Peter Conquers Showbiz Episode 2

Outside-Looking-In

Television Writing from the Outside In
This week: How do you meet people?

You’ve read the book, you’ve written the scripts, you’re contemplating “the move,” but you have questions. My answers may or may not be what you’re looking for, but they’ll be as honest and detailed as I can make them. Don’t see your question here? Ask it in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

Last week: Where do you live? How much is rent?

This week: How do you meet people? How do you get around?

For years, on Larry’s advice, I’ve been compiling a list of people who might know people who might know people in LA. Why did I compile this list for years? Because I was too afraid (proud?) to actually utilize this network to my advantage. “Nah, nobody wants me to ask them if they know anybody in LA,” I thought. So desperate. So cliche! I didn’t want to be THAT guy. I’d achieved some success in another country, damn it! I was about to take LA by storm! Surely they would read about me in the papers! But as the date for my move became closer and closer, I sent out several emails that went something like this: “Dear #, My mentor says I should ask people I know if they know anyone in LA who might know anyone in LA. He says not to worry, as this is how LA works. You can tell people that I’m ABC and XYZ and not a dork. Thanks.”

Responses were varied. Some didn’t reply. Some introduced me to their friends who were interning at Disneyland. Some introduced me to bankrupt playboys. But each time an introduction was made, I followed up, I sent emails, I pasted their addresses into Google Maps and hopped on the bus ($1.50, unless the machine is broken) (or unless you buy a monthly pass, which I never figured out). A director I’ve worked with introduced me to one key contact—a producer of films you’ve seen. We talked on the phone and he felt that I wasn’t a dork, so he introduced me to four younger guys, all about my age, all connected to his family, all struggling to crack in (an actor, a writer, a cinematographer, an independent producer). And these introductions paid off. Not in the sense that it led to an immediate job—but in the sense that I now had a community that’s working on my behalf, just as strongly as I’m working on theirs. A lawyer introduced me to a lawyer (“Any friend of Mike’s is a friend of mine!”) who used to represent a manager that I’ve got my eye on. This is how it works.

Another friend from New York introduced me to his friend who’s living around the corner. He’s not in the film business, but get this—he’s an extrovert! He goes to the parties. He meets the people whose mansions I will eventually buy! The point is: from the smallest beginning, your community WILL grow. But you need to have the expertise (writing) and the humanity (don’t be a dork) that will make people believe in you and get behind you.

Another friend, who was raised in LA, said, “You’re going to be torn to pieces and screwed in every direction. I’m so fed up with LA sharks and their bullshit. It takes years, man, YEARS! Just got to parties. Fuck those sharks at the studios and on the lots. You don’t need them. Dude, get out of LA.” So there’s that.

My first few weeks, I focused on meeting as many production companies as possible—companies who were interested in producing films in the country where I’d just moved from. “Do you have scripts?” Yes. “May we see them?” Yes. I sent my best material to them and the response pretty much went like this: “Read the script, proves you can write, will keep you in mind for future stuff!” This isn’t a bad response. You can’t expect to come in and sell everything now. Because just as you’re working on things you believe in, so are they. You have your properties and niche and voice, and so do they.

Give it time. Don’t call back and say, “Hey dipshit! Someone else is interested in my script! You better tell me your answer now!” All you can do is keep writing and don’t be a dork. Remember crazy Joe Davola? Don’t be crazy Joe Davola.

As for getting around, the city is at first overwhelming, but soon becomes manageable enough as you start to recognize the pockets of activity. I bussed it for the first month, then finally bought a motorcycle. Throughout March and April, the whether has been warm by day and chilly by night—not coat whether, but chilly enough to accessorize your screenwriter’s uniform (jeans, t-shirt, furrowed brow) with, say, a black hoodie (with the sleeves rolled up, as the kids are doing it).

I was invited to a premiere by one of the production companies and was filled with introverted dread. (Surely they didn’t allow hoodies at these events.) So I popped into a cheap store and bought something for the occasion. I bussed to the theater, picked up my ticket at the will-call booth, slipped around the red carpet, found my seat and sunk down as low as possible as stars made their entrances. The director got up with a microphone and said, “First and foremost, I’d like to thank our writer, who delivered a fantastic script!” I was about to clap, but nobody else did. So I maintained invisibility.

“And, of course, our star!” the director said. The audience erupted in cheers. (So be it, world.) After the movie, I had a ticket for a hobnob and a drink at the place downstairs. But I had bus schedules to keep, and pages to go before I sleep.

My friend Mike was invited to the premiere of Shane Black’s new movie, Iron Man 3. I joined Mike for the after, after, AFTER party and talked with him about my future, as visions of sugarplums and danced in our heads. His brush with businessmen prompted him to promote my pilot, which he describes as “the best thing ever written in the history of mankind.” I left the party. I went home. I polished the pilot. I sent it out (to a reputable producer of films and TV series). Three days later, they called back and said, “We would like to meet.”

But I’m no expert. I’m just a guy. Use my experiences to help inform yours. Leave your questions and advice in the comments below.

Next week: Do you have an agent or manager yet?

Peter is a baby feature writer who wants to be a showrunner. (BLAHAHAHA!)