Congratulations. You’ve just wrapped up your very first round of Hollywood meet-and-greets, sit-downs with production and broadcast executives all over town, and if there is one indisputable fact you can take away from the glorious experience it’s this: Everyone wants to work with you!
It’s true! They said as much in their unbridled enthusiasm for you, your work, and your pitch for that zombie legal series. They said it in their spirited suggestion that you would be perfect for some of the projects they have in development. They said it insofar as they actually said: “We want to work with you!” and maybe even: “We want to be in the [insert your full name here] business!”.
So, in all fairness, you can be forgiven for actually believing it – you poor, deluded fool.
You go home, excitedly debrief with your agent/manager/friend/cute barista who never gets your name right (but you read somewhere that they do it on purpose to engender social media buzz, so you don’t take offense), then lie awake that night considering your mountainous prospects. Damn, you’re going to be busy. You might want to consider rescheduling that trip to Sugarloaf.
Or maybe not because, in truth, you’re not going to be that much busier. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being significantly less busy and 10 being much, MUCH busier, you’re at about a “No idea because you misplaced your scale but you’re not that surprised because that’s the way your week’s been going.”
Oh, sure. You sent out those scripts, followed up with some emails, polite at first, then friendly and, eventually, lighthearted and humorous like a comedian’s Thursday afternoon shift at a palliative care unit. In some cases, you may grow despondent and ask your agent to follow up for you. This, more often than not, yields, not a response, but the addition of a whole other layer of unresponsiveness.
But in some instances, you DO receive a response. And, in case you were curious, these are their hidden meanings:
Unfortunately, we’re already developing something similar. (Translation: I can’t be bothered to read your script as my time is better spent attending meaningless meetings).
I kicked it upstairs. I’ll let you know when I hear anything. (Translation: I can’t be bothered to read your script, so I’m going to string things along in the hopes that you either give up and stop pursuing the matter or one of us dies).
I kicked it upstairs. Unfortunately, they passed. (Translation: They can’t be bothered to read your script either as their time is better spent attending meaningless meetings).
It’s not for us. (Translation: Your script was so poor and unintentionally hilarious that we held an impromptu read-thru in the lunch room. Our new temp, Hazel, played the part of the jaguar).
It’s too similar to [established series]. (Translation: It’s too similar to the show we have in development that is a carbon copy of [established series].)
No one’s buying anthologies. (Translation: No one’s buying anthologies).
But before you pack up your laptop, dog-eared copy of Syd Field’s Screenplay, and that stack of color-coded index cards on which you’ve assiduously tracked the emotional arcs of every one of your main characters, hold up. All hope is not lost, only a lot of your time and a small piece of your sanity, because this is just the reality of the business. People will tell you they want to work with you because they honestly DO want to work with you – eventually, should you prove successful down the line working with someone else first. No one wants to burn bridges. Rather, they simply wish to invite you to cross at a later date and then sneak away under cover of darkness so that, upon your return, you discover the toll booth unmanned. It’s not a no. It’s an enthusiastic YES – somewhere in the not too distant future.
Over time, and repeated visits, you will get to know these people, form relationships with them and, should fortune smile upon you, actually work with them. Maybe you’ll develop a show for them that won’t go anywhere, or come up with a take for an adaptation that will ultimately go to some other writer. The possibilities are truly endless. So don’t despair and don’t give up!
But do throw away those index cards with the detailed emotional arcs. Seriously.
25 thoughts on “April 22, 2018: Everybody wants to work with you!”
Peruse the thread I sent you on sci-fi people want, also the Japanese Stories link from folio. There is nothing to do but keep grinding through concepts & continuing to be approachable. Too many people in positions of power just don’t have vision. Vision doesn’t always translate to bankable. How things snake in this business is insane, you may never know which touches or tips trickle into an opportunity which you could never generate if you had all the dots in advance.. Strength, my friend. The next project is out there. Keep your cards. Ray Bradbury did. Literally, index cards, in the thousands. You never know when a concept revives or takes you on a different journey. Nuggets of gold.
As we US government employees used to say when trying for transfers /promotions, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
That is the truth. You can be supremely qualified and gifted, a perfect fit, but sometimes a friend of a friend’s nephew just rises up through the ether. Sometimes we also benefit from those connections. Keep networking. Find someone who is on a project & join them. You never know who you’ll run across during the effort or who will run across you.
