"Take a Meeting" a Must For Aspiring Screenwriters
by Andy Silverman
One week ago I was a screenwriter with two comedy scripts bouncing around the screenwriting contest circuit. Today I have five production companies reading my screenplay and have developed relationships with about a dozen more industry insiders. This all transpired because of the Take A Meeting (TAM) event. This event (coupled with the Out of the Computer/Into the Industry seminar) is the most rewarding experience I’ve had so far trying to break into the business.
I’ve tried many options available to screenwriters today. In fact, if I had all the money I spent on writing classes, script consultants, writers groups, pitch fests, script coverage services, screenwriting books, seminars, etc - I could probably finance my own movie! The TAM event has all these things rolled up neatly into a three-day weekend, all at a very reasonable price.
The weekend starts with a seminar run by Lee Zahavi Jessup. Lee is the Director of ScriptShark, and she gives a no-nonsense discourse on the industry, including what it takes to succeed, how difficult it is, and what hurdles have to be overcome.
Then writers break into small groups (5-6) to practice pitching. Pitching to a group of writers may seem like a daunting task (it was to me), but it's invaluable preparation for meeting with producers and managers. We all helped each other make our pitches better.
Lee Zahavi Jessup’s mantra is “Networking”, and she delivers a real opportunity during the seminar. A panel of industry insiders sits in and tells writers what they are looking for. In this casual environment, high-level producers and managers explain their side of the story. It was heartening to get a preview of the type of people we’d be meeting with. And it seemed as if they wanted all of us to succeed. Lee’s seminar was a perfect lead-in to the TAM event the next day.
That evening I worked on my pitch (and stayed up half the night panicking).
I came to the event hoping to get at least one company to request my script. I write comedies and my latest one, Clay Dorfman: Playground Attorney has been doing well in various contests (it was a finalist in StoryPros Awards contest's comedy category). I targeted the companies that specialize in my genre. The staff running the event, headed by Shelly Mellott from Script magazine, encouraged us to take as many meetings as we could fit into our schedules. If we had having trouble figuring out who would be right for us to pitch to, there was a facilitator on hand to help. I signed up for as many meetings as I could afford ($79 each).
Then came the moment of truth: the pitches.
Over the two-day event I pitched many times. I had some successes, some maybes and some passes. The types of questions I was asked during these meetings were:
nWho do you see being the target audience?
nWhat actor do you see playing the lead?
nWhy does my character make certain choices?
nWhat happens in act 2 that can carry the movie?
nWould you describe a funny scene in the screenplay?
nWhat other screenplays do you have?
nHow long have you been writing?
nWhat made you write this story?
I even had a manager take my characters and change the story around, and ask me if I thought about doing it that way.
I’ve been to several five-minute pitch events and left each meeting feeling battered and stressed, but TAM was entirely different. The fifteen-minute appointment format takes the frenzy out of the weekend. It’s obvious the producers, managers, and agents feel the same way. With only three meetings an hour, they seemed relaxed and attentive the entire day.
During breaks in your pitching schedule, there were lectures by A-list screenwriting experts. These included Syd Field, Ken Rotcop, William Martell, Blake Snyder, and Pilar Alessandro. All their lectures were tailored for the TAM pitch event and were entertaining and informative.
There were writers of all ages, levels, and nationalities, and every one I spoke with at the event raved about what a great experience they were having. A lot of them had scripts requested!
There’s another Take A Meeting event in New York City November 7-9th. To everyone who is serious about their screenwriting career -- I recommend you attend! If you do, I’ll see you there!
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