I’m often asked in workshops and on panels what you have to do to succeed in the business. There’s lots of answers to that, but let me tell you a story that illustrates what NOT to do.
My friend Doug, who was a creative executive at Steven Spielberg’s company at the time, went to Chicago for his grandfather’s funeral. They were close so it was an emotional experience. The rabbi did a wonderful job celebrating his grandpa’s life. When the service was finished Doug thanked him for giving such a moving tribute. As they walked to their cars together the rabbi turned to Doug and said: “Do you think Steven would be interested in a project about a sensitive young rabbi coming of age in Israel? I have the script in the car. I’d love it if you’d read it and give it Steven.”
Not only was it the worst possible moment to pitch an idea, it was impossibly rude – and presumptuous. What was Mr. Rabbi thinking? He’d never met Doug. They didn’t have a prior relationship yet he asked for one of the biggest Hollywood favors: would you read my script and pass it on to your boss?
Unfortunately, in that brief encounter Mr. Rabbi committed at least 3 Hollywood sins:
- Thou shall not ask someone you don’t know to take time out of their demanding schedules to read your script (or worse — ask them to evaluate the script and give you feedback on it).
- Thou shall not ask someone you don’t know to risk their job and reputation by recommending the script to their boss.
- Thou shall not put someone you don’t know in the painfully awkward situation of having to reject you and your script if it isn’t good enough or isn’t right for the company.
So if you want to be taken seriously and not burn any bridges (two vital ingredients for a successful Hollywood career) here are some essential guide lines:
- Never ask someone to read your script the first time you meet them, unless they specifically ask you for it.
- If you’re going to ask someone you know to read your script, ask first if they have the time.
- If someone agrees to read your script, don’t expect specific notes unless they offer.
Here’s why: giving real notes, not just “it was great!” takes a lot time and effort. If someone’s generous enough to do that for you that’s awesome, but don’t expect it.
Don’t put anyone in the embarrassing position of having to reject you and your material by asking them to pass along your script to their boss.
Trust me; if they truly love it and passing it along will make them look good – they’ll definitely pass it along and take credit for finding a new talent.
Yes, to get ahead in this industry you must be bold, but thrusting your script on a stranger isn’t bold, it’s the tell tale sign of someone who has no idea how the business works – and it’s just plain bad manners.
If you have any questions about getting ahead in Hollywood email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.