Thursday, September 10, 2009

Michele Wallerstein: SOCIALIZING!

(How would you like to know, before you send a script out, what a manager or agent will think of your work? With 25 years experience as an agent brokering major sales to Hollywood's top production companies, Michele Wallerstein will let you know where you are and what you need to do to get that sale. Michele has worked with me over the past year elevating the quality of my work. She's a friend, mentor, and an inspiration. Rare to find such a positive person in what can be a bleak path for the new writer. To reach Michele you can email her at

Socializing is an extension of Networking, but is not the same thing. It goes the next step in helping to ensure a longer life in professional writing. Working in Hollywood is not only about the quality of your work, but is about living in the entertainment community. You will need to become a friend and social connection with others who also live in the world of movies and television.

Networking is your first connection with the people who can give you a hand when you begin that long trek through the labyrinth that will hopefully lead you through the ubiquitous closed doors of show business. Socializing gives you the potential of establishing relationships with the Tinseltown folks who are necessary to your future. They also love the business just as you do.

You might think that writing well and even having a hit movie out is enough. Not a chance folks. One-hit wonders are a dime a dozen in every business. If you want to have staying power you’ll need friends who will open doors and give you the benefit of their knowledge and connections. Industry insiders spend an inordinate amount of time at activities that look like simple socializing interactions. The truth is that they are always working. Executives have breakfast, lunch, drinks and dinner meetings. They attend dinner parties, galas, award ceremonies, cocktail parties and screenings. Personally, I often found these events both physically and emotionally draining because while they looked glamorous and fun, they were really hard work. For example the person you are talking to may be looking over your shoulder to see who else they want to talk with. The person you want to talk with is too difficult to get close to or too busy with others. The hours are late and it’s been a long, long day. The “phonies” are all over the place and vying for your attention.

The good news is that you may run into someone who is interested in you or your project or your clients. You might meet some industry executive that you really like and will work with extensively in the future. There are endless good things that can and often do happen at these events. So, we go and go and go to as many as possible.

For writers, socializing is a combination of hanging out and going out. If you meet someone in the business that you like, you might have to make the first move and see if they want to meet for coffee or lunch. If you have the ability to throw dinner or drinks parties, then you must do so. I’ve found that mixing people who are in and out of the business is not a very good idea. People tend to want to talk to others in the same or similar fields of endeavor. Show business people talk in show business. That’s our language, that’s where we are comfortable and that’s the subject that interests us the most.

Earlier in this book I mentioned that I often orchestrated dinner parties and lunches so that my clients could meet with buyers. Not every agent does this, but it’s a good idea to ask your agent to try to put you together socially with development executives and producers. These are the people that you will need.

Whenever you are able to attend some social event you must never drink too much, talk too much or do drugs and this applies to your date or spouse who might be attending with you. This will be remembered and you will never be trusted. Certainly you will never be trusted with a writing assignment.

When you are lucky enough to attend events you will need to mention your projects. Don’t be shy about it. Everyone will want to hear about them and to put their two cents in on the creative aspects or salability of those projects. Occasionally these folks will discuss their skiing vacations or their personal lives, but not much. We all want to talk about our projects and to hear about others. Ask those questions about their work, the company and their favorite films and they will become your best friend. I don’t mean to tell you to befriend people that you don’t like. You will find there are plenty of those lurking about and you don’t need to pursue them. Find people that you enjoy and simply pursue a friendship. Remember that in business just like in childhood, it’s always good to use the buddy system.

I’ve met some of my best business friends at the aforementioned events and it has made my life easier and much more pleasant. I ask about their children and spouses, their parents and their favorite books. These are effortless ways to begin what could be very fortuitous associations.

Always keep in mind that you might be able to help someone else while you are looking for people to help you. As a writer you might have meetings where you find out information about job openings for development executives or what new projects are being developed. These are not secrets and if you share the information the recipients will “owe you one”.

All of the above presupposes that you live in Los Angeles or its environs. Obviously, if you are living somewhere that is far from the action it will be nearly impossible for you to socialize in a meaningful way. There’s always Facebook and Twitter.

It’s always possible to have a script optioned if you live anywhere. The continuation of a writing career means that you must be able to reach out and touch the right people. A writing career is not defined by selling (optioning) screenplays. A writing career means meetings, writing assignments, pitching to studio executives and to producers or development execs. It means building a foundation with your agent and others in your working world. It means getting rewrite jobs and development jobs. These are the things that will keep you in front of the pack.

For writers socializing is more difficult than writing. I understand that these pointers are hard for you to consider and even harder to do.

So……get off your duffs and call someone.

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