What Does Hollywood Want?


One of the most requested questions I have as an award-winning writer, producer and director is, “What does  Hollywood  want?” As I’ve been making films and movies for over twenty years and worked with some of the larger distributors and broadcasters, I want to outline in this article what you can expect when trying to sell your script, movie or soul in  Hollywood .

The most important thing for the newcomer to  Hollywood  to realize is – that the movie industry is a business first and an art form second. It’s a very tough place to earn an easy living and many would-be contributors have a day job to supplement their income and allow themselves to take meetings.  Hollywood  is all about meetings – and the ability to navigate the client/vendor relationship that exists between the large broadcasters and distributors and the production companies that service them.

“Film schools serve as a good training ground but there really isn’t a replacement for doing it” – Brian Grazer, Producer

Writers and producers who can tap into their own life and create stories for the widest possible audiences stand the greatest chance in succeeding in the movie industry. Iconoclastic, personal dramas are best suited for film festivals and independent release. This is not a town looking for a quirky right-of-passage story unless it stars a recognizable star or has a marketing hook to exploit.

 Hollywood  is about movies (and always has been) and in today’s market, the more bums on seats the better. Players here are plugged in to the latest trends and what is selling right now. In order to sell to  Hollywood  (and by that I mean the studio and well-heeled industry), you have to be based in town and a known player. Newcomers and first time talents are rarely celebrated in a land where the established will always beat out the fresh fish. There is a mob-like mentality at work in which an older, much wiser player can mentor the new guy – but these relationships are hard to nurture and unavailable to those living outside of the zip codes that constitute Southern California. Worse still is for the unknown international or unconnected newbie who pines to be discovered or sell his script to a major player.  Hollywood  is a closed shop (and rightly so) and only those with the secret need apply. What’s the secret?

Here are some tips you can use to make your own way in the movie-making business (there’s that word again) and take meetings that matter.

1. Move to LA – Unless you’ve been getting substantial press or making money, you have to be in town and be local to spend face time with the development people who form the first line of defense at the castle walls. Get local and start looking for a place to stay as it’s going to take a while.

2. Face Facts – You’re going to have to find someone who can get you access to development people at the production companies that service the major (and minor) players. You need to impress this person with your work and prove to them you will not embarrass them if you get in the room. It’s all about relationships and you need to make contacts that count. Everyone claims to have something ‘in-development’. This is insider code. It often means they have nothing.

3. Network, Network, Network – Join support groups, attend industry functions, volunteer at AFI, UCLA, DGA, SAG and other industry meetings and learn the names and faces of key people. Never, ever approach them with a script. Always be respectful of their talents and skills and prove your worth by being indispensable. Just being able to be in the same room is a step forward. You need to research and understand the power dynamics before making a fatal error.

4. Timing Is Everything – Be prepared for a long wait. No one ever fails in  Hollywood . They just give up and go home. It can take up to two years to make any meaningful headway in your career. In a town where a week can be a long time, two years is forever. Understand that your staying power is everything. Your Poker group that meets every other week can lead to the information that allows you a movement forward. Listen to what others are talking about and act when the time is right. You must be proactive and act fast opportunities seldom last.

5. Work We Do For Money Not Love – You will find yourself (after much diligence) facing down an assignment that is not your first, second or even forty-third choice. Take the gig. Be thankful. Over deliver in what you are asked to do and complete your task in a timely matter. Diligence, dedication and the ability to work non-stop and around the clock is not only mandatory – it’s essential to your well-being and ability to move ahead.

6. Say Nothing. Ever. – Gossip is rampant and your words have power. You can talk your way out of a job or make a serious breach of protocol by discussing publicly your concerns, anger or grief. Sack up – cry in your car like a professional and take it. It will get better. Maybe not here – but it will get better.

7. Research Your Market Niche – Be specific about what you are writing (you are writing or have access to a property, right?) and know the players and companies. This information changes readily and without representation, you will be hard pressed to find anyone to look at your work.

8. Earn Representation – This town needs to know you are tied in with a recognized management firm or attorney. Never pay anyone to represent you and avoid like the plague organizations, conferences and associations that charge big bucks to read your work. Personal management is easier to secure than an agent. Attorneys can be paid to submit on your behalf.

9. Never Surrender – How badly do you want to produce your own work? Are you a director? You need to direct something and win an award and get press. It is often easier to do this outside of town that battle the costs and politics of filming in town. Are you a writer? Look around you at the coffee shops. Everyone is writing. I’ve lost count of the Willy Wonka Magic Ticket hopefuls that clog the local java outlets.

10. You Are An Outsider – This is quite ironic as you seldom meet any native-born colleagues. You must embrace your outsider status and look to your network for the breadcrumb trail that can get you your first meeting. Know that everyone was an outsider at one time and they made their way inside the castle walls. What are you willing to do?

The question you have to ask yourself (punk) is, “Do I feel lucky?” Effort, access and timing coupled with a knowledge of the industry and a well-placed patron (who you must never, ever embarrass) may get you though the door. It is up to you to keep that door open.

Source by Julian Grant

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