You nabbed a Hollywood meeting with a notable producer, director, network or studio executive what tips could I give you to make sure you give good meeting and make a memorable impression?
Starting with what to wear. You stand in the mirror and wonder how do I dress? No worries, just dress shabby chic. If you are a guy that means if you decide on jeans then wear an expensive pair of shoes or if you wear sneakers make sure you sport a nice shirt and jacket. I have no idea what shabby chic is for a women. I guess if you go casual then make sure something on your person is notably elegant.
Now you’re on the way to one of the production offices, networks or studios.
Before you turn the key in your car (yes, in California we drive everywhere) know all you can about the person(s) you are meeting. Try to at least have a list of films or television shows they worked on or what production companies or networks or studios they have worked.
I once lost a possible job writing for a television show because I did not know my potential employer worked on a particular show unrelated to my potential job. Yes, my potential employer was offended and told my agent how offended she was that I was clueless about her history.
So you are on your way to meet Spielberg or someone of his elk and you are running late. No problem.
No one in Hollywood runs on time. So if you get stuck in traffic or miss a turn and find yourself embarrassingly late, just make sure you call the office where your meeting is to take place and let them know.
You will be granted immediate amnesty when you call and say you are lost or running late. I have been a paid screenwriter for twenty years and I have never walked into the lobby to say I’ve arrived and been greeted in less than ten minutes. Every single day producer and executive meetings spill over and push the rest of his or her meetings all day long. Count on it. That doesn’t mean you should be late but if you are tardy avoid pushing through without notifying someone you will only to walk into the lobby to find unwelcoming gazes. Just call. They will love you for it.
When you are guided down the hall to the office of the meeting you will be inevitably asked by an assistant, “would you like some water, coffee or soda?”
Always say “No thank you”
The best etiquette in Hollywood is to not be served or waited on by anyone in the building. Assistants are going to be promoted one day and they will remember if you made them race down the hall for a Ginger Ale not stocked in their particular refrigerator. Trust me. Always say “no thank you.”
If you are dying of thirst and your mouth is insufferably dry from nervousness the next greatest way to win appreciation is to say “Yes, thank you. Where can I find it?”
When you don’t treat the assistants like ‘The Help’ they will like and remember you.
You are about to walk into the room, I want you to remember something very important.
When you speak, speak to everyone in the room. Sometimes you will not know who is in charge. Sometimes an assistant will take notes. It doesn’t matter. If there is more than one person in the room keep your eyes roving between everyone. Treat everyone equally.
When you concentrate on the wrong person it will sink your meeting. When you lock eyes on one person everyone else will feel left out. Believe me. Some studio executives take offense if you disregard their note taking assistant. Talk to everyone in the room.
Next, when you walk into a meeting and take your seat make sure you have some interesting pre-amble.
It could be a clever joke or just a statement about your baby keeping you up all night. Get everyone in the room relaxed by a relaxed comment about the weather, your favorite basketball team, how much your daughter’s soccer team got slaughtered by… make them laugh or better yet, encourage them to join you in their own story about their own daughter’s soccer team.
Kids or relationship foibles are an easy and soft landing. A simple “where are you from?” is also safe.
I once went through an entire meeting without knowing the showrunner and I were born in the same hospital in Cincinnati. If I had any idea I would have nabbed that job. Unfortunately there was no nabbing of anything on that particular day. I can tell you it was one of my favorite shows and I really wanted to write for them. I can’t say what show but I will let you know I got a ‘case of the cold’ and blew my chance.
Avoid politics, religion or sexual preferences at all cost. Those are black holes that keep you falling and falling until you end up back at home contemplating a high cliff dive.
Also avoid berating any television show or movie. Six degrees of separation will jump up and bite you in the butt. Someone will have ended up working on that one movie that you announce you walked out on. Trust me on this one. It’s written in stone.
If you can also avoid overly praising a particular show or movie. Remember six degrees. That movie you’re going on about could be the one job Spielberg was fired from. I’m not kidding.
If you have done your homework compliment them on something you’re sure they were a part of.
When everyone in the room is relaxed and decided you are well informed, funny and friendly because your preamble was breathtaking, take a minute before you launch into your pitch or script idea.
Try to get a little information from them about themselves. An easy question like “how long have you been the president of DreamWorks?”
The best meetings are when you can get your interviewer (s) to talk a bit about themself(ves). This doesn’t mean a list of questions from date of birth to have you ever been mugged. One little, unobtrusive question that has something to do with the person(s) you are meeting and how they got to where they are today.
If they are in a bad mood and look at their watch when you politely ask them a question about themselves, the next best move is to give a little story about how you came up with the idea for your pitch or script. Sometimes the humor of how it came to you will win you the audience more than the pitch or idea itself.
Now they are rolling on the floor and slapping their knees. Tell your pitch, hit the characters you know will compel them and hit the small story. If you don’t know what ‘the small story’ means… slowly back out of the room, get my book Beyond Screenwriting and read the section on ‘the small story.’
From the time you enter the room from the time you are finished should not be more than twenty minutes unless you are hit with a load of questions about your idea or script. That is a good sign. They are interested.
Now the last and greatest move of all, make sure you end the meeting before anyone begins stealing glances at their watches. Politely stand before anyone calls and end to the meeting.
Make sure it’s not awkward or abrupt but make sure you end the meeting. Like the late John Wooden quoted “Be quick but don’t hurry.”
It is a bit of a skill to exit gracefully but it must be learned. Be the first to stand and say thank you. If they beat you to it the meeting has ended on a bad note. Avoid ending any meeting on a bad note.
I once had 53 Hollywood meetings in less than two months. I made plenty of mistakes. Hopefully I have helped you avoid some of the critical mistakes I have made.
By the way on my 53rd meeting, my pre-amble was “you will not believe this but I have had 53 meetings in 2 months.” The development executive laughed out loud. She not only hired me to write a film, we are still good friends to this day. And she is now the president of television programming for a major studio.
You now know at least the basics to giving good Hollywood meeting. Now go knock them dead.