “fan” of my writing and we discussed in length the types of films/series ideas they do have in development and other important insights. Another invaluable door opened and a flag planted on the field of battle. I of course sent a handwritten “thank you” follow-up card to both as part of the professional code.

These are they types of meetings you will need to take on a regular basis to continue to build your network of relationships. Eventually one of your “fans” will buy your material or hire you to write their next project.  It will happen if you stay in the game and it’s happened for me nearly a dozen times being hired for screenplay assignment jobs. The process is ongoing and never ends as long as you’re writing.  As with anything in Hollywood, you never know how events will turn out—good or bad.  This is why early in my career I began to practice the art of detachment from any outcome of any meeting. This is important because it’s never going to turn out the way you envisioned.  Never.  Detachment is great for protecting yourself from the let down that so many meetings in Hollywood can deliver. You’ll want to wrestle control of your “highs and lows” to lessen the inevitable bumpy ride.  You must look at these meetings in the bigger picture of your overall journey and not just focus on the success of a specific meeting. Remember, success does not happen with one script or one meeting, as it’s a long process of many steps and many meetings—and a body of work that will show professionals you have something unique to offer.

So, dig in deep and get your latest project finished. Work on your pitches, treatments, loglines and completed scripts. Take the meetings and build your relationships. It’s all part of the process of a working screenwriter. Rinse, lather, and repeat. When it does finally happen, if it hasn’t already, you’ll take the meeting that launches your career when they tell you they’re buying your script or hiring you to write a project. Your screenwriting career is not a Dali-esque delusion, but the result of work, talent, focus, sacrifice, patience and luck. Keep writing and keep the faith. —Scriptcat

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“It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.”—Telamon of Arcadia, mercenary, 5th Century B.C.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”—Pablo Picasso

“When the last dime is gone, I’ll sit on the curb outside with a pencil and a ten cent notebook and start the whole thing over again.” — Preston Sturges

But the Artist cannot look to others to validate his efforts or his calling.  If you don’t believe me, ask Van Gogh, who produced masterpiece after masterpiece and never found a buyer his whole life.  In the hierarchy, the Artist faces outward. Meeting someone new he asks himself, “What can this person do for me?”  “How can this person advance my standing?”  In hierarchy, the Artist looks up and looks down.  The one place he can’t look is that place he must: within.”—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

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§ 2 Responses to Communiqué from the front lines: The continual process of work and meetings…

  • Maximum Z says:

    Great insider stuff! I realize it’s easier to network and meet with execs and development people since you’re based in LA, so what advice could you give to those of us who don’t have the option of relocating there? Are more people opting to do meetings via Skype, or maybe fly in for a week and hopefully fill up their schedules? Curious to know your thoughts.

    • scriptcat says:

      I’m considering a new article about that very subject, Paul… and thanks for asking that question because it will nudge me to finish writing it! Yes, living in Los Angeles does have its advantages with regards to meeting industry professionals and networking. You can run into them at Starbucks or at parties or baby showers, the kids’ soccer games, or at a red light. It would help to schedule a week of meetings (if that is possible) and come to LA and plant your flag on new territory. I suppose Skype is possible, but there is never a good substitute for good old, real life face to face meetings or lunches. I’ve done Skype with others who are outside of LA (directors, etc) but mostly have been lucky the meetings are here in LA because so many of the companies, producers and execs are based here. I would suggest only coming down if you secured a series of locked meetings and made it worth your while. I think there may be a bias if one isn’t established that if you live outside of LA, they’ll really need to build a solid relationship by meeting you in person before they trust you with notes by e-mail or over the phone. You also have access to screenings, premieres, workshops, classes in LA that one would never have in other cities.

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