Hollywood Game Plan: How To Land A Job In Film & TV – Carole Kirschner [FULL INTERVIEW]

Hollywood Game Plan: How To Land A Job In Film & TV – Carole Kirschner [FULL INTERVIEW]

Film Courage: The myth of overnight success story? Is
it really a myth? Carole Kirschner, Author: It’s mostly a myth. A friend of mine who just got a big
overall deal at a studio said “Oh it only took me 14 years to be an overnight
success.” And that’s the way it usually is, people put in a lot of hard work before
they become successful papers and websites love to talk about overnight
success because really sexy but the truth is it’s not really happening
except there are exceptions there’s people like Mickey Fisher who was a
playwright on the East Coast and he was just scraping by and decided that he was
going to write a couple of pilots and a pilot he wrote ended up winning a
contest ended up being represented by William Morris Endeavor ended up going
to Steven Spielberg’s company ended up having a 13 episode on the air
commitment and Steven Spielberg as the executive producer
now that was sort of an overnight success but that’s one in a million
mostly it’s just slogging away doing the work doing the work getting better
getting better getting better and overnight success is the thing of movies
actually more than real life well you know I was hearing an author speak the
other day I think it was a YouTube video and they said that sometimes people with
incredible talent it’s actually more of a detriment because they come to LA and
they think well because I’ve been told all my life I’m so fantastic right just
gonna be just less than a year right and I’m gonna open doors right and they get
very frustrated and actually give up more but I think that’s true I think and
or you can meet with early success and then have a fallow period Sean Ryan who
created the shield he was in Vermont in college and he won a national award for
his playwriting he got to go to a on they flew him to the west coast he sat
in a comedy writing room he was pitching they bought an idea of his they hired
him the next season on it and as he says I don’t know
what everybody’s talking about this being difficult this was easy and then
he didn’t work again for about six years so the people that have that experience
if this is so easy it it often doesn’t continue unfortunately sometimes it does
but often not right and I think – don’t you think younger people they they
they’re they’re more seen as like these darlings and then when you come here
there’s so many darlings ah that have come as a friend of mine
also said in a cot in a television comedy writing room you are in a room
with everybody in the room was the funniest person in their class and so
suddenly you’re not the darling suddenly you’re one of ten people who were all
the top of their class in terms of being the class clown in terms of being the
funniest person at a party so Hollywood brings the best of the best and it’s an
adjustment people have to make so advice for someone who even let’s say they grew
up in LA and they decide you know what I think I might want to try my hand at the
entertainment industry maybe they don’t want to be in front of the camera but I
want to do something in development whatever right they think well I’ve been
here so I know the ropes I know how la works and any advice if you were to kind
of sit someone down who’s maybe just out of college sure and a bright sort of
rising star that gets a lot of compliments and sometimes I wonder if
that works to the detriment because then people get too confident well it’s
always good to feel confident in yourself
most people don’t so you what I say it’s the same which is you know you fake it
till you make it if you’re not confident but you know how to talk about yourself
and you really have it down what you want to say that helps to overcome
shyness what I would say to somebody who was in even if you’re in Los Angeles
unless you travel in that circle because as I was saying I grew up in Los Angeles
but didn’t know anybody in the business I think there’s four parts of success in
Hollywood one is having blazing hot material whatever your material is you
may be a writer and then it’s your portfolio you may be a director and then
it’s your films you may be a cinematographer and it’s what you have
on your reel and your films lazy not material and then really smart self
marketing which is another way to say knowing how to develop and project your
industry profile and another way to say that which I hate because it’s so it it
it sounds so businesslike but is your brand knowing who you are how you’re
gonna sell yourself that’s two three is having enough connections having a
community of mutually beneficial relationships that will help you in your
career they’ll help move you up they’ll help you throughout your career if you
help them it’s a it’s a it takes a perfect storm to get anything enough
people calling on your behalf enough people recommending you and then the
fourth thing is being what I call industry savvy that means being a
student of the business so you know what’s going on you know who the players
are if you’re lucky enough to get a meeting then you don’t put your foot in
your mouth by saying great television series that had been cancelled you know
like six months ago it’s all of those four things combined when I look at
successful people and I’ve done studies of them so that I can share that with
people that’s where I’ve come up with those four sort of pillars of blazing
hot material a smart self marketing plan enough contact and industry savvy you
did a blog post a while back I think signs that you have blazing hot material
yes so I’d love to hear that and then I’d love to hear about the person who
thinks they have it but then
the industry isn’t showing them that right and the sort of the delusion that
maybe ball with I mean right it’s helpful to know okay you know so how you
know if you have blazing hot material your phone is ringing people want to
meet you they want to take you out for lunch they want to take you to dinner
they want you to come over to the barbecue they want to buy your material
or hire you to work on their projects there’s a buzz about you in town if you
don’t have representation agents and managers are sort of knocking on your
door everybody sort of kissing your butt and saying how fabulous you are and you
feel really fabulous that’s blazing hot material when you get traction that’s
how you know it’s blazing hot and there’s people that aren’t in LA they’re
not in the business and they feel like I could write a fantastic script let’s say
and and it’ll never get into the right persons hands if and I’ll never get
discovered if you have blazing hot material that really will and even if
you know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who can get your script
to somebody it’s like six degrees of separation if that material is blazing
hot you will be discovered absolutely and what happens is if your material has
