June 14

IF YOU KNOW A STUDIO HEAD…

Question

I am a pre-pro writer with three solid scripts (one was a Chesterfield semi-finalist) but no agent. A good friend’s next-door neighbor is the CEO of a small but successful film studio. The CEO is essentially a line a credit and probably doesn’t have much creative control, but I imagine he’d be willing to pass along my work to someone within his company. I want to take advantage of this seeming opportunity but am unsure how best to proceed. What can I reasonably ask for from this contact?

Ryan from Pennsylvania

Having the attention of the CEO of a successful studio is a good thing. Don’t assume he (or she) is not involved in creative decisions. A number of studio heads have built careers on creative vision.

You can ask for a number of things:

First, you can ask if he can refer you to an agent. Referrals are the best way to obtain an agent. If the CEO does not know any agents, ask him to introduce you to the development execs at his company. They certainly know agents. Let them know you’d like to find a beginning agent with a good agency who people in the industry really like.

Second, you can ask him if he will assist you in submitting your script to his studio. Get his candid opinion on whether you should bring it straight in through him or whether you should submit it through a producer. If he prefers the latter, ask him to introduce you to a producer that might submit it. Producers regularly submit scripts they do not own to studios on behalf of writers with the informal understanding that if the studio buys the script, the producer will be attached to produce it for the studio.

Third, you can ask him to mentor you with respect to career development. Obviously, you will not want to ask this until you have some feel for whether his mentorship will be helpful. If you believe it will be, he may be open to this. Many high level executives appreciate the acknowledgement and opportunity to share their experience and make a difference for up-and-comers. Even if you do not feel comfortable asking him to mentor you, at least ask him if you can contact him from time to time if you have industry questions. This is one way to build relationships and writing careers are all about relationships. If he says, “yes,” get his contact information including email and be sure to follow up so you do, in fact, build a relationship.

Good luck with the studio head.



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Posted June 14, 2005 by TW in category "The Business

8 COMMENTS :

  1. By Fun Joel on

    I did include one bit of advice over on my blog about a submission of this sort, but I’ll repost here. If you do submit a screenplay for consideration using a personal contact, ask if it is possible to have the submission listed as submitted anonymously, or by a pseudonym. Readers seeing a script submitted by author will know I likely came through a connection, rather than an agent, which might negatively cloud their judgment.

  2. By Alex Epstein on

    If the reader knows it’s coming in from the studio head, they are practically obliged to give it positive coverage. Which is not a bad thing if it’s your script that’s being covered.

  3. By TW (Post author) on

    It is definitely a good thing to have it known by the readers that a studio head submitted your project.

  4. By Fun Joel on

    Interesting. I actually disagree with Alex and TW, though maybe that’s because I haven’t read for any of the Majors. Still, even at a place like New Line, or a company like Walden Media, when something comes in from one of the top guys at the company, I feel no special obligation to give it good coverage. As I see it, if they didn’t want my honest opinion, they wouldn’t be having me do coverage on it. They’d just be putting it straight into production! The only real “special” attention I give a script that’s submitted via one of the “big bosses” is to be extra careful about meeting my deadline (sometimes they’re a bit more flexible), and making sure that I write a higher QUALITY coverage, even if my opinion is that the script sucks.

    At the same time, when I was reading for an agent at William Morris Agency, in NYC, if he decided to take a project out to producers (he primarily was involved in book-to-film sales), he would often have me “re-write” my coverage to make it more positive. For what that’s worth!

  5. By Fun Joel on

    Hmm, I guess that’s even more interesting/peculiar when I notice that you, TW, used to read for New Line as well. Hmmm.

  6. By TW (Post author) on

    Joel –

    You’re reading more into my comment than was intended. I wouldn’t say that producer or studio readers feel a special obligation to give anything good coverage unless they are directly requested to do so, which is rare. I would say I have never heard of a reader giving anything worse coverage because it came from a studio head. In my own reader experience (from long ago), I know that I certainly paid careful attention to any material submitted by senior executives. Even if I was crushed with a pile of scripts and manuscripts and could never get them all adequately considered by my deadline, the script from the VIP definitely got careful attention.

  7. Pingback: The Thinking Writer » Blog Archive » READER PREJUDICE

  8. By Fun Joel on

    Fair enough TW — sorry for lumping you in there, though it certainly seems that that is what Alex was saying. 🙂

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