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Taking a Trip to Los Angeles to Jump Start Your Screenwriting Career

A got a few questions from two aspiring screenwriters a couple weeks ago who were planning a trip to Los Angeles.

1. What are some ways to arrange meetings before we arrive in L.A.?

2. While there, do you have suggestions on how to meet industry people? Are there any bars/spots we should visit to network?

3. What are your thoughts about going to a company directly to give them a script?

If you read my blog regularly you’ll know that I’m a big proponent of moving to Los Angeles if you’re serious about becoming a screenwriter.  I’ve written these two posts on the topic:

Do you have to live in Los Angeles to be a screenwriter?

Moving to Los Angeles and preparing for the long haul

While I think a short visit to L.A. will be fun and certainly can’t hurt, I’m doubtful that it will result in any tangible benefits – unless of course you use the trip as a launching pad to moving here.

With that said, if you’re planning a trip to Los Angeles I think there are a few things you can do to make the trip as valuable as possible.

1. What are some ways to arrange meetings before we arrive in L.A.?

I would sign up with IMDb Pro where you can find agent, manager, and producer contact info, and cold call a few agents and producers.  Pitch them your script and try and set up a meeting.  Offer to buy them lunch (or breakfast or dinner or coffee or drinks) even if they aren’t interested in your script idea.  Tell them the truth: you’re just starting out and you’re looking to meet people in the business to learn as much as possible.

http://www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/links/amazon/73

Most people in the industry didn’t get to where they are because of nepotism or blind luck, they got to where they are because they worked hard.  They were once a newbie too so many people will have compassion for people trying to break in, especially if they’re polite, energetic and seem smart.  Not everyone will be willing to meet but a few might.

Keep in mind what you’re trying to do with these meetings.  You’re not trying to sell your script – if that happens great but it probably won’t.  You’re trying to sell yourself.  What you’re hoping for is to learn what this agent / producer is looking for and to get some quality face time with them so that you can contact them in the future as you write more scripts.  Make sure you get their card and put their information into your rolodex of industry contacts.

You’re going to need great phone sales skills and you’re going to need to make dozens – if not hundreds – of calls for this to work.  Over the course of several days of making hundreds of calls you should be able to set up at least a few meetings.

2. While there, do you have suggestions on how to meet industry people? Are there any bars/spots we should visit to network?

If I were you I would try and line up as many meetings as possible and simply ask at the meeting if they know of any good networking hotspots.  If you’re lucky they might be going to a party that they’d invite you to.

I’m reluctant to recommend any place specific because on any given night there could be no one in the industry in a given place.  However, as a rule Hollywood, Venice, or Santa Monica are pretty trendy places and any bar will have at least a few entertainment people.  In all my years in L.A. I’ve never made a single meaningful contact at a party or bar so I’m not speaking from experience here.  Hopefully you can work a room better than I can.

3. What are your thoughts about going to a company directly to give them a script?

I wouldn’t do this.  Unless you’re an absolutely great salesman and you’re used to this sort of door-to-door pitching I doubt it’s going to work out.  L.A. is very spread out so you won’t be able to get to enough companies in a day to make this work.  People who work in the entertainment industry are busy and they’re not going to want to drop everything to meet with an unannounced stranger.

Spend your time cold calling companies before you get out there.  At least with a phone call you’re only taking a few minutes of their time and then you’re letting them pick a convenient time to meet.

If anyone is taking a trip to Los Angeles and tries any of this out please let me know.  It would be great to hear some in the trenches stories from people who have had some success doing this.