Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Questions Answered

Another Question came through the comments section, and I'm all too happy to answer.

Blogger Rob said...

One thing I don't get about this advice, and it may be obvious to you, is that you stick to the same genre. Don't you want to demonstrate to someone that you are flexible enough to do different things?

As loyal Grinders know, we did go over this several posts ago, but since I'm SOOO bad at labeling posts, I'm more than willing to do a quick refresher.

The simple answer is because an agent/manager is going to want to package you as a "type" of writer. Eli Roth is the Horror guy, Kevin Smith is the filthy guy, and David Lynch is the weird guy, and so on down the line. So, when an agent looks in your direction, they're going to want to know what they're selling and why they should be selling you. If you only have one script, or your like buckshot all over the place, agents have a hard time packaging you to producers.

The other answer is because a writer wants to get on the list; to be THE go-to guy for a specific genre; or at least on the short list for that genre. That way, when producers (okay, producer's assistants) make their lists of who they want to interview for an assignment in your genre, they immediately think of you. If you're not on the list, you don't get called for the assignment, and you don't get paid.

So what kind of writer are you?

The Base Level of Bullshit

Living in LA, one thing you quickly learn is how to tell if someone is legit or not. It's at every function, every networking event, every time you go out with friends. It's usually goes one of two ways:

The way you don't want it to go:

Person 1: What do you do?
Person 2: I'm an actor.
Person 1: What have you been in?
Person 2: Just a couple background.
Person 1: Any speaking roles?
Person 2: No.
Person 1: It was so nice to meet you, I'm going to see who else is around.

The way you DO want it to go:

Person 3: What do you do?
Person 4: I do a bunch of stuff. Mainly I'm an actor, but while that is picking up I got a screenplay optioned and I directed a couple of shorts. I'm helping a client of mine develop a script.
Person 3: Really? What genre?
Person 4: I write mostly [genre].
Person 3: And have you short films been anywhere?
Person 4: Well, mostly still in post-production. You know what a nightmare that is.
Both Laugh.
Person 3: Do you have a card so we can keep in touch.

Bang. So you see, it can come that quick. In fact a lot of times I can tell if someone is legit in 10 words or less, and that's going to determine how interested I am in talking with them...AT A BUSINESS FUNCTION. And the thing that everyone is looking for at this type of function is...MORE WORK. So, if you can't do anything, or you aren't taking your career in your own hands, people are going to take you less seriously, or god forbid think you are not legit.

So, how do you become "legit".

A. Read the Hollywood Reporter and Variety everyday. Why? Because it's your trade and you need to know what's going on. However, there is a much more important reason...because EVERYONE ELSE is and they will discuss it or at least know what's going on in the back of their mind. It may sound phony, but just do it because you should.

B. Have multiple irons in the fire, but not enough to be bogged down. Being a background actor in one short film does not make you an actor, writing one feature doesn't make you a writer, directing one short or commercial doesn't make you a director. The only thing that MAKES you these things is a consistent string of churning thing out. If you're not continuing to pursue these avenues, like working on a NEW project, then you aren't an actor and shouldn't introduce yourself as such. However, if you have multiple projects going on, or are trying to produce a screenplay you wrote, then you have a VIABLE skill that people will look for and want to hear about.

C. Learn the verbiage. Know what a CE, DOD, and producer do. Learn the difference between DEVELOPING a project and PRODUCING A PROJECT. KNOW what COVERAGE IS and how to give good coverage.

D. Know what makes a screenplay or a project suck or succeed. In order to do this, you'll have to read a lot of scripts and watch a lot of movies and TV ANALYTICALLY. That's not just the ability to say I like it or I hate it, but the ability to say why in detail. At an event, this is very important because outside of giving funding to a project, the next best thing people are looking for are notes on how to make a project better, and if you happen to be great at it, maybe they'll want you involved in their project.

E. Finally, NEVER STOP HUSTLING. This is not a game. It's as much a hustle as anything and the people who succeed understand the hustle, understand business, and understand what THEY have to do in order to get and stay on top. The people who know how to hustle and have talent are the ones I sign development deals with, because I know they'll get their project to the next level, as long as they have ME to help them.

And, that is the base level of bullshit everyone in LA talks about at any event. In order to be good at these events, it helps to have produced a lot of stuff and be seen as a professional in the eyes of your peers.

But here is a dirty little secret: If you AREN'T a professional, make no bones that you are. People are flattered to be asked questions, and be offered to be taken out to drinks or lunch to have their brain picked. But please, if you've never had a speaking role in a movie, don't claim you're an actor. Take that to the bank.