Bruce Edwin is CEO of www.StarpowerManagement.com and founding publisher of The Hollywood Sentinel. A writer, producer, and entrepreneur, he represents over 10 billion dollars worth of deals in the areas of fine art, real estate, movie studios, stars, and motion picture among more.
He gives here his free article on How to Succeed In Hollywood, as his way of giving back to actors, models, bands, singers, writers, and others pursuing success in Hollywood, with a good moral perspective–for free. In this issue, Bruce gives advice to aspiring screenwriters.
How to Succeed As a Screenwriter In Hollywood
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, producers, and directors don’t need you, 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. Send a query letter first. Do NOT send any logline, script, treatment, or synopsis without getting permission to send it first.
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 get an offer. After they are looking, or even before they agree to look, don’t ask them questions, which could waste their time and annoy them, when your foot is barely in the door. 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 site at www.TheHollywoodSentinel.com, 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. O.K.–actually I DO educate people for free, but I am a rare exception–and even I have limits. Until you have a contract offer, don’t hit up agents, managers, or producers 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 handful 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 forever.
5, Thank the person! If you get a call, 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 persons 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.
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 for them 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. For those clueless about dummy numbers, no–its not a number to call dummies or for dummies (LOL).
A dummy number is a fake number that shows up on a caller ID when a studio exec calls someone outside of the studio from that studio based phone. Film studios and record labels use dummy numbers, or blocked ID’s. 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.
Those that are even bigger control freaks, will sometimes try to call studios execs, agents, managers, or record labels back from their line and block the call, then tell us how they are blocking their line because we always block ours. Duh! No, don’t do that! Again, if you want someone to help YOU, do you want to make it more difficult for them to reach you, or less difficult? Do you want to act like you have a bigger ego than they do, or do you want to act humble? Which brings us to number nine…
9, Lose the Ego! A big ego in Hollywood generally means that you have major credits but have a drug or alcohol problem combined with anger issues, or in most cases with a big ego–NO major credits, and the person is trying to compensate for their lack of talent or accomplishments. In either case, being a jerk is no longer cool–not that it ever really was. So–lose the ego. When The Bible teaches that ‘the Meek shall inherit the Earth.’ I say– “The Meek will inherit Hollywood.” This does not mean to be a pushover or weak, I’m just telling you–lose the ego–do not be an egomaniac. Be cordial, and cool.
The days of egomania are over. I actually saw an actor once with a shirt that read– It’s all about me!” No– it’s not. It’s all about the other person. No one cares what’s in it for you–they care about what’s in it for them self. That means, you need to think outside of yourself, and let the person know what THEY are going to get out of you, working with you. And in a way–you are thinking of yourself–because that’s the only way it will really work anyway. It’s called karma. Do unto others as you have them do unto you. The few greater evolved in Hollywood, will actually care about you, and even more so, will care about society as a whole. IF you are at that point–congratulations. IF not–strive for that. It’s where it’s at.
10, Be educated. Read Syd Field’s book Screenwriting. Have a great script that is properly formatted.
11, Make sure that it and your treatment, synopsis, logline, and query letter are perfect, with no errors. Copyright your script with the Library of Congress. WGA registration is—according to at least one attorney–not necessary, but copyright registration with the Library of Congress is.
12, Don’t insult others when you are dealing with them. I had a writer I was going sign not long ago, and he ended up calling one of my producer clients names through me, because she put him in his place–through me. Instead of being humble, and acknowledging her power, he chose to act like a baby, insulting her through me. I did not relay his insults, instead, I just dropped dealing with him, which is probably why is last agent dropped him too. Be calm, cool, level headed, and have an even temper.
Be slow to anger, and quick to forgive. This guy had major talent, but we would not deal with him because he’s basically just a jerk that can’t control his temper when he doesn’t exactly get his way. No one wants to deal with anyone like that, and generally–they won’t. And don’t insult others. This writer was insulting not only a client of mine–but a person I care for a great deal as a friend. Bad move. I will also choose my clients or friends over any stranger–especially an adversarial one. Keep that story in mind, and if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, try not to say anything–at least not unless you would say it to their face. Be cool.
If you have any questions or comments, you can address those to me at the front page of this site.
You can read many more of my answers on How to Succeed In Hollywood at my new Quora page, here below at: