Business of Screenwriting: The Niceties – Manners Matter

By Michele Wallerstein

A little while ago I moderated a discussion group for a group of fifteen new writers.  The guests we interviewed were agents and managers from very prestigious companies.  The event was held in an elegant room at a gorgeous hotel in the heart of Beverly Hills.  We all took a lunch break together at a nearby restaurant where I sat with the group and answered questions and gave advice to them on their writing careers.  The day lasted four and a half hours and I was not paid to do this.  It was exhausting and draining for me.  I had to be “on” all day.  It’s like a performance.

business of screenwritingIf you are wondering why I am rambling on about this I will explain.  New screenwriters everywhere are dying to get into the business of the Hollywood studio system and to sell their movies.  They constantly complain that the doors are closed to them and that they can’t get past the gatekeepers.  After having been introduced to my group as a former agent and current script consultant these folks asked all kinds of questions and got honest, down-to-earth answers from me.  I brought, and passed around, my business cards. I also brought copies of my book; MIND YOUR BUSINESS:  A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career.  Some people bought my book and a few took my cards home with them. It is now much later and not one person in the group has sent a thank you note to me.  Perhaps it sounds silly or egotistical to you… but it is an egregious error on their part.   They had spent those hours with someone who was open to them, who has spent thirty years in the business of Hollywood and who could and would willingly help them with their careers.  A thank you note is a way to insure a new contact, continue a connection, form a friendship and find a way into the business they need. This is the heart of networking.

I even explained this to them by way of suggesting they write to the guest speakers. It couldn’t have been made clearer to them.

All of the niceties count in Hollywood.  Writers should dress nicely for meetings, pitchfests, seminars and gatherings of all types. Never wear shorts or tank tops.  Being on time is a must… being early is even better. Prepare for your meetings. Know when to leave, don’t hang on too long.  Tell people what you want and be sure to really listen to their replies. If you pitch a project and someone says that you should send it to them, send it immediately. Don’t complain.  Always tell the truth. Show respect to all of the people you meet. Don’t dwell on the past and don’t whine about the future.  Be positive in your attitude.

Simply put:  treat people as you would like to be treated.

The world is speeding along.  Days fly by.  People connect via email and Facebook and Twitter.  In Hollywood the connections are much more personal.  There are breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks meetings.  It is face time.  There are Hollywood parties and gatherings.  Every deal is based on relationships.

When someone extends a hand, grab it with all you’ve got.  It may be the life and career saver that you need.

mind-your-business-michele-wallerstein_mediumMichele Wallerstein’s book: MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide to Your Writing Success may be purchased via The Writers Store, E-Bay, Amazon.com (in paperback and on Kindle) and local book stores.

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Business of Screenwriting: The Niceties – Manners Matter

  1. ScifiAliens

    ‘Mind Your Business’ was one of the books I chose as part of my self-directed education on screenwriting. It was a valuable and enjoyable read, one that I’d recommend to others. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Patrick Mahon

    Thank you for the candid advice, Michele.

    I think newbies, such as myself, spend so much time focusing on overcoming the hurdles in our way – obsessing about how to pitch, how to get read, how to stand out – that we may overlook how it feels to be on the receiving end of this often self-centric energy…

    At times, even forgetting that the person on the receiving end of our narrow focus is actually a person.

    Clearly, a thank you and a smile can go a long way.

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