Scriptcat’s Top 10 Disciplines to Build Your Professional Reputation as a Screenwriter…
August 21, 2016 § Leave a comment
It’s a given that you must have talent as a screenwriter, but if you also have a bad reputation it will harm your ability to land a job. Your reputation as a professional screenwriter will always precede you and can only be built over time as you work on various projects with producers or executives.
You must understand that everyone’s opinion about working with you matters. If you garner a reputation as being “difficult,” producers and others will choose not work with you again. Hollywood is all about working relationships and time is too precious and a lot of money is at stake on a project to deal with hassles. There are just too many other capable writers out there who are not divas and can get the job done. This is one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned on my nearly twenty year professional journey as a screenwriter—a solid reputation is vital to establishing a professional career.
Hollywood is a business of relationships and networking. People generally like to work with those people they’ve had a positive experience with in the past and who they can trust to deliver the work. So, how do you build a solid reputation as a screenwriter?
TOP 10 Disciplines to Build a Professional Reputation:
- Always deliver your best work, every time, regardless of your salary.
- Never be late for meetings.
- Always meet your contracted screenplay deadlines.
- Never get testy or upset about script notes or show anger.
- Be the ultimate team player and collaborator.
- Go the extra mile on every screenplay and clearly show the producers how invaluable you are to the project.
- If you don’t already have the natural ability—pay close attention to all details. Nobody will know the screenplay better than you will.
- Help the producers craft a script they can actually produce and do everything in your power to help push it through the development process.
- Don’t be a pain in the ass or a diva.
- Be generous with your collaborators and make working with you a positive and fun experience.
Initially, you may not receive the praise you feel that you deserve for all of your hard work. If this happens, practice patience, as it will eventually pay off for you over the long haul. Your praise will come in the form of a payment for your writing, a produced film, and a vital part of your screenwriting career—a credit. This will lead to more jobs as you now have experience and someone who took a chance on hiring you.
You’ll always find opportunities to build your integrity as a professional screenwriter. Every new project is a chance to build new relationships and show the producers and executives they can trust you by being a person of your word. If you promise to do something—do it. It’s that easy. Over time, these professionals will know they can count on you and that your word means something. It’s part of being a professional in all aspects of your career.
During pre-production of one of my films, I remember the director was on the location scouting and we’d keep in touch every day. When he needed changes to the script, he’d call or E-mail me, and I would have the revisions back to him the next morning. He knew he could trust me to deliver the changes that he needed to produce the film. Directors and producers remember these positive working relationships and it’s all part of the process to build your professional reputation. It was very gratifying for me recently hearing this director say that he ran into another director whom I worked with and they both told each other what a pleasure it was to work with me. I’ve worked hard to build my reputation over the years and it continually pays off.
A bad first impression is hard to erase, so never turn in your script late and never be late for a meeting, especially if it’s your first meeting. Make sure you are always ten to fifteen minutes early and ready to go. Somehow it’s become industry standard protocol that producers or executives will always make you wait. It’s like the doctor’s office, where your appointment is for 11:00 and you’re called into the office at 11:30. As frustrating as it is, it’s their prerogative and not yours. Be known as the writer who shows up early and is always ready to go. If you’re habitually late, you’ll lose their trust and they will think, “if this writer can’t even show up on time, why would he turn in his script on schedule?” It’s a reasonable assumption.
I was recently at a very important pitch meeting at a very high-profile Hollywood production company where the executives ran thirty minutes late. The assistant came down twice from upstairs to apologize—and I was very understanding of course. There was nothing I could do but tough it out. This meeting took a month to schedule and I wasn’t about to re-schedule, as I was ready to pitch today. When they finally called me into the meeting, the executives were so apologetic and went the extra mile to accommodate me. It adds a different dynamic to the meeting when they feel badly about making you wait. It’s their prerogative being late, not yours.
What you can control is your own conduct as you follow the code of a professional screenwriter. Your integrity is like a muscle and you need to work on it daily. Eventually your professionalism will come naturally (if it doesn’t already) and building your reputation with integrity will become effortless. Always remember, your reputation is as important as your talent and work ethic. It’s a vital ingredient for any level of success in your overall screenwriting career, so build a reputation that will make producers want to work with you again and again.
Did you just finish your latest screenplay? Time for in-depth consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website. You never get a second chance to make a first great impression with your screenplay. Make the time to get it right.
Need help reaching your screenwriting goals? Check out my on-demand webinar “A Screenwriter’s Checklist” and “So, you want to be a screenwriter? Now what?” — now available from my streaming website.
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“Writers, like most human beings, are adaptable creatures. They can learn to accept subordination without growing fond of it. No writer can forever stand in the wings and watch other people take the curtain calls while his own contributions get lost in the shuffle.”—Rod Serling
“The well is where your “juice” is. Nobody knows what it is made of, least of all yourself. What you know is if you have it, or you have to wait for it to come back.”—Ernest Hemingway
“Dramatic economy, which includes the ability of a writer to cut what at one point he might have considered to be his best work ever, is one of the most important skills a writer can have. It is learned only through much experience, combined with a ruthless attitude and utter lack of sentimentality.”—Alexander MacKendrick, “Sweet Smell of Success”