Ask the Expert: Finding a Mentor

Question: How do I know if someone would make a good screenwriting mentor?

As a producer and former VP of Development for production companies based at Sony, Universal and Disney, I have had the privilege of working with award-winning writers, directors and actors.  I have also been fortunate to have many wonderful mentors along the way and have found that it is important to choose them wisely. They can come in the form of a teacher, a friend, a colleague or industry professional. They come in all shapes and sizes, but here are a few key ingredients you should look for:

Your mentor should be someone you respect.

Your mentor should be someone who has knowledge in areas you don’t have.

Make sure your mentor is smarter in certain areas and not simply because they say so. Follow your gut because you know in your heart when someone is posturing rather than being genuine.

Make sure it is someone who is supportive and not negative. Avoid the type of people who derive their self-esteem by putting others down. You don’t want to subject yourself or your script to people who might make themselves feel more important than they are by putting you or your work down.

While you should be open to receiving constructive criticism, it is important to surround yourself with people who are genuinely supportive of your work and want to help you succeed.

Exposing yourself to people who will be highly critical, without understanding the creative process and craft of screenwriting, will only be destructive and counter-productive.

Don’t look for someone who will simply validate what your want to hear. If you think you want constructive feedback, but secretly only seek validation, your work won’t improve and you will prevent your growth as an artist.

Listen to those you respect, evaluate what they have to say. Even if you don’t agree with exactly everything they have to say, chances are their comments have some level of validity.  So find out what it is that isn’t working and then find your own way to make it work.

Avoid anyone who says you have to do it their way and only their way (unless they hold all the purse strings and you don’t mind submitting to their vision).

Listen to your gut and your creative instincts as they are your best tool and your guiding light.

Even the best instincts can be fine-tuned and honed with the help of a good mentor.

Choose your mentors wisely. Good mentors will help you and prove invaluable.

Wendy Kram is a producer and the owner of L.A. FOR HIRE, a consulting company for screenwriters, filmmakers and production companies, assisting them in developing, packaging and selling their projects.  Creative Screenwriting Magazine ranks her in the Industry’s Top 3 Picks for “Best Script Consultants” and #1 in marketing.  To learn more about Wendy’s services, success stories and how she may be able to help you advance your projects, visit: www.la4hire or email wendy@la4hire.com. For summer specials: http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs063/1109244198478/archive/1110506844567.html

                                                                       

2 thoughts on “Ask the Expert: Finding a Mentor

  1. Rick

    A second to Ian’s comment. I’d love to have the luxury of applying these criteria to just two people. Unfortunately, everyone I’ve dealt with has been too busy to offer any services… unless I want to pay for them.

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