been out in the marketplace for three or four months and nothing is happening you
can fool yourself by saying you know what they just don’t get it it didn’t
get to the right person but the truth is it’s probably not ready yet it’s it’s
time to go back to the drawing board and you wouldn’t be the first person that
that had to happen for that happens to most people because you don’t come out
of the chute being perfect I think that that’s a lot of people’s misconceptions
especially screenwriters is my first thing it’s going to sell it’s going to
be great again there’s the Mickey Fisher phenomenon
occasionally it happens but that’s really rare that’s really rare is there
any example you can give maybe with naming names or of someone that had
success and or or the promise of it yeah and and you know sort of the green
lights were going off at every intersection and then stuff stops and
it’s a rude awakening yes actually I can go back to Sean Ryan
again the one who was so promising and he got a job on a sitcom as soon as he
came to LA and then he didn’t work for six years and what he did is he wrote
and I think that he wrote about 14 spec scripts and what happened is his scripts
were all good but nothing was getting him traction and he asked his manager he
said to his manager send me an example of a script that is getting somebody
work and his manager sent over the script that had the most buzz at the
time and Sean compared it page to page and said he’d have you know three things
on a page that were really good but this one the one that got the buzz every
single beat was perfect and when he realized that he had not been hitting
the mark he started to write and hit the mark and in not too long of a time he
got hired on a show and that show led to another show and then he got he
developed the shield so you just have to keep working you know and you have to
have a bigger perspective this is just a business your family the things you care
about those have to be equally important they don’t have to be but I hope they
are equally important in your life I’m curious how soon into sort of this dip
was he when he finally said let me see this who whose whose thing is hot right
now I suspect there was about four or five years in that that happened so he
was only writing that next level of script for a couple of years I don’t
know the exact dates but I know that story hmm it’s
interesting though that cuz that shows his willingness at some point maybe some
people would have done it at the two-year mark but to say okay for
whatever reason my thing isn’t working and I’ve got to look outside my work
because we all see our work with such a different set of eyes yes than other
people do let’s suppose someone’s been in LA for five years okay yeah they came
out blazing hot yeah I’ve been here five years yeah I haven’t been able to make
any real progress are they better off saying you know what I’m gonna take a
sabbatical back home my family’s there all the people I went to school with
they all love me they’re asking about me you know I think that really depends
five years is a long time but then there’s some people that it happens in
the sixth year I think that it depends on how strong a stomach you have for for
putting in the work and not seeing results five years is a long time but if
you have a vision that’s really strong then I say don’t give up but on the
other hand if you have a family to support and you’re going out on
auditions and you’re not taking care of your family then maybe you have to think
about that it’s a hard call I have a very close friend who was an aspiring
actor and he’d been doing it five or six years and we did an intervention with
him his girlfriend and me and another friend and we said I don’t think it’s
happening I don’t think the acting thing is happening and he was kind of
devastated and and when he got over being devastated he said you know what
you’re right I don’t want to keep having these crappy jobs and hoping that I’m
gonna make it as an actor and he’d had some success when he came to town he was
on a television show when he came to town in fact he was brought to town to
be on a television show and then nothing happened again for five for five years
and I ended up hiring him to be a reader and he was so good that he moved up to
being an executive it worked out great for him and it only happened when he let
go when he let go of that particular thing from your Park on the lot site you
have a host that you did in 2015 six things your TV spec script needs to
stand out I would love to hear that do I remember all six of them there’s a year
ago but I couldn’t give you some generals your spec script has to be
profoundly memorable what I like to call blazing hot Greg is not good enough so
the first thing is it has to be incredibly memorable you have to choose
a concept that is something that people will be talking about the next day it
also has to be really really really really good I just finished reading 50
spec scripts for my CBS program just good isn’t good enough there there were
plenty that we’re good but it has to be blazing hot has to be exceptional and
one of the things that makes it exceptional is a concept where you’re
taking a risk you’re just taking a risk you’re going outside of just a typical
kind of show typical kind of television series and you’re really trying to go
deeper deeper on the concept level deeper with your characters and I just
read a script last night that we end that didn’t make it into the into the
next round it was well written but it was a procedural that was just a typical
procedural with a well written but typical protagonist and it was a
different sort of environment than we different workplace and we normally see
and it was fine but it didn’t make it wasn’t exceptional it didn’t get you
excited when you read it tell me what is typical that’s that’s fascinating to me
what about it wasn’t Walter mm okay what wasn’t Walter White the
character wasn’t that interesting it was a female it was a young woman who was
going against what her family wanted to do this thing in a man’s world we’ve
only seen that a hundred thousand times and she she she had something that she
was passionate about but it didn’t reveal enough about her it wasn’t a
character you know Walter White had layers and layers and layers this
character had a lid number to make sure the show you’ve selected to speck on is
going to be on the air for a few years yes I don’t want it to be too new you
don’t want it to be too old Rome you want it just right as a as in a show
that’s the second or third season yes it’s important that you don’t put all
this work and energy into a spec script that you can only use for 30 minutes
because a show gets cancelled it shouldn’t be so new that we don’t know
whether or not it’s going to come back it shouldn’t be so old that people have
read it have read every single possible configuration of that show I saw for my
