Starpower Management CEO, writer, producer, and public relations expert Bruce Edwin gives here top 10 bits of advice on How to Succeed as a Screenwriter in Hollywood.
How to Succeed As A Screenwriter
By Bruce Edwin
1, Know your place and pay your dues by showing respect until you make it big. Until you are an Oscar nominated or Golden Globe nominated or winning screenwriter, realize that the production companies and producers, directors don’t need you as much as you need them. Don’t act like you are doing them a favor by sending your material or trying to get them to receive it.
2, Be prepared and follow directions given. When a producer or production company has agreed to look at your work, don’t argue or delay. Have ready exactly what they want, which may include a logline, 1 page synopsis, a 10 page or more treatment, or the full script. Don’t ask them if you can send more than what they ask for, and definitely do not send something not asked for without the OK. This is a good way to get rejected before you even get your material read. Have everything ready right away, so that when they ask for it, you are prepared to send it and send it quickly. I had one screenwriter send me a full script, after I told him to only send me a one page synopsis. That is quick way to get rejected. If one cannot follow directions on a simple document to send, one can not be expected to follow directions on a more serious and detailed matter like revising a script to someone’s specifications that is paying them. Follow directions.
3, Don’t ask questions before you are hired. After they are looking, or even before they agree to look, don’t ask them questions, which could waste their time and annoy them. A writer recently asked me– when I was going to read some of his work, what the difference was between an agent and a manager, in addition to about a half a dozen other questions, which I simply had no time for. Had he actually researched The Hollywood Sentinel Archives, he would have read my description of this first question. This is not a question to bother a producer, agent, or manager with. We don’t work on commission for no money down to educate people for free. Until you have a contract offer, don’t hit people up with questions or you could kill the deal.
Also, when someone is looking or considering looking at your deal, it is not the time to ask them about their percentages, films funded, etc. If you don’t trust their expertise, don’t contact them to begin with, and when you do contact them, asking money questions prior to them even saying they are interested in not appropriate, unless again, you are already a top winning or top nominated screenwriter, in which case you will already have a top agent or top manager, which would mean you would not be asking the wrong questions, the agent or manager would be asking the questions for you, in the right manner.
4, When opportunity knocks, answer the door and don’t send them running. One writer had a handfull of scripts I was strongly considering representing. I sent him a short contract, and he told me that he needed over month to get back with me to ‘consider’ our deal. He claimed he needed several weeks for his attorney to look it over, and at least several weeks for him to film a webisode, which would include an extra week or so for camping. I told him that was fine, but that I would probably not be interested in giving him more than 10 business days, and that if he considered our business a priority, he could rush his attorney a bit, get a faster one, or cut his camping trip short, if he got no reception in the woods. He refused, and so I rescinded any and all future interest since he did not jump at the huge opportunity we were giving him. He was shocked, even though I gave him ample time to change his mind and move quicker. Over a year has passed, and no one has heard of this guy since, and my guess is, probably never will. When you have an A-list deal fall on your lap, do all you can to make it happen as fast as you can, and show them that you are eager, and appreciative. If you delay, you may delay your success for ever.
If you need a month before you can do business–fine, but don’t start business until after that month is over. If you start business–be ready to proceed with it, fast.
if you need someone more than they need you, they are not going to wait around for you very long.
5, Thank the person! If you get an call or visit or e-mail from a top producer, agent, manager, or director, thank them for their time! My first test of whether or not I will deal with someone, is their manners or lack thereof. I have major investors– worth millions to sometimes even billions of dollars, that graciously thank me for my time, simply because they are classy ladies and gentleman, and are highly cordial and polite, when in fact, I should be the one thanking ‘them,’ and I always do. So when a writer hears from me, and does not thank me for my time, or show gratitude, I automatically lose all respect and interest.
6, Use the person’s name, and address them as Mr. or Ms. unless they tell you to otherwise. Show respect. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, I often experience some other scenario that tops the rest in all manners of ridiculousness. As an example, another writer recently contacted me with no thank you, and actually instead of calling me by any part of my name, addressed me as the letter ‘B’! Not only is this lazy, it’s foolish. Pretend you are communicating with the person face to face. Show respect, and use their name. And don’t call them man, dude, or chick.
7, Don’t give orders. If you are trying to get someone to do something for you, or to communicate with you, or return your communication, ask them, don’t order. Most rich or powerful people have worked very hard to get where they are at, and a part of that freedom they enjoy is not having to take orders from anyone. So, if someone gives them an order, especially when that person is trying to get a favor out of ‘them,’ they can generally forget a deal ever happening. Ask, don’t demand! And that’s an order! (LOL).
8, Answer your phone, and answer blocked calls. Any time someone that wants me to do something spends their time telling me about how they did not answer my call, because they don’t answer blocked calls, not only wastes my time, but sends me the signal that they are either A, control freaks, B, paranoid, or C, have bill collectors after them. I have told this story over and over, but unfortunately, it is one that needs repeating.
Atlantic Records called me one time from New York, and the publicist there told me, “Bruce, record labels and film studios, we all call from private, blocked, or even dummy numbers. So if you want to be successful working in Hollywood in the music and film biz, answer private calls!” I thanked this person for that advice, and always took it. And it was true. Every film studio lot I have had an office at, has phones that we had to use through the studio that had automatically programmed private or dummy numbers. The record labels are no different. This has been this way for ages, and is to protect producers and top level industry people from stalkers, etc., and also so we can better control our communication and ‘roll calls’ without interruptions we don’t want, controlling communication on our terms. So, answer your phone, and always answer private calls or numbers you don’t know and don’t complain about it. Complaining about this does not impress anyone, on the contrary, it will only show that you have no experience in dealing with the entertainment industry.
9, Be fast in your communication. If you get someone on the hook that can help you, respond immediately in the same manner back that they communicate, whether it be IM, phone, text, or email. The slower you are, the less chance of success you will have.
10. Always say thank you, even if you get rejected. I have rejected clients I really wanted to sign before, just to test them and see how they handle rejection. Because if I detect someone has a bad temper, or bad attitude, I want to know about it. I want to know that if I pitch them to a top client I work with, that they will represent me in the best manner possible, and be cordial, and civilized. Many times people I tested in this manner proved me correct, and blew up, massively angry and out of control, not handling the rejection as a mature adult. Be calm, be polite, and handle any and all rejection well.
11, Don’t bad mouth other people, especially the agent, manager, producer, director, or studio’s other clients. I had a writer do this to me before. He began insulting a producer I work with because she didn’t read his script fast enough to his liking. He then started bad mouthing her to me. Little did he know, she was a good friend, and I told her about it, and of course, she said told me where he could go. Be patient, and don’t speak poorly of others. Treat others how you yourself would like to be treated.
12, Be honest. If your script has been sitting around Hollywood for 10 years and you have had everyone and their mother read it, tell us so. We will find out eventually if we rep it, and we need to know. It will greatly irritate people if they find out that new script they think you wrote, is really last decade’s dud that never saw the light of day. Keep it real. You will have more success being honest, as painful as it may be to you up front, then having to admit later on what you were trying to cover up. Tell the truth, and don’t hide things.
I hope this information has helped you. As always, you can call my office for more free advice if you don’t find what you are looking for here, or in our Archives section.
This textual content is (c). 2017, 2018, Bruce Edwin, Hollywood Sentinel, all rights reserved.