Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Hollywood Agents and Managers Beg You: Don't Become a Needy Girlfriend or Boyfriend Client

Don’t Become a "Needy Girlfriend/Boyfriend" Client
by:  Janet J. Lawler
November 3, 2015
WGA West Party at AFF
Managers and agents advised semifinalist and finalist writers at the Austin Film Festival to have confidence in their work, always be creating new material, and please “don’t become a needy girlfriend or boyfriend” texting or calling them every day for reassurance.

This wasn’t meant to sound snarky, but to say that writers tend to be insecure about their writing and their importance to their Hollywood agent or manager.   They want to be the favorite child, so to speak, on a long list of clients and in a very competitive business.

Getting representation ( and keeping it) is like any successful relationship — you have to contribute to it every day, be respectful and appropriate in your interactions.  Texting an agent on the weekend or during a holiday better be important and not to just say "Hi, anything cooking with my career?"

Agents and lit managers said they get insecure too — about getting dumped once their new client becomes a big shot screenwriter. 

It was awesome to be recognized as a semifinalist at this year's AFF for my feature screenplay THE TENANT.  I’m glad I booked my hotel/plane ticket through Travelocity and headed off to Texas to take part in the best writing conference in the country for screenwriters.

If you weren’t able to attend, plan on going in 2016.  It's worth it!  Here are some notes I scribbled at panels — maybe one or two will help you polish your script or start a new project.

Screenwriter and Panelist  SHANE BLACK

Readers LOVE to read short scripts, plays and short stories instead of LONG screenplays and TV specs.
Writing a TV spec is not essential like in the past.  TV producers and showrunners want to see original work with a fresh voice.  It’s not important for them to see that you can “mimic” another show’s characters anymore.  (This shocked and made a lot of writers happy to hear — dig that old play out of your desk or off your hard drive.)
Webisodes do attract attention and if an audience is growing for them, or their is buzz, producers and studios will come calling.  Be creative.
Use your smartphone for something other than to check Facebook.  Go shoot some of your funny scenes or a short film.  Post it and send links to people YOU KNOW in the business to share.
Structure is not by-the-book.  Don’t feel so confined to hitting your inciting moment in your script by a certain page count, or worry about act breaks in features — tell a good story and TORTURE your hero.  The rest will fall into place.
Less dialogue.  Don’t overwrite characters.  Write movie/TV dialogue, not real life talk that can bog down your script and add pages (Hollywood people have enough to read every day!)
Trust your insecurities, your vision, your world and invite executives/readers into it.
Have fun and keep writing NEW material.
Don’t wait to be validated or invited to the party; create your own product, IP or brand.

Tips from Edward Ricourt, Screenwriter 
(“Now You See Me”; Pitch Judge)

Read newspapers and magazines to look for original stories. 
If one catches your eye, contact the subject or writer and ask to option their story for a small fee.
Be pro-active (reading other professional scripts, always be writing something new, study the trades.)
IP (branded) material is what producers and studios are seeking mostly, an established brand or franchise.
Every year Edward gives his manager/agents his “State of the Union” — explaining his goals for the year and writing future.

Opening Remarks of the Conference by Screenwriter Shane Black:

Face your fears when you sit down to write.  Look at your insecurities and use them in your writing, to develop your characters, add emotion and truth.  This will resonate with the reader/audience as a universal theme they can relate to. 
Stay with the herd (surround yourself with other writers, writing groups, supporters).  If you stay in the herd, you won’t get picked off being out on your own or isolated.  If you’re outside the herd, it’s more likely you won’t survive alone.  Rely on the support of your fellow writers.
When you get notes, it’s a diagnosis of your script.  Hear the diagnosis (the note by a reader/manager) and see if you can come at the scene in a fresh, entertaining or original way.  Don’t be defensive.
SHOW the TONE of your story in the first 10 or less pages of your script and be consistent throughout. 
Readers complain of major tonal shifts in scripts, which pulls them out of your story.                     Read or watch the opening scene of the classic movie THE VERDICT (starring Paul Newman and directed by Sidney Lumet.)  This is a great example of showing your hero’s flaws from the opening scene of a movie/script.

Tips from Erika Weinstein, Manager of Scripted Programing at AMC

Start your story off in a gripping, original voice.
Write meaningful dialogue  (moving the story or developing story)
Own your characters and story.  Don’t be wishy-washy if asked about why you wrote it a certain way.
Looks to read fresh voices (not so much specs of TV shows anymore, rather plays, short stories, pilots.)
Make it stand out, unique
Welcome the reader into a new world they haven’t seen before.  (For instance, Erika said she gets tons of scripts about a woman having just broken up with her boyfriend — that storyline is boring unless done in a completely refreshing way.)

Tips from Emily Best, Founder and CEO Seed & Spark, Independent Filmmaker

If you’re having trouble breaking into Hollywood or filmmaking because of your diversity, find another way in or create your own IP (webisodes, book, podcast, short film).
Emily kept stressing “Use the internet, guys”.  She was adamant about being proactive as an artist.  “We’re not just creatives anymore, we’re entrepreneurs.”
Start your own, cheap website and post your scripts or video clips or short film.
Use crowd funding to support a project.  Get 10,000 followers and build your brand and make an income.
Have an audience in your pocket to attract a studio or major producer in your already-existing project online.
Be persistent and create a network of diverse friends in the industry that can brainstorm or help you.

Hope some of my notes inspire you!  Good luck!
Until next time --

Janet Lawler is an author, playwright and screenwriter. Her screenplay The Tenant advanced to the Quarter Final Round in the 2015 Nicholl Fellowship for Screenwriting and the semifinals of the 2015 Austin Film Festival. Janet's debut novel From the Ground Up is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F3CYSU8    Visit Janet's website at www.janetjlawler.com.

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