CBS project I saw somebody write in Criminal Minds that show has been on the
air for more than 10 years don’t do that don’t I hate to see people who put so
much time and energy and effort in blood and sweat and tears into doing a spec
and then only being able to use it for 30 minutes because the show went off the
air and so really the sweet spot is a show that’s been on the air for two
seasons we know it’s kind of a hit and going into the third season now there’s
some exceptions for that when a show comes out of the gate as a huge hit like
Empire you can pretty much be assured that it’s going to be on the air for a
while which it is and will be but just to be safe
second year third year second season third season that’s what I recommend in
addition to how long it’s been on the air you want to make sure that the
numbers are strong the other reason to wait for the second season is so that
people in the business will have had a chance to have seen the show sometimes
people write shows that are so obscure that our BBC shows that nobody’s
watching that it’s hard to appreciate the spec because we don’t know the show
just to go off-topic for a second Carole where could someone go to look at the
ratings for a show there’s a couple of places you can go to TV by the numbers
comm you can go to actually if you just google it if you do a search TV ratings
there will be four or five websites that will come up that will tell you what the
ratings are you can also just google the name of the television show and then
picked up renewed or cancelled and there’s a whole website that just deals
with renewed or cancelled okay interesting I did not know that number
four so show runners and executives need to have actually seen the show how do
you know which ones hint if it’s a critically acclaimed or getting good
reviews it’s most likely being watched any show with buzz okay any show that
has buzz that’s getting good numbers or even if it’s not getting good numbers
but it’s getting a lot of critical acclaim like Jane the virgin has not
gotten good numbers but is sort of a critical darling then you know that
executives and showrunners have read it know the show you want them as I said to
know the show so that they can evaluate your material here’s here’s another sort
of inside tip don’t write a spec for a show that’s not very good there’s
certain shows that have been on the air a long time but they don’t have depth
they aren’t interesting they’re just crowd pleasers that will not show off
your writing ability you want to show that is textured and lay
and interesting and has depth to show your writing ability can you can you
name a few shows sure you have texture sure
well there was Breaking Bad which doesn’t help anybody now because if you
have a Breaking Bad I’m sad for you there is certainly the Americans but the
Americans is going off the air mr. robot is really good and interesting and Laird
masters of sex I think veep is funny as a comedy
Silicon Valley as funny as a comedy I think that shows like I’m just I’m going
by the network showed shameless although shameless has been on too long but it’s
that kind of a show where there’s there’s more to it than just what’s on
the surface number five your script can’t be too soft make it edgy edgy edgy
okay so you don’t want you want to swing for the fences you want to take a big
risk you want to do something that that is really edgy that is really sort of on
the per if the parameter of everyday and is moving into the extraordinary
that is pretty that’s pretty vague I know but take a risk do something that
is unexpected that’s what edgy is too it’s unexpected
it goes to a dark place when you don’t expect it to go to a dark place it goes
to a funny place when you don’t expect it to go to a funny place it’s what you
want is to surprise somebody when they’re reading the script where they go
here’s the bottom line let me read something that I didn’t see
it coming that will get you that will get you
noticed take a strong memorable concept and
somewhere at least once in your script where wow I didn’t see that coming but
again not so but still keeping within the
world of that show and the reality of that show so again I think we were
talking about Silicon Valley you’re not going to have aliens land that is risky
that is too risky don’t go outside of what what is the reality of the world
the other thing and I might not have mentioned it is if you have a show
that’s called the Carmichael show let’s say which is on NBC if the stars name is
in the title then you need to make your spec about the star you aren’t going to
get very far if you pick a character that is rarely seen to do the whole
episode about and as somebody said a long time ago
it’s called Roseanne because it’s about Roseanne so that’s just a thing to keep
in mind it’s interesting to explore in some way the the B characters but you’ve
got to pay attention to your a character so if the whole show becomes about Becky
and all the things going on in her life and Roseanne just in the background it’s
a problem yes it’s a big problem exactly edgy though I see now that stuff’s
really pushing the boundaries that get used to especially 80s television for
all this yes 80s kids out there but when is it still too edgy for the world that
we’re in now which it seems like pretty much anything we’ll go these days but
how do you know you’ve kind of not not even just aliens landing but I mean just
something like yucky that’s a little sick that’s taking it too far I think
that I I read a script where I went ooh because somebody was describing
something that was so sexual and and weirdly special that went whoa no no no
no no no and being sexual spine to me you know I that is I don’t have a
problem with that but this went way over the edge and then it was like any
that makes you go you or it if you write something like that and the people that
are reading it for you before you send it out go ooh then take it out okay
because as soon as somebody has that reaction it’s over right and I think
people have different levels it’s true they do yeah they do but so if you get
someone else who maybe is more squeamish because there’s some people I could see
just go any which way and yeah I think it’s fine but yeah so maybe have I would
show it to a couple of different people with different levels of as you say
squeamishness and see what kind of reaction you get if all three of them go
Jim it’s just over the edge it’s over the top make sure it’s something you can
write the hell out of yes it has to be a show you love that you love that you
can’t wait to write it people often have agents or managers or friends tell them
this is a show it’s the best show that’s on right now you should write it you
should only write it if you love it and you can write the hell out of it
you have the voices of the characters in your head you have a great idea for it
now that doesn’t mean that you should write something that it’s in its first
