Glad You Asked Dept. 3/25/14
Today’s question comes from JR in – well, in Mexico City, what do you know? But his question is relevant to everyone – everywhere – who wants to write for TV or, for that matter, film. So:
I’m an American living in Mexico City, and what I want more than anything is to write for TV. Insofar as I’m pretty darn far from Hollywood and have absolutely no show business contacts of my own, I wonder if you could tell me what’s your take on the online services that send out and otherwise make available your resume, logline, synopsis, script, etc. to various agents, studios, and producers? Can they help me get discovered?
I get asked this question a lot, which means I’ve thought about it a lot. Hell, I thought about it before I ever came to L.A. too, back in the mists of time. Here’s the result of all that thinking:
Dear Jack R,
When it comes to getting discovered and all that, I have to say that I don’t believe in using any service like the one you describe no matter how reputable or well-intentioned – because the deep and, surprisingly not so dark secret of showbiz success when you get right down to it – is that everything’s personal.
In other words, it’s all about making the right friends, and genuinely regarding them as friends and not simply “contacts.”
Every producer, showrunner, agent, manager, and executive I know has at all times two piles of scripts on his or her desk. The first pile is by writers s/he knows. The second pile is by writers s/he doesn’t know (mostly agented because otherwise how would they get there, regardless of the various services we’re sort of talking about here?) but an accidental few not. And the goal of every one of the possessors of those desks every day is to clear that desk of all of them…by reading the scripts in the following order:
1) Those written by writers s/he knows
2) Those written by everyone else
No one I’ve ever known has read from Group 2 until finishing everything from Group 1. Which means:
My producer, executive, et all friends never read Group 2 because they never finish everything by Group 1. How can they, with both groups being continuously replenished?
And, because Group 1 is by definition “friends,” no script service can get you or anyone else into it. Only knowing and hanging and being out there with the right people can.
Jack, I’m sure you have great reasons for living in Mexico. I envy you for both the place and the great reasons. But if you want to get your work to those who matter you need to be on a first-or-last-name basis with them out there in beautiful L.A. At the very least you need credible representation that is.
Sure it’s a gamble. All the arts are gambles. And you can’t get away with small bets. You have to bet your heart, your soul, your very life on your talent. You have to risk everything. Because everyone you want to work with has already done that very thing. They understand it. They respect it. Hell, they demand it.
What’s that? You’ve never heard or read that anywhere else before? You’ve read that showbiz is a meritocracy? That talent will out? Well, the good news is that talent indeed will out – after you’ve made the necessary friends. Just like every other job.
Time to face it: One of the things showbiz as a cultural entity excels in is making itself look far, far better than it is. Even knowledgeable showbiz insiders recite the old stories about lucky hopefuls and equal opportunity so much that they come to believe them themselves. But the smart way to work yourself in through the door is to ignore the facade and get to know the man behind the curtain. Make him love you. That plus your ability to do the thing you do will make you – I mean it – a star.
Hope I haven’t depressed you. Remember – knowledge is power. You now know a little more about the system. Use that knowledge wisely and mercilessly.
That’s it, gang. I love addressing these issues, but I can’t answer if you don’t ask. So send your questions and make everyone’s day!