This post is a follow-up on the previous How to Find a Producer for Your Screenplay. If you’ve already found a producer (or we have put you in touch with one) and you’ve scheduled a meeting or a video call, this post is for you.
For many emerging writers and directors, having a professional meeting with a producer is a long-cherished dream. Still, selling yourself and your work effectively isn’t any easier, especially when you don’t know who you’re speaking with personally, and you only have limited time.
Here you can find a few things you should keep in mind when getting ready for your meeting and suggestions to make the best out of your new connection. You can use the same tips if your script gets selected by our Pitch Network.
#1 Introducing yourself
I always like to think about this as a three-act structure: (1) where I come from, (2) what I’m doing, (3) what I plan to do in the future. Telling your experience in the form of a story works great for two reasons. First, referring to specific events and experiences in your past is always a great ice-breaker. You never know which experiences the person you’re speaking with has gone through (maybe they have once been to the place where you grew up!). Secondly, storytelling is always a great way to make the interlocutor empathise with you.
Keep your introduction short and clear. This isn’t because your past doesn’t deserve attention, but simply because you may want to have more time to spend talking about your project and your creative vision later in the conversation.
#2 Focus on your strengths
Most established producers in this industry are busy and constantly swamped with meetings and calls. If you have a shot at getting your foot in the door, you’ve to do it with a positive mindset and self-confidence. When you’re speaking about yourself and your project, focus on your strengths and the things that are working. You’ve got a meeting scheduled, which already implies your future interlocutor is interested in you or your story, so use your achievements and assets to stand out.
#3 Know what you like and why
It doesn’t matter if your main job is in hospitality or you’re a full-time dentist. People working in the film and TV industries always assume you know your references well— all the films, series, writers, directors, and so on that you love and have inspired you to write your script. A producer wants to understand your vision and taste, so mentioning other people’s work is always great for both parties because you can find common ground in the things you both know. You should also keep in mind why you love a specific film/series or writer/director. Producers might not be interested in the craft’s nitty-gritty as much as writers/directors are, but each has their own taste. Help them understand yours.
#4 Do solid Research
A knight must sharpen their sword before going to battle. Before getting into a professional meeting, you do solid Research. That’s not casual chitchat in a café. First, you find out what you can about the producer you’re about to meet or call: what they have produced so far and what’s boiling in their pot. If you have time, watch something with their name on it. This is unlikely to come up during the conversation, but you may want to be prepared on the off chance.
While researching, remember to take a look at what’s already out there. Are you writing a thriller? Search the thrillers that have done well recently. Most importantly, be prepared to explain how and where your project fits in the cinematic/TV landscape and the market. Why and how it’s different. Why it’s relevant to today’s audience, ventures underexplored territories or addresses important issues.
#5 Your work is relevant but not the only topic
During the conversation, you can make connections between a certain topic and your project. In the end, you want your story and vision to stick out. For instance, if you’re talking about a specific story, feel free to explain why your project is different or works better in other regards. It’s always nice to meet people who enjoy speaking about what they’re working on. However, this goes without saying that you can’t steer the conversation as you please, no matter the topic. Be respectful of the natural flow of the conversation.
What if, halfway through the meeting, the producer goes: “… And what else have you been writing?”. Yes, the producer might not be that interested in your project. It may take many meetings before somebody decides to option your script, and this is why meetings are, first and foremost, an excellent opportunity to sell yourself and build a working relationship. The same producer who turns your script down might contact you in the future for another writing job, read your next scripts, or pass your contact to a colleague. Again, be prepared to talk about other things.
#6 Lying will get you nowhere
Every person is different, and with this kind of meetings, you never know what to expect until you get there. Maybe, you’re so lucky to meet a producer who’s immensely talented in their job, but you two aren’t like-minded people when it comes to art and creativity. Maybe, they appreciate your work, but you simply don’t click. For this reason, you should think about these suggestions as guidelines rather than binding how-tos. During the meeting, you should be truthful with yourself and your work and expect the same from the other. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, like delivering a new draft in a week or praising the qualities of a script you haven’t even started writing. They will remember what you say, and it does no good to you if they find out you lied to them.