year or that’s in its tenth year or that is not very well made but it doesn’t
have to be what everybody else is writing write something that you cannot
wait to write and then write the hell out of it if you have an idea that could
be on the show that’s not quite good enough it should be something that fits
in that that captures the voice and tone of the show but goes a little beyond
what they do my favorite favorite Piatt spec concept was for Cheers which most
of your viewers will not know anything about I loved it I loved it so in real
life the Pope came to Boston where that show
is set and the Pope went down the Main Street in his popemobile and in this
spec the Pope goes to Cheers because he has to use the bathroom so the Pope goes
into the bathroom leaves and people are just stunned that the Pope came and used
their bathroom and then somebody steals the toilet so the thing about it it’s a
funny concept and it was a way to show what each of the main characters what
their views on religion and spirituality were so anytime you can pick a concept
where you reveal more about the characters the better okay so if you
know let’s suppose Silicon Valley is the show that yeah and you know these
characters would definitely do this and I could get Holy See this working
that’s almost a negative because no no no that is not okay it that’s the
starting point okay is that this is accurate this is something that fits
into this world and then you try something that pushes it a little bit
not aliens are landing that’s a really bad idea you want to stay within the
reality of the world but just go deeper find something deeper about the
characters and I said I once sat on a podcast start your script with sex death
or greed they all they always work grab people’s attention with one of those
things here’s the look at yourself in the mirror question are you really ready
what are some tough questions someone has to ask themselves because we all
think we’re ready we wouldn’t come here or you wouldn’t whether we grew up here
or not try to do something where we don’t think our ego thinks we’re ready
but maybe we’re not how do we know it’s really good question how do you know you
know if you’re getting the kinds of responses that you’re looking for if
people are interested in you if people want to help you if if doors are opening
for you if your material again if if you’re a writer if your material is
blazing-hot not this is like a really good draft I’m
gonna do another one but I’m gonna send out this one because it’s really good I
can do better but this is really good you have one shot so if your material
isn’t there yet I know very smart people who have fantastic connections but they
are not sending out their material until they know that it’s great until they
know it’s blazing hot so if you’re not getting people who want to help you
people who want to open some doors for you if you’re not getting positive
responses then you’re probably not ready yet okay let’s take a little bit of a
twist let’s suppose you’re getting all these green lights from people but
there’s something in you sabotaging it oh yes do you see that a lot I have seen
it I’ve absolutely seen it in my book I talk about a young woman and it was
really sad she um she was a waitress in Malibu and she was
an aspiring actress and her idol came into the restaurant where she worked and
she happened to be in her section and this young woman struck up a
conversation with her idol and her idol said what do you do and she said I’m an
aspiring actress and her her idol said well you know what I’m shooting in LA
why don’t you come and visit the set tomorrow and the waitress said oh my god
that would be amazing thank you so much she was so excited she went out with her
friends the night before she got she drank too much she set her alarm clock
but not for the right time she woke up hungover she woke up too late and she
totally sabotaged herself because emotionally she wasn’t ready for it and
it’s heartbreaking when you see that right Howard well what are some things
that you see I mean that’s a great example I’ve seen people that have done
stuff like that I think a lot of it is because they’re scared yeah but they
don’t want to admit it yes what are some other things that you can see like oh
that’s the sabotage sort of Vail working there sure
let me think about that I think if somebody is being obnoxious or too pushy
that is certainly a way to sabotage yourself if if your material isn’t ready
and you’re sending it out if another way to sabotage yourself is everybody is on
social media all the time if your digital profile is not professional
that’s a way to sabotage yourself I am I once was looking for to hire an
assistant and this woman had a great resume but I looked on her Facebook page
and her profile picture was her at a party with her you know sleeve kind of a
holding a red cup and I thought I can’t hire this woman she and she had a great
resume but I wouldn’t hire her because she didn’t have she wasn’t professional
and she didn’t have common sense that you don’t do that let me think of what
else it might be when you don’t deliver on what you say you’re gonna do that is
a huge thing if you make promises that you can’t keep
that’s totally sabotaging yourself it’s better to undersell and over-deliver so
your book the Hollywood game plan okay so you’ve written a lot of things on you
know how people can kind of get their foot in the door and thank you notes and
useful information I want to talk about this over 40 population right maybe
they’re new to the industry right I’m here from somewhere else or another line
of work right let’s talk about do those same rules apply and what is working for
a person over 40 what is working against them how to fight that that is a good
question ageism totally exists in this business
to say it doesn’t would be to say a lie however the way you can protect yourself
against it is with your material there’s two things one is having great material
that undeniable people don’t care if it’s
again I’m thinking about screenwriters let’s say if it’s on the page it doesn’t
matter if the other thing is to stay contemporary if you don’t know what read
it is or what LinkedIn or I can’t imagine anybody doesn’t know what
Twitter is but if you don’t know what’s happening then that ages you I’ve told a
lot of writers who are over 40 make a webseries show that you know what’s
going on and show and it’s a way to make you undeniable also there’s a lot of
people ageism is there but there’s a lot of people that say we’re looking for
somebody who has some life experience not looking for somebody who just got
out of USC who made three student films has had no life and is only consumed
entertainment and doesn’t have any life experience so I don’t believe that I
think the only person that is going to get in the way is you if you’re thinking
I’m too old if your material is there if you’re a contemporary with what’s going
on in the business and the trends in the society I don’t think it’s gonna be a
