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Screen & Stage
January, 2008

The Shy Writer

Hollywood High
Knowing somebody who knows somebody
By  Ken Robinson

My take is you’ve got to find ways to get connected to get anywhere in this town.
hoo hooo, I finally made it to Hollywood.
Well sort of, I had to pay for it. And it wasn’t for “the meeting.” But I got to meet and greet James Caan, Joel Haley Osmut, Powers Booth, and Mark Harmon among others.
Okay enough with the tourist stuff. The meat of the trip was the days we spent meeting producers. We had five days which consisted of producers/production companies coming to our group, 10 to 15 of us, and giving us an hour of their time. They spoke to us about their company and their own war stories of getting movies done.
It was really amazing. Some of the movies these guys had made included Forrest Gump, Step Mom, The Fan, Holes, Urban Legend, Stir Crazy, Gladiator, Stuart little, Angels In America, Terminator 3, Under Siege, Pretty Woman, The Ring, The Grudge and this wasn’t even a full 2 days. The group that runs this is Sherwood Oaks Experimental College. Check them out.
What I learned in that week is that it really is who you know.

Even for the biggest producers to get a project up and running it was about which agents, stars, and directors they knew, and whom they could talk into jumping into the project. And even after you’ve gathered all the right people it’s still a crap shoot to get to filming. Even with an A-list writer, producer, director, and star it’s still a gamble if it will be worth watching after it’s done.
So for a writer, even if you have the greatest script since sliced bread was invented, who hasn’t made it to the big time yet; unless you can get it read by someone who knows someone it’s as useful as toilet paper. Actually toilet paper is better because it’s soft.

So your script is now in between the range of toilet paper and tree leafs. And tree leafs, we won’t even go there. But if you happen to be lost in forest and the call of nature hits, which sounds about right if you’re in the forest, just remember to use two leafs at a time, and the thicker the better. And I’m not telling you how I know that.
Even though there’s always the get-rich-quick stories of a writer hitting it big with the first script, that’s few and far between. So my take from the meetings was that you’ve got to find ways to get connected.
There are many ways to do that. One is to go to a recognized film school. From what I’ve seen the main advantage of spending the $25,000 a year is that when one of your fellow students that you partied to the wee hours with to get to know better becomes the newest guru at the studio, you have an in.
Another way to get connected is to move to the land of perpetual sunshine and hope that that big Hollywood agent starts getting his frapacino at the coffee shop you’re working in while you try to “make it”.
Another is to stay right where you are and start making connections with local filmmakers who can help you make your dream of seeing your work on the silver screen come true.

If you’ve ever gone to your local film festival, and you should be to network, you’ll notice that most independent filmmakers really need writers for their projects. Most try and write their own and eventually see the problem, they couldn’t write themselves out of a paper bag.

But most don’t know any writers. This is where you come in. While at the festival you hang out and meet a few people and strike up conversations and they find out you’re a writer and ask about your stuff.
All in all it comes down to that all of us closet bound sociophobic and pasty faced heliophobic writers are going to have to risk someone seeing our white legs and getting out there and meeting people. If “Hollywood” becomes interested in your script you’re eventually going to have to have “the meeting.”

So you might as well go and get some practice meeting and talking to filmmakers. You the writer will be the one doing the talking about your script in front of this big Hollywood studio exec. Is that the first time you want to have talked to a filmmaker? I don’t think so.
And you never know who is going to be the new flavor in Hollywood, it could be the skinny kid at the film festival with the crappy movie that was interested in your work. If you don’t get your work out there it will never be discovered.
Do you think Robert Rodriguez’s (Spy Kids, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, Sin City) fellow patients at the clinic, where he played medical guinea pig so he could have enough money to finish his film, thought he was going to be big enough to be able to quit the Directors Guild and still make Hollywood movies? I seriously doubt it.
I guess you could say he was literally committed. You should be as well.IN Icon 

Ken Robinson grew up and lives in Oklahoma. After five years in Ireland, he's been writing screenplays for two and a half years. Four of his scripts have been optioned by Woofenil Works, two low-budget projects now in preproduction, as well as West Law. His email address is:

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Screen & Stage
IN This Issue
Novel To Screenplay: Adaptation 101
Learning The Lingo
Elevator Exposure
Who Profits?
On The (Back) Lot
Lingua Scriptus
Part II: The Script's Key Plot Points
Part I: The Script's Key Plot Points
Origin Of The Screenplay
Scriptspeak: Writing Dialogue

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Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
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