When you find yourself ‘out there’ looking for work as a new screenwriter and you’ve built some momentum, you’ll typically land a few meetings with important people who hold the key to you eating beans & toast for the month or if it’s dinner at The Ivy for the foreseeable. Of course, while we all dream of the latter, it is the former that usually takes place as the meetings come and go with little or no consequence for sad screenwriter. A valuable contact will have been made but if they don’t offer work (which they won’t), then it’s up to you to follow up the meeting with new scripts from your gilded pen.
There seems to be a certain formula to meetings and in my experience, they break down like this:
The Ten Minute Meeting: a typical ‘meet and greet’ get-together where the exec/agent/post-boy hasn’t read your work but has been persuaded to take the meeting anyway. These are ‘put the name to the face’ type of meetings. Although quick and unsatisfying, they are important because they lay down the foundation of longer meetings further down your career line. Last year, I managed to nab a meeting with the Head of Development at Working Title. Naturally, I cleared the whole day for the meeting - preparation, meeting, then post-analysis - but it lasted ten minutes exactly: ‘nice to meet you, I’ll take a look at your script, thanks for coming in’.
Half Hour Meeting: a more structured meeting but still quite brief and to the point. The first ten minutes is the polite chit chat (“that damned Central Line I tell you”) and ‘pleased to meet yous’. Next ten minutes will talk of you, your career-to-date and the script that the exec has not read but the script report was kind enough to stamp a ‘consider’ in the ‘Writer’ section. Then, generic talk of what the exec and the film company want to develop in terms of genre and scripts, and would be happy to see more ideas/scripts from your goodself. No offers of work but last few minutes spent either reverting to polite chit chat or that obvious sense that the meeting is over so no point out-staying your welcome. Pitch meetings last no more than half an hour also. The first five/ten minutes being the ‘hellos’, then twenty minutes to pitch your story, then get out of the room as quickly as you can.
The Hour Meeting: the ideal length of time as this is a significant portion of an exec/agent/tea-boy’s schedule but they are willing to talk at length about you, your script and potential work. Of course, an offer of actual work will still remain elusive but these meetings mean that you are developing a reputation as an interesting scriptwriter who needs to be seriously considered for their original specs and/or assignments.
At the beginning, most meetings will feel like a waste of time. Even though you will be thrilled to shake the hand of the producer of last year’s unexpected hit, the meeting will never amount to your wild hopes and expectations that you carried before hand. However, they are incredibly important and do, eventually, pay-off. A production company phoned me - quite out of the blue - six months after I had a (half hour) meeting with them. They asked if I would be interested in rewriting one of their scripts. I retained my James Bond-cool and calmly replied: “let me just check my diary” while in my head I was shouting something like: “yeeeearrrghblueeerraaaaa”. You wait your entire career for a phone call like that and while it wasn’t exactly Hollywood calling, it certainly was an exciting lift to my day. At the time of writing, I’m still waiting to hear if this is going ahead but I’ve pencilled in The Ivy at 8pm just in case…