problem right so then look at the headlines that research what companies
are doing well what’s the latest social media you know the app or you know
because for me like snapchat I’m still learning about it I don’t really know
and I feel like that dates me you know yeah because so many people that are
under 25 they’re all about snapchat right and so there’s a demographic
there’s a population that I don’t know about that I don’t know how to work it
and all the things that are part of it let’s say somebody wants to get even
just an entry level on mailroom position or administrative assistant or
receptionist being 40 it’s hard to be tougher it’s gonna be tougher I know one
guy who was a lawyer but all he wanted to do was be a writer and he
ended up getting a job as the assistant to the showrunner on SVU and he did that
for two years he was the most overqualified assistant that ever
existed and then he got a job as a staff writer and he was in his 40s it is very
hard to get a entry-level job what I recommend that people do if somebody
just emailed me and said what can I do I want to be an executive I’m 48 and I
said be a producer first have a body of work under your belt come in with
material come in showing that you can produce work but I think it’s really
hard unless you’ve been a professional administrative assistant to get a job as
an administrative assistant when you’re over 40 it’s not impossible because some
people don’t care but it’s more challenging it’s definitely more
challenging well not to advocate lying on a resume but do you leave off let’s
suppose oh I have so much work experience to show them they’re
definitely going to want to hire me maybe that works against you it does
work against you don’t go back more than ten years I definitely tell my clients
they don’t need to see anything from 2002 absolutely not
and what I also tell my clients is tell me how old you really are and then if
they’re over a certain age I say don’t tell anybody else interesting yeah they
get to know homeworkers sorry even if they get to know if you get to know
co-workers and you’re close you can but actually I keep it pretty close to the
vest interesting well yes I’ve known people for years I have no idea what
their ages I never asked right but then some people are much more free you think
running free with it hurts you I wouldn’t be free with it if you are
older than most of the people you’re working with
I wouldn’t sling that around no what I just wouldn’t make a deal of it right
okay you talked about something in your book and that’s the magic of making
people feel special and I think we all think we do that
but we probably don’t so what are some ways aside from just complimenting
people which is great I think that’s wonderful but how can we show either
verbally or non-verbally there’s a couple of different ways one is actually
by listening most people I won’t say most people many people don’t listen
when you’re having a conversation with them it’s a monologue let me tell you
about me let me tell you what what I did let me tell you about my kid let me tell
you about my project let me do if you actually actively listen to somebody
they feel seen and heard and appreciated I’m a big fan of gifts nothing over the
top but I taught my daughter who went in to be an intern on the first day you
bring snacks you know what I mean you bring cookies or muffins or something
else or afterwards you send something to thank people you thanked people
genuinely and sincerely for giving their time because in this business that is in
short supply so thanking people in a genuine way not an ass kissy way sending
a little something is really nice to do and listening to people helping people
finding a way that you can help somebody that’s huge
that’s how you make somebody feel special when you do want to thank
someone is it a text message is it on social do you tweet them hey just want
to say thank you Carol or is it an actual email or a card purse it depends
on who you’re thinking if you’re thanking somebody who’s under 25 it can
be a text if you happen to know their cell number I’m not sure why you know
their cell number but if you happen to it can be a text it could be a private
tweet I personally think it should be an email to them and it should be within 24
hours and it should be a paragraph or less and some people if if you’ve met
with somebody who’s old school send a card but don’t have kittens on
that card don’t don’t have don’t have anything too
cute on that card just your initial or a thank you very simple and I think that
works too I think you have to I think you really have to decide who you’re
sending it to once the screenwriter finishes a script what are they doing
with it they’re keeping it in a drawer and they’re just waiting for somebody to
okay that’s what no and they’re tweeting about it they’re tweeting about it I got
a great script well what you want to do is you want to get it out into the world
absolutely and there’s a couple of ways to do that
one is to send it to somebody to give it to somebody who can give it to somebody
else who can give it to somebody who’s in a position to evaluate it or possibly
hire you or represent you I’ve told this story many times about Madonna’s
manicurist she goes on the road with Madonna but when she wasn’t on the road
she had a salon she worked in a salon and there was a woman who came in and
was her customer her regular customer and this woman had a son who was a
screenwriter and she would tell the manicurist my son is so talented he’s so
talented and then one day she said would you show his script to Madonna and no
would you read his script and the manicurist said sure anybody would you
know everybody thinks they know how to read a script so she read it and she
said you know what I think this is really good and so the mom said would
you show it to Madonna and the manicure said yeah now she the manicurist never
gave it to Madonna she gave it to Madonna’s assistant but the assistant
read it and thought it was good and then she actually gave it to Madonna Madonna
eventually this whole thing took like a year she read it she thought it was good
and she gave it to her agent and the agent thought it was good brought the
guy in and he got representation so you never know you know a friend of a friend
of a friend somebody who can get it to a junior agent a junior manager a junior
executive or get it higher up if you know somebody who knows somebody so you
want to launch it into the world you also want to absolutely enter it into
contests but don’t spend your money on Sh’ma gaggy screenplay contest only do
the top five or six prestigious ones because the truth is the community is
not looking at the I don’t mean to insult anybody at the Idaho Falls
screenplay writing contest most likely they’re not how would you know is there
a site or how would you know which were the top yeah to Google top screen
writing contests okay you know it’s certainly going to be nickels it’s going
