How to take a successful meeting in Hollywood…
April 11, 2012 § 8 Comments
I remember the early days in my screenwriting career when I was so excited to get a meeting—any meeting. It was my chance to get inside the inmost cave, behind the gates, and for a brilliant few minutes, I’d have the undivided attention of some Muckety-Muck: Noun (mə-kə-tē-ˌmək\: “A person of great importance or self-importance : A big Hollywood Muckety-Muck.”
I quickly learned after the first dozen meetings that sometimes a meeting is just a meeting. In fact, there are people whose job it is just to take meetings. They have no power to green light a project or kick it upstairs, they just meet daily with prospective aspirants and hope one will eventually deliver their next successful hit. If they like you and what you do, you just opened an important door.
I’ve met with everyone—from assistants, low-level creative executives, producers, directors, actors, VP’s, heads of development, to presidents of production. Hollywood meetings are necessary to put a face with a project. If your material sparked their interest, the meeting will be your audition to sell yourself, live in front of them. You hear about “being great in a room” and it’s necessary for them to like you and remember you for possible jobs in the future. Your script gets you inside and everything else is up to you. You’ll spin plates, tap dance, juggle, fold balloons, breathe fire and perform your special magic on them. It’s what us writers do, right?
Always show up early to the meeting and come prepared. This means know your pitch inside and out. Be ready for any questions they may throw at you. Always have a reply and prepare for back and forth improv a meeting can present. Know who you are meeting and a little about their background. Take a few minutes to Google them and in the meeting, reference some of your knowledge about their experience or career. They’ll appreciate your respect and be impressed enough to remember you as someone who values attention to detail. Muckety-Mucks like writers who have their shit together and present themselves as a confident professional. These are people they want to work with and can trust as team players.
Some meeting types are the general meeting, the pitch meeting, the “moving forward” meeting, and the notes meeting. The general meeting is just as it sounds: A meet and greet between you and the Muckety-Muck. They may have read something of yours or maybe not, but they just want to get to know you and keep you on their radar. It’s not about a specific project or job, but a chance for both of you to connect. Hopefully they tell you, “Keep in touch, we’d love to read your next project. The door is always open here.”
The ubiquitous pitch meeting is just as it sounds: They’ve usually read something of yours and liked it enough to take a meeting where you pitch another project to them. You may or may not have already written it, but they only want to hear a quick pitch. Keep it short and leave them wanting more. Pitch meetings are necessary, as it’s a chance to dazzle them in person with your ideas and memorable personality. They want to like you, but look for any reason to dislike you so be great in the room.
The “moving forward” meeting happens after a few early meetings and now it’s the big pow-wow to announce they’re putting your script into development and you’re getting paid. This is usually followed by the “notes meeting” where the producers or executives unleash their script changes, you take it on the chin and go off and get the work done.
Once your agent or manager sends out a project and casts the net wide, they wait for the feedback to trickle in. Getting read in Hollywood seems to take forever, as there’s a bizarre time warp when it comes to business dealings. But it’s understandable when you consider there’s tens of thousands of projects bouncing around town. While your project is out there being considered, focus on your next piece of material and keep writing. The distraction will help you from going crazy when it’s silent for a few weeks.
Once the feedback trickles in to your representation, they will set up meetings with everyone who wants to meet you—and you’ll take all of them. It’s your job to get in front of the Muckety-Mucks and dazzle them. Spin your plates or do hand stands for them. Your script got you behind the gates, now be great in the room. In fact, be fantastic. You want to kick open as many doors as possible. Your script may not sell this time out, but the rounds of meetings you will take are the next important step in building a screenwriting career. It’s an numbers game at best, but if you’re constantly out there, mixing it up with the gate keepers with new projects, you’ll be holding new ground and advancing toward a sale or a writing assignment.
Sometime soon after the meeting, maybe within a week, send a “thank you” card to the person you met with to show your gratitude and to gently remind them of you. Most people in today’s world pay no attention to the small details of etiquette. It’s very old school to send a card and that’s exactly why it’s important. Executive’s assistants sort the incoming mail and the hand-written notes are always stacked on the top of the pile and read first. When the Muckety-Muck is busy with a thousand other distractions in their daily commitments, your card will arrive and you’ll be a nice blip on their radar. They’ll appreciate the gesture and recall that not only are you a talented writer, but you’re respectful of their time and the opportunity they presented you.
You’re now acting as a professional, and preparing for when they allow you to play in the their big sandbox with their toys. As you continue these methods, they will become effortless and you’ll build a reputation that will eventually get you hired. You’ll step through the door you just opened into the coveted world of a working screenwriter in Hollywood. Welcome, it’s a nice place to be.
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