In the early 1930’s, Yip Harburg and Jay Gorney wrote what would be the anthem of the economic downturn of that day. “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?” was covered by many artists of those days, including Bing Crosby.
While we hope and pray that our economy never hits those lows again, that song came to mind after an experience at a networking event where a fellow came out of nowhere and blew our conversation out of the water with “Brother, can you read my script” (or words to that effect).
While attending a Hollywood networking event, a fellow schlepped over to me and the guy I was conversing with and pitched his screenplay. Now, I can understand the desire to have your work read, appreciated, and (ultimately) sold. However, there were a few things wrong with this guy’s approach:
- You don’t want a “Brother, can you read my script?” approach.
- You want to have some level of rapport with the person you are encountering.
- You want to ascertain whether this person even has the ability to do something with your script/headshot/demo/etc.
- You want to listen and learn.
Let’s go over those items in context of that encounter.
You Don’t Want a “Brother, Can You Read my Script?” Approach
Imagine walking up to a woman and saying, “I want to get laid. Can you take your clothes off?” The response could range from a drink in the face to a knife through the ribcage… or maybe worse. There is the social code that requires a bit of repartee. After getting to know some basic details about the individuals you are encountering, and whether a pitch is appropriate, do so professionally. Do so with humanity.
You Want To Have Some Level Of Rapport With The Person You Are Encountering
Relationships are the oxygen of Hollywood. Without it, you will suffocate. Exchange business cards and follow up (at respectful intervals) with people. Reportedly, Antwone Quenton Fisher spent years organically building relationships with people. His big break came organically. There is a distinct difference between panhandling and offering something of value to a trusted associate.
You Want To Ascertain Whether This Person Even Has The Ability To Do Something With Your Script/Headshot/Demo/Etc
So, lets say this is a producer or director or actor or etcetera who could theoretically option, purchase, or put it into development. Or, perhaps they could (theoretically) pass it on to someone with the power to do the aforementioned. If so, you must ascertain:
Does this individual have the bandwidth to read ±120 pages?
Let’s say they are open to reading material. If so, here are some things you want to have polished and perfected:
- You should have a concise, well-practiced pitch that outlines your work in ±30 seconds.
- If they want more and ask for more… don’t take that as an open door to deliver a five-hour Shakespearean soliloquy. Give information. Ask questions. Repeat only if necessary.
- Don’t be afraid to exit early to show respect for their time.
- Have a professionally done one-sheet. That does not mean with graphics or sans graphics… fancy fonts or plain fonts… it means that it should represent professionalism. Network with those who do this for a living (keeping in mind the earlier points in this blog).
- Creativity gets points, but professionalism is key.
- Originality will get you noticed, but not every original idea is a good one. Remember when McDonald’s came up with the McDLT? Given that George Costanza was the pitchman for that culinary flop… perhaps Ray Kroc should have done the Seinfeldian thing and done the opposite.
Jason Alexander Promoting McDonald’s McDLT
You Want To Listen And Learn
When the gentleman who approached my colleague and I insisted on giving an unsolicited verbal three-act synopisis, I thought I would be helpful by offering a little advice. Those tips, and his responses, were:
- Have your script evaluated and receive notes that (if stellar) could be used as a selling point. If not, could be used to re-engineer the script.
- “I just want to sell my script…”
- Have a (good) logline.
- “I don’t need that, I just need to sell my script…”
- We’re not in the market for features. Would you be interested in writing a web series episode on contract?
- “I just want to sell my script…”
I was not angry or bothered. I felt for that guy. But he is one of a great multitude who must learn and follow the proven path to success. Alternatively, one could sit at a soda fountain and wait to be discovered.
Do they still have soda fountains?