to be page it’s going to be Austin and there’s there’s final draft there’s
others definitely go online and just Google top ones there’s lots of sites
that talk about the best ones the ones I just mentioned are well known and well
received in television there’s tracking board which is really
good that’s the thing that Mickey Fisher entered his on tracking B that’s the
name of the site yes okay so how does a screen writer set up a meeting with an
executive is it just you just oh let’s go on IMDB Pro okay this is this
person’s contact all right let me find now okay so much there are different
ways that you can do it obviously having representation is the easiest way to do
this if we go back to friends of friends if you know somebody who knows somebody
who can get your script to somebody I would not try and set up a meeting I
would try and get my script read and then set up a meeting because if
somebody responds to your material they’ll probably call you but if not
get them your material and then waited wait a while give them six weeks two
months to read it just check in in six weeks and say I know how incredibly busy
you are just wondering if you’ve had a chance to read it don’t be annoying
sometimes it takes six months or eight months and then once they read it then
you could say I would love to meet with you if you have the time you can try
cold nobody’s gonna do that I mean in a smaller production company if you can if
you’re following them on Twitter or maybe Facebook you know you’re a friend
of theirs on Facebook you could do a private message and say I’m an aspiring
writer would you ever have 15 minutes to meet with me and give me career advice
there’s a lot of people that’ll do that okay and let’s suppose this person says
yes then you say hey can I take you out to coffee and you meet them where they
live or how do you do that you go to their office you at you invite them for
coffee never lunch never dinner these people
have lives they don’t know you so they are not going to give up one of their
lunches to meet with you invite them for coffee or go to their office I meet with
a number of young people because I know a lot of professors because of my book
and I say to all of the professors that I meet with or do workshops with if you
have somebody who’s fantastic really exceptional let me know about it and
I’ll meet with them so I will meet with newcomers if if they’ve been referred to
me by somebody that I know did that answer your question it did and then so
then you meet with them and you send a follow-up thank you absolutely depending
on their age so let’s suppose they’re over 25 email my email I think so okay
within 24 hours 24 hours okay and do you talk about more issues in terms of your
script or you keep it very brief in terms of the email that you’re sending
yeah are you you just thank them from meeting with
to you you mentioned one thing that happened in the meeting that you found
helpful that they said or an interesting you know it was so interesting when we
discussed X and then you might say if you have the time or there’s someone in
your office that would read my script I’d be very grateful if not I totally
understand that’s if they haven’t read it if somehow they’ve met with you and
they haven’t read it you can ask them in in one sentence I know how busy you are
is there anyone in your office that would be willing to read it and give me
notes because the truth is they’ll give it to their assistant or a reader and if
it comes through with positive coverage then that person will read it themselves
and and it’s understood that you’re giving it to them it’s going into their
company in some way and if it’s good then it will be refer it will be
recommended to the person that you met with okay so you send that email let’s
suppose you hear nothing from that email do you follow up you do you give it you mean the email where you said would
you read my script yeah it’s kind of a dual like thank you and I appreciate it
by the way yes or if you as you know I’m as we discussed I’m looking for a a job
if you hear of something please consider me I’m attaching my resume right you
could do something like that I would give it three to four weeks and
I would check back in okay and then I would well on something like that I
would give it three weeks and I would stay in touch with people every four
months or so to stay on their radar if you’ve asked them may I stay in touch
with you and what you want to do is stay in touch with people when you don’t need
anything from them when you’re emailing them to congratulate them on something
good news either for them or for you don’t meet somebody and just take
introduce me to so-and-so read my script get my script to somebody you know form
a genuine relationship before you ask for something
how many pitch meetings will an executive usually have in one day cuz
we’re going in we’re 10 minutes early we’ve got our most you know business
casual I don’t know what we’re wearing but something that makes us feel
comfortable but missus look good we’re ready this is the biggest deal but this
person’s already met with how many people okay
when I was at CBS and comedy development we would meet with people at ten o’clock
eleven o’clock twelve o’clock three o’clock four o’clock and five o’clock
Wow six so here’s a tip get the early morning meeting do not get a late
afternoon me especially don’t get a late afternoon meeting on Fridays if you can
get a morning meeting that’s the best way to do it
executives are experienced at taking meetings they know how to do that so if
you have to get an afternoon when that doesn’t it’s it’s not it’s not going to
sink you but your pitch has to be great if your pitch is great then they’ll come
alive because they’re looking for great pitches because it makes their job
easier so if if you have an engaging pitch they’ll come alive if the pitch is
boring in the late afternoon it’s harder to pay attention to it okay let’s talk
about working on your pitch because again we see ourselves one way others
see us other are we coming up with a script for our pitch or is it better to
be spontaneous don’t be spontaneous it should be
rehearsed it’s a performance it shouldn’t be memorized to within an inch
of its life that’s not a good idea you should know it backwards and forwards
and sideways and then put away the paper although you can have notes if you want
and then make it a conversation do not leave it to I’m just gonna walk in and
do this no this is it’s like people in school you want to be an overachiever be
completely prepared not memorized but completely prepared I have a former
mentee who’s sold a lot of pilots its pilot scripts she never goes in unless
she’s practiced eight times she practices eight times she practices
in front of people she practices in front of a mirror
she practices and practices and there was a writer producer who was phenomenal
named Stephen Cannell he was the most prolific television creator and producer