I thought I was going to play the part of the jaguar! 🙁
Patience grasshopper. Your day will come again.
Gosh Joe you make your job sound so glamorous!
Wow, that is some frustrating truth, right there. How amazing that so much pure crap gets to actual production, while good stuff must be sitting in the unread pile. Certainly not a meritocracy, is it!
Hmmm, sounds a lot like being a freelance entertainment journalist.
Oh, and you forgot to mention one other possible outcome – they want to work with you, enthusiastically support you in making the first season or two (or three) of your show. Then, out of the blue, they cancel it because they really did want to work with you, but not any more.
C’est la vie.
I like the sound of the dog-eared copy of Syd Field’s Screenplay!
You deserve better, and we deserve more of you.
Sorry, but I have to disagree. If you’re not part of the old boys club. Or if you don’t have an ‘in’, don’t even bother to get started. (If you’re outside of the USA or Canada, you don’t exist to the tv and film industry anyway.)
For the record, this is the self-pity phase of (my SGU reboot pitch) being ignored. It follows the “I knew this was a long shot’ phase. But before the damn-you-MGM, you don’t give a damn about Stargate (fans), you’re just a bunch of money hungry phase. (I’ll get there in the end, just not now.)
Well that post proves you still got it. Hard to live in work of Sharknados. Anyway I am glad you are still clearly insane. I am saddened that Hollywood did not take the right lessons of a success like Game Of Thrones(great character Arcs, nuance, moral ambiguity etc). But I guess that would also be insanity as well. I will continue to follow and keep fingers crossed for many future project to come to fruition. PS about to binge a bit of Stargate as a reward after I hopefully get my advanced Trauma certification.
I’m sorry you’re going through this. 😐
Vent to us anytime!
I enjoy reading about your experiences – especially your honest insight into the inner workings of Hollywood and “show business”. It’s not often we get a glimpse into how difficult it really is, even for a successful and established writer/producer.
We started watching “Episodes” with Matt LeBlanc over the weekend on Netflix. Great show. Your post is on point with the Hollywoodisms presented there. Too funny, the timing.
Hilarious. You should be a writer.
That’s a sad read for a rainy Monday morning. Time for coffee, no? I weep for the languishing color coded index cards. Alas.
Soon they will just install robots with a stack of scripts behind them that are pre-programmed to string you along. Why do writers have to scurry from office to office, drink a ton of Starbucks and be constantly on the verge of blowing out a kidney just to schmooze with people who never had any intention of making a deal?
You are hilariously describing my life. Up to the part about “should fortune smile upon you”. Haha! Ha. Hum.
Y’all ok? Just checking because I heard about the van crash in Toronto. 😪
Ugh…you are in a stinky business!
So much of it is just games. I hope you can equal the great Dark Matter in one of your future projects.That was the best damn show I have seen in over 20 years. As a result of the cancellation I refuse to watch NBC Universal’s “Syfy” Channel ever again. I know this huge media empire could care less about my opinion..
but screw them
I’m not sure everyone understands the business model the industry operates with, one where relationships are built, maintained and destroyed to self-serve.
Wow. That’s the definition of frustrating. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this firsthand.
Be-ist not so hastened by the muse’s inaction and the inner small boy’s
impatience to discard.
For conservation be hest of growths significance
and all things have as such their time and place.
Albeit, perhaps, a wee revival and revision of the inner poet
upon those index cards is called for
to capture those magnificent beasts thoust set his gaze upon for his modern feast.
For even in conveying the nastiest vampyric unrest of the foulest horror are the poets of yore by all beloved.
And the next time some snooty network exec brushes you off…
Madman, thou errest.
I say, there is no darkness but ignorance, in which thou art more puzzled than the Egyptians in their fog.
I say, this house is as dark as ignorance, though ignorance were as dark as hell. And I say, there was never man thus abused.
I am no more mad than you are. Make the trial of it in any constant question.
Just my way of saying When the cold, merciless winds fiercely howl & threaten, Remember your mighty oak is so because of its strong roots.
—> Always remember the song that was unrelentlessly screaming to come out when you first burst through that door.