At Roadmap, we believe one of the most important things a writer should be doing is getting in front of as many execs as possible. Relationships are CRUCIAL. More often than not, it's a bad idea to just go up to an executive and ask for contact information to send them your script. That usually comes across as a red flag for execs and might unfairly label that writer as someone they would not want to work with.
Conversely, a writer that builds an organic relationship with an executive, finds common ground, and is able to engage in normal conversation, would receive a much warmer response when the subject of script reading is brought up.
We love helping to set up general meetings for our writers to help them build these types of relationships. But what is a general meeting? What should you prepare for? What do you bring up and what might you try to avoid?
Australian Top Tier writer Paul Baiguerra recently came out to Los Angeles for a series of general meetings and shares some of his insights in our interview below!
Roadmap: What kinds of genres/formats do you like to write in?
Paul: At the moment I'm writing features, crime, thrillers, dark comedy with crime, essentially people behaving badly.
Roadmap: Coming all the way to Los Angeles from Australia is not the easiest thing to do. What made you say “I HAVE to come out there”?
Paul: There's a couple of key reasons, firstly our industry here is very small and very insular, it is extremely difficult to get any traction. This is simply a function of how few buyers we have and how tiny our market is. In LA, however, it's a real and vibrant industry with all the opportunities that come with that. One of the very obvious differences is that in LA when you go into a meeting people are genuinely hoping you are good and that you have something they can make money with.
Secondly, if you're serious about getting anywhere in LA you have to get face time with people to progress your relationships, Roadmap has been a great way to get in front of people and to start the process and enhancing that by coming out and meeting in person sends a pretty strong signal about how serious you take yourself as a writer, which makes it easier for them to take you seriously.
Plus, they get to see that you're not a lunatic and if they end up working with you that you're not going to make their lives hell.
Roadmap: How did you prepare for your meetings?
Paul: As soon as I'd booked the trip I went back through my spreadsheet of contacts I'd had with reps and execs and worked out who I'd pitched to, or who had read my work but I'd not yet met. Next, I worked through my general lists of 'people it'd be good to get in front of' and cross referenced that with who Roadmap has access to. This gave me my wishlist for Joey.
Once Joey started getting confirmations of who could meet then it's straight onto IMDB Pro and a bit of internet stalking to work out as much as I can about the person I'm meeting and where they work. This arms me with enough information to be able to get the conversation going if for some reason the person I'm meeting with isn't that forthcoming (having said that, you guys are all so gregarious, that pretty much never happens). It also gives you potential in-roads to talk about your work in relation to what they do, and to just discuss work they've done that you enjoy - you get to be a film fan and pick their brains about those projects!
I'll also look for any podcasts or media articles with the person I'm meeting, or with any of the senior people at their organisation. From all that I then think about what I would like to ask them about the industry? What advice could they be in a position to offer me?
On the day I make sure I'm at the meeting spot early (all of my meetings this last trip were in cafes) - I'm habitually early anyway and even the thought of being late stresses me out. Just before they arrive I remind myself that I'm not there to sell a script, or get an offer of representation - I'm there to enjoy having a conversation with an industry pro and the rest will take care of itself. I genuinely enjoy meeting the reps and execs and hearing their perspectives on the business and getting their advice.
Roadmap: What were you most surprised by in your general meetings?
Paul: Not so much this trip but in the past I'd sometimes pinch myself a little that these busy industry professionals were taking time out of their day to meet me - again this is the contract between the industry in the US and the industry here where it's incredibly hard to get anyone to meet with you.
Roadmap: How long did they usually last?
Paul: Generally the meetings went about 45min to an hour. There was one that was a half-hour because the exec had something to get to, but he'd already requested two scripts by the time we wrapped up so I didn't feel in the least bit slighted!
Roadmap: How did the meetings start and how did they end?
Paul: I find that in meetings where someone doesn't know your work (a cold general) there's a kind of structure to it. Firstly it'll be just a bit of chat to get warmed up and then the rep/exec will get onto you OR you will have been asking about them and you'll go deeper into talking about what they're up to. Then it swings around the other way, then it will be more of a free flowing conversation. Really weirdly they just start to naturally wind up by the hour mark and then there's a very clear thing that happens - if they haven't already they will either ask for work or to keep in touch...or they won't...you don't do the asking, you don't need to suggest they read your script, they'll let you know if they want to.
In the meetings where someone has already read the work, there's still a bit of pre-amble but it jumps into you a lot quicker, and it of course goes deeper because they already have a measure of you as a writer.
Roadmap: Did you feel reps handled general meetings differently than producers and executives?
Paul: Execs are very much focused on what do you have right now or may have in the near future that they can potentially use.
Reps it's much more about you as a writer, what have you done, what are you working on, what are your career ambitions because they're assessing you as a potential client.
Roadmap: How did you try to maintain your relationship with the executives you have met in the general meetings?
Paul: I'll send in any requested material within a day and then I track contact and set reminders to follow up if I haven't heard back from them. I'll also keep an eye out for excuses to contact someone if it makes sense, for example, an exec I had met the last trip had a really good interview that I'd read so I dropped him a line about that.
This is also where your current and upcoming projects can be very important. In every meeting where I was asked about what I'm currently writing, I did a very casual pitch and every one of them asked to read it when it's done (which is now a whole other kind of pressure, but it's a good problem to have!)
Roadmap: What is the biggest piece of feedback you would give writers going into a general meeting?
Paul: Relax and enjoy it and remember it's a conversation - don't be listening for when to pitch or say something pre-prepared, just talk, that'll all come up in due course. Like any good conversation be genuinely interested in the person sitting opposite you, you're a writer after all, we're supposed to be good at listening and observing.
We hear it all the time but it's true - be human. They are wanting to get to know you as a person, you should be doing the same.