in the business he was always practicing his pitch
I knew his daughter and she said you know we couldn’t go to the store without
him pitching and if he was walking down the hallway in his building he would
buttonhole you and come and tell you the pitch and ask for feedback practice
practice practice in a pitch meeting what are the stakes for the writer and
for the executive well for the writer the stakes are kind of obvious it’s this
is going to either launch my career or advance my career or this is something I
love so much I can’t wait to do it I want them to buy it so that I can do it
and as a side if you love it that much write it yourself but but that’s a sight
so what’s at stake for the writer is this is going to help my career now
that’s the same thing that’s at stake for the executive because the executive
is dying to find a great project that’s going to make them look good because in
Hollywood everybody wants to look good it’s about looking good so if you’re
picking the winning horse you’re looking good the executive you’re pitching in to
most likely has to go pitch it to their boss so you want to make sure you give
the person you’re pitching to a logline that they can then take to
their boss an easy way to pitch your project because they become your
advocate and they want to look good in front of the boss so they’re hoping that
your pitch is gonna make them look good okay so let’s say this hypothetical
meeting they don’t want the script that you’re pitching but they like you
there’s a sensibility about you they like your style
yeah so it kind of your foots kind of in but not totally right what they say hey
you know this isn’t really what we’re looking for maybe you can what would
normally be said what would normally be said is come back with other ideas so
you would come in and pitch other ideas or they might say to you if they really
like you we have a project that we think you’d be great for so they’re pitching
you their project it would be one of two if they really liked you they didn’t
respond to that material or they couldn’t use that material but they
wanted to be in business with you they would be in business with you
so if they say come back to us with something else yes you come back you you
know put your keys down how soon are you working on this next thing knowing that
there’s a person there that may choose something that I do that has the ability
to launch me how fast am I getting this to this person and how urgently am i
contacting them again that’s a great question you want to stay on their radar
that’s really important you don’t want six months to go by but you want to be
prepared for the pitch so I would say four weeks I would say a month to six
weeks at the outset and I would just stay in touch and say I’m excited I’m
working on or have your representation say I’m only wanted to come back to you
with stuff that’s fully formed or that’s ready to pitch now if they say just come
back with some ideas I wouldn’t wait more than two or three weeks I would
come back and I would do I would use all of your time all of your energy all of
your talent to come up with great ideas that had a beginning middle and an end
and compelling characters that you could talk about
how much is too too eager though because you know somebody could be living in 100
degree weather in the valley with no air-conditioning and they came out here
and they’re so excited and they feel like this is their chance but the mere
fact that they’re so so ready is somehow repels yes you don’t want to be
desperate people smell desperation so if you came back the next day that would be
too soon okay if you wanted to wait I wouldn’t even wait I wouldn’t even do
it the next week I would wait at a minimum of two weeks because if you come
back the next day then they will think that you didn’t put time into it on the
other hand in this business the way it works is you wait you wait you wait and
then you get a call we need it now we want you to come in tomorrow that
actually happens and you have to be prepared for that because suddenly
something shifted on the other side of the table and they need you and they
need it right away so be prepared to do that but don’t be the person that says I
can come back in tomorrow it sounds like three weeks is a safe
zone it is what’s that okay yeah it’s a good barometer three weeks yeah okay get
the meeting on the books though okay is that right away while you’re there no no
no that that’s within the next couple of days say I’m gonna be ready to come back
in I’ll let you know it’ll probably be within three weeks should I make the
appointment now or later you talk to their assistant before a screenwriter
submits a screenplay to an executive what are some things that should already
have done with that script they should have checked it for spelling that’s the
least of it and for grammar and for typos and the way to do that nobody
wants to do this but the way to do it is to print it out there’s something about
looking at on your screen that you just don’t see the errors and I heard of a
technique that I think is a good one which is you read it backwards so that
you’re not involved in the story you’re just looking at the content
but certainly much more important than that is having given that script to many
different people and hopefully people within the business who’s whose opinion
you trust and who will tell you the truth who will say it’s ready so being
ready is really important the you know what this is great you know I’m gonna do
another draft but this is great don’t do it and if they don’t have anyone to run
it by just I said I like that printing it out reading it backwards yeah there
are I don’t think this is a great idea but if you don’t have anything else
there are contests that you can submit it to and they’ll read the script for
you you pay them to read it you don’t know who those readers are they they
could be somebody who was working at McDonald’s for all you know so but give
it to a couple of them and if you get the same kind of response this work this
didn’t work then you you might want to use that as a way to say yes it’s ready
okay but try and get it to somebody whose opinion you you value and whose
opinion you trust mistakes writers often make in pitch meetings the first mistake
is to be boring do not be boring have energy have enthusiasm not over-the-top
not scary not I know somebody who had a great meeting set up she knew that she
she was you know highly recommended but she was so nervous and she was so over
the top that they just went oh my god and they passed on it of course make it
a conversation I said be prepared be prepared but don’t memorize it look read
the room look at people’s eyes look at their body language if they are drifting
off then say do you have any questions bring them back in or know that the road
you’re going down is not meeting with very much response so try a different
part another mistake I see a lot is giving a
