Michele Wallerstein currently works as a screenplay, novel, and career consultant, as well as is the author of Mind Your Business: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career”. Former Literary Agent of 25 years, representing Writers, Directors, Producers for Motion Pictures and Television, Michele served as Executive Vice-President of Women In Film and teaches The Business of Your Writing Career at UCLA. Visit Michele’s website for more information.
The psychological aspects of working in Hollywood are complicated and somewhat unique. As a writer you need to know that the people to whom you are selling are in a quagmire themselves. These folks are the development executives, producers, studio executives, directors and sometimes even movie stars. They appear to you to be very scary and powerful people, which is true. They know everything about the movie business and they often seem brusque and give off an air that feels like they have better and more important things to do than to sit there with you. What they are really feeling is a combination of hope and terror. The hope that you will be “the one” but they fear you will not.
When you go into your first meeting or your last, the silent question coming to you from behind that behemoth sized desk in the room is “Can you give me what I must have?” When you realize the depth and breadth of that question you will bring more to the table. This is a very heavy burden that you should take quite seriously. You have been sent into this lion’s den by your agent, who must believe in you. This agent has submitted your scripts to them and they have been pleased. You are there to either discuss your script, listen to script ideas they already have, or to pitch from 3 to 5 other ideas for screenplays you have yet to write.
These meetings are often called “meet and greets” however, they are much more than that. You are hoping these people will throw you a line to bring you what you want, but remember that they are waiting for you to throw them a line that may need to save their jobs and/or make them a hero to their bosses. It is also true that when you ask studio people to love your projects, you are also asking them to spend a veritable fortune of money and to hire hundreds of employees as well as to spend at least two years devoted to this film. Now that’s a lot to ask.
Here’s how you make this work for you. You must make them need you because your way of looking at film is creative, entertaining, somewhat unique, will draw star power and audiences of all ages. Sounds pretty difficult doesn’t it? You must work like crazy to more than hone your craft. You have to find a niche in which you can shine. If you’re writing comedy, you must have the ability to make the readers laugh out loud on every page. If drama is your forte, please have the power to make people care and cry. If it is action/adventure you strive for, then you must have the magic to make your readers and hence your audiences care deeply for your heroes.
The very fact that these people have taken the time to read your work and to meet with you tells you that you have a certain value. You, in turn, are making a promise to be smart, interesting and to have something that can be of immense help to them. Make good on that promise.
All of the above takes a tremendous amount of work, study, classes, seminars, teachers, consultants and most of all practice, practice, practice. Never rush into finding that perfect agent until you deserve one.
Once you are in the show, keep on your toes. Always be a little early for meetings, always have your writing assignments done on time. When you are in all of those meet and greets have something stunning to share and be as animated as possible. It must be visible and palpable that you believe in your ideas.
Be sure to listen carefully and try not to be belligerent when you hear other ideas.
All of these things will stand you in good stead for years and years. The whole idea is to have a long, happy and fruitful life in the movie business. It is an exciting and thrilling arena that can keep you feeling on top of the world. The doors that will open for you will be constantly exciting. Think of knowing brilliant movie stars and creative, talented directors. Think of having drinks with studio heads and moguls. Think of making your dreams come true.
Moving Your Writing Career Forward by Michele Wallerstein
- Best practices in networking.
- How to write a killer query letter.
- How to work with agents, managers, and attorneys.
- How to protect your writing career.