Monday, February 09, 2009
Every now and then I get an email from someone I've never seen before saying something like "Hey, want to read my screenplay? Here it is!" with a 150 page tome attached. It's a bit like someone knocking on my door and saying "Hey we've never met but I've seen you before. Here are my kids. I'll be back to pick them up at 12."
Sometimes I'll get an email from someone I've never seen saying "Hey, we should go to the movies tonight."
I'm not even famous or successful as a screenwriter, so I can't imagine how much more frustrating it must be for someone with a name.
If you live outside the LA system, there are some things you should know about the way things work in town. Everybody in this town is looking for a connection, but nobody admits they are looking for a connection. At a party, when you meet an agent you do not say "Hey I've got a screenplay in my purse! Here!" and then shove it into his hands.
You say "Oh really? What kind of clients do you work with?" and then when they talk about it you comment on how much you like that kind of stuff, eventually sliding in the fact that you write screenplays. If they're interested they'll ask to see one. If they're not, they'll pretend they didn't hear you. But first you have to make friends, because in this town people only do business with their friends.
Once I was at a big time industry party and I was introduced to a literary agent. I was polite and friendly and as I was about to slip in the fact that I'm a writer, someone came along and swept him away. A little while later a friend called, and I went into a quieter area and talked to said friend in front of a mirrored wall. In the reflection of the mirror I saw the agent come up behind me, then when he realized I was on the phone, he sheepishly wandered away. I was so pissed at my friend that we are no longer friends.
Just kidding. We are no longer friends for an entirely different reason. But still. I never saw that agent again the rest of the party.
Which brings me to personality and looks. I'm convinced that if my script was perfect I'd already be making millions because I'm good at parties. It's an act you have to put on - you can't be wallflower lady and you can't be frumpy fat screenwriter guy. The agent at that party probably wanted to talk to me because I was wearing a very short skirt. Now it's Hollywood so there's about thirty actresses at every party, but I have the advantage of not being an actress. So when I'm talking to someone with influence I ask questions and only talk about myself in context of things that relate to that person.
I smile a lot. I flirt. Because just because I want to make a living with my brain doesn't mean I can't use my looks to get your attention. Many writers fear people and hide in the corner in their Battlestar Galactica T-shirt talking to people they already know. Understandable. Talking to people is scary. But you can't make it in this town unless you make friends, so if you can't handle parties you've got to compensate with something else.
Also make business cards. Once you make friends, you have to give them an easy way to contact you.
Basically, in order to make it here you have to develop social skills. Be friendly. Shower. Shave your legs and wear a short skirt.
Or if you can't, find a friend who can and is willing to drag you around. But don't ask me unless we've met before, please.