laundry list of characters there Steve Miller
he’s a accountant he’s a uptight accountant his wife Stephanie Miller
she’s a quirky housewife where all they do is just list names first and last
names nobody cares they want to know who the character is not what their name is
and what their occupation is a little bit about their occupation but more who
they are as a character rushing through things is bad giving too much
information is not good giving every beat of a project unless you’re there to
do that and mostly pitch meetings are not that is overwhelming people’s eyes
will glaze over it’s terrible I know writer who this isn’t true
anymore but this was a while back came into a meeting and the executive that he
was meeting with said Oh what do you like to watch and he said I don’t watch
television or somebody who only says if they’re meeting in a network and they
only say you know Netflix shows or HBO shows then really you’re sort of you’re
sort of peeing on the work I do you know what I mean so be respectful I like what
you said about what was it size up the room or read the read the room that’s
beautiful read the room and see how you react how people are reacting to you if
you if their eyes are glazing over if they’re tired if they’re leaning forward
you’re doing really well if they’re asking questions you’re doing really
well if they’re leaning back and you see
their eyes glaze over if the room is not responding and you’ve tried a couple of
different ways wrap it up wrap it up and just say thank you so much and leave so
better to keep them wanting yeah then kind of being that person that stays to
the end of the party exactly saying can I help clean up no don’t be that person
how familiar are the executives with the material being pitched to them I mean is
most the time they’re experiencing like a cold pitch
um if the agent or manager set up the pitch they’ll give them an arena so that
the executive knows what the arena is when the person comes in but generally
they don’t know what’s being pitched to them they’ll have an idea of the area
that’s being pitched but not what the pitch is
unless it’s a book that somebody has the rights to or somebody’s life story
they’ll know that but if it isn’t a circumstance like that they they don’t
know they know who the writer is otherwise they wouldn’t have brought
them in but they don’t necessarily know what the pitch is ahead of time unless
again an agent or a manager has given them a heads-up so they haven’t
necessarily read the spec script maybe their reader has their assistant and
somebody else yes oh so you’re and and so I think what
we’re talking about now is how familiar are the executive the executives with
that writers material not the pitch necessarily although I just addressed
that but their material some executives have already read them and some are just
looking at coverage okay that’s the honest truth okay so the unwritten rules
of Hollywood yes your book without giving away too much from those who have
read the book what are some takeaways where they were completely surprised
whether it was a chapter whether it was a tip or two that you gained right I
think that some of the things that people came away with that they were not
expecting was that there really are people that want to help you even though
there’s some there’s some people that would rather eat dirt than help you most
people somebody help them so they’re willing to help I have a chapter on
mentoring and how to treat your mentor right and I think a lot of people didn’t
understand that you don’t go up to somebody and say will you be my mentor a
relationship has to develop and then how to make the ask I talked about the
Hollywood ask which is a particular kind of an ask so that you don’t
back somebody into the corner what people say is and this is people these
are people also have gone to film school I didn’t understand how the business
worked and now I understand you know what I should be doing what I shouldn’t
be doing how I should be talking about myself what the whole thing about
networking and I hate the word networking but how you connect with
people in an authentic way so that a real relationship forms and how that’s
important you don’t have to be that smarmy networker which chapter do you
wish you’d read when you first decided I know you grew up here but that you
wanted to be in the business which chapter do you say you know what I could
have used that ten years ago that’s a really interesting question which of the
chap now have to think back to the chapters it was a while back I think it
was about how to prepare for a meeting and how to follow up because I didn’t
know I didn’t know what you say to people I didn’t know how informal it was
or how formal it was I have a chapter about what to wear I probably would have
appreciated knowing that because you don’t know how formal or informally you
should be in in what circumstance and also how to connect with people how to
meet people what to do when you meet them I I wish I had known that stuff but
but mostly how to behave so that I didn’t put my foot in my mouth
so I didn’t make big mistakes

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  1. Does this video only apply to screenwriters or writers or does this also apply to actors? I want to know whether this is relevant to actors before spending an hour

  2. Mickey Fisher wasn't an overnight success, he had been writing and making movies for 10 years before Exant: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1667134/

  3. Hello again, very interesting video today. I too have won a national award for playwriting(4 actually) i have also won several awards for a TV pilot and screenplays. I have won 15 awards in the last 3 years, but i still fell like i am no where near breaking through. I keep writing new scripts and put them on InkTip i don't where else to put them. I live in the UK but all my scripts are set in america, all my scripts are 'American' if you know what i mean? I keep going and have been writing for 12 years.

  4. Love the platform K but kinda disagree with the so-called "blazin' hot material"… many great movies were 'passed on' by 'everyone in Hollywood'… EXCEPT that 'one' executive who hadn't been submitted to…who then loved it. And later THE AUDIENCES loved it. I think also there are MANY 'blazin' hot' contest winners, specs, etc… that got optioned… but never got made. To me, I think it was Markus Redmond (on this platform) that said, "you cant give the right script, to the wrong person"… when your script finds a group of people that 'get it', thats when the race goes in full gear. I'm back east but the funny thing about LA, its like The Stepford Wives… many who live there…ALL GIVE DAMN NEAR THE SAME ANSWERS, but cant explain the success of Black Panther, Get Out, Tyler Perry, Blair Witch etc… were these 'blazin' hot' IPs, or simply movies someone took a chance on that worked.

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