I remember during the early days in my screenwriting career when I was 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 and created a new opportunity. Meetings are necessary to network and build relationships.
I’ve met with everyone over the years—from assistants, agents, managers, 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 and to build new relationships. 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 including displaying a professional attitude and work ethic. 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?
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 the 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.
Examples of meetings? 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-Mucks. 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.”
Make sure to leave a great first impression and show them you have developed a solid body of work—and you’ll be back. 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. You go off and get the work done as you’re under a contract and getting paid—the best part.
Survival tips to help you take a successful meeting:
Always show up early to the meeting and come prepared. They will always make you wait, but that’s just one of those things. You don’t have the luxury of making a bad first impression. It starts from the moment they meet you and you can easily blow an opportunity if you don’t pay attention to the small details. It’s like a first date—did you answer your cell during dinner? A week goes by and you never hear back from your date and wonder why? It’s similar. Present your best professional image from the first handshake, to your pitch, and your follow-up.
Be prepared. Know your backstory in a concise pitch as you are also pitching yourself in addition to your project. How did you start in the business? Did you go to film school? Do you have any screenplays produced? It’s your chance to craft a biography that will impress. Show them you’re open to rewrites and being a collaborator. It’s your time to display the best in your personality and professionalism. A script may have landed you the meeting, but they may not buy the script, but will ask, “What else are you working on?” Impress them with a solid body of material as they like screenwriters who are workhorses and can deliver the goods—not a “one script wonder.”
Do your homework. 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.
If you’re pitching, know your pitch inside and out and you have a solid body of work to back up the one project that got you through the door. 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. Keep it short and leave them wanting more. Deploy visual aids like a sizzle reel, photographs, paintings or anything visual that can help communicate the mood of your project. 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.
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-Mucks are 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. Sometimes a meeting is just a meeting, but you have to treat every experience as the important opportunity if affords you to display yourself as a professional who offers professional quality work. 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 working.
Copyright 2018 by Mark Sanderson on MY BLANK PAGE blog.
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2 thoughts on “Tips to take a successful Hollywood meeting…”
I don’t get this. This is not how to pitch. ITS BEEN OVER 10 YEARS AND ALL YOUR GUYS IS DO IS TYPE THE SAME CRAP OVER AND OVER . SO MANY SCRIPT ASPIRING GURUS WHO teach amateurs and think they are good by working with awful and blind writers.
You cannot teach someone how to be good or popular or a good writer or a good presenter. This is bullshit. So many writers are so off base and nerdy they will never be able to pitch with style and social coolness.
Either you have the talent or you don’t. don’t waste time on things you are not talented at
Wow. Okay. Have you ever taken a pitch meeting. Yes, many writers may not be “great in a room” but they have to be to build the face to face meetings and establish a network of contacts. I agree that you cannot teach someone to be “good” but hopefully
writers are humble and know there is much to learn on this journey. Talent can be raw, but has to be nurtured and practiced over a period of time to achieve excellence.