I recently emailed back and forth with Michael G. McLarty, a screenwriter who lives in Mobile, Alabama. He mentioned that he had a screenplay optioned and had done it by networking online. I asked him to write a guest blog post on how exactly he did it, and Michael was nice enough to agree.
I’m always looking for helpful, real world examples of how screenwriters are optioning and selling their material. So if you have had some success recently and would like to share your experience with the readers of SellingYourScreenplay.com please let me know.
Here is Michael’s post…
Networking and the Screenwriter
It goes without saying that living in the Los Angeles area confers many networking benefits not available to the humble writer who makes his or her abode elsewhere. The ability to engage vis-à-vis with talent, producers, directors, and others in the industry is an advantage that cannot be understated.
For many of us though, struggling artists in the nascent stages of our careers, this is simply not feasible. Obligations of family, jobs, and the myriad other tangibles that take up so much of our time, time that we would love to be devoting to honing our craft, make relocation impossible.
Yet there are still many things you can do to lessen this deficit. Make no mistake; this is not a substitute for living in LA. It is my hope though that my own volleys and missteps into the arena of online networking may help some other writer out there in their pursuit of “living the dream”.
My name is Michael G. McLarty, and like so many of you I am a screenwriter who lives far away from the Promised Land. Currently I hang my hat in Mobile, AL. The only “LA” I am familiar with is “Lower Alabama”. Yet I have one script optioned, Letters of Intent for another project in the works, and numerous production companies seeking funding for some of my other scripts. I am going to tell you how I went about securing these successes, as modest as they may be.
An introvert, albeit a friendly one, I stumbled into the advantages of networking purely by happenstance. In the earlier stages of my career I had tried many of the typical methods to getting my script read: query letters, blind mass emailing, in one year alone I spent over $500 entering contests. I knew that I needed someone who was a decision maker to read my screenplays, but the method to achieving that end eluded me.
I was vaguely aware of social networking sites and services: Face Book, Twitter, what have you. I had formed a casual acquaintanceship on Twitter with the organizer of one the contests I had entered (Shriekfest, run by the lovely and charming Denise Gossett, and one of the few contests I continue to endorse wholeheartedly), and it was during one of our conversations that a well known actress replied and subsequently “followed” me.
Honestly, I thought nothing of it. Still, I was intrigued enough to research her on IMDB and learned that horror films were her specialty. I had just finished a limited budget horror spec, so I wrote to her about it and promised to send it to her should it ever win any awards. I did not think our dealings would go further.
Instead, she requested a copy of the script. I obliged. There was a role in the screenplay that she found intriguing. As a further stroke of good luck, she knew a director who was actively reading scripts searching for his next project. She asked if she could send it to him. I’ve probably never replied to an email so quickly.
As it turns out, he had read hundreds of scripts, but mine fit the criteria for what he had been searching for. After some conference calls and emails over the course of a few months, I had my first option.
This experience opened my eyes to the benefits of networking. To achieve success in Hollywood, talent alone is not enough. That is a hard truth. Who you know, and who those people know, is an equal if not more important part of the equation.
Now I spend a fair amount of time networking, furthering my list of contacts. I use many tools:
- I have my own website with a list of my loglines. The URL is included in every email I send out.
- I created my own Face Book screenwriter page, again with information about my scripts.
- I have an Amazon Studios page and my IMDB profile is being constructed.
- I joined and converse with fellow artists and executives at Stage 32 (http://www.stage32.com/), a “Face Book” for those in the business.
- I follow others on Twitter and tweet about their projects.
In every interaction I keep the following guidelines in the forefront:
- Courtesy and Professionalism. This is a business, and one faux pas can irrevocably mark you as an amateur. I am unfailingly polite in my professional dealings and respond to any and all comments and queries with as much speed as possible. None of us can know everyone in the industry. Today’s student director might be tomorrow’s Spielberg. Courtesy now can reap big dividends later.
- Optimism: As the saying goes, if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all. This axiom is paramount. Regardless of your own opinions, always strive to find merit in another’s projects and wish them well on it.
- Symbiosis: Perhaps the most important concept of all, to further your own goals you must have something to offer another. Do not ask someone you don’t know to read your screenplay without first detailing the benefits the project would confer upon them. Dreams, ideas, there are tens of thousands of them. The reality is that, by themselves, they are universally worthless. Everyone who wants to be in this business has “the next great idea”. Why should anyone give a damn about yours? It’s your job to sell it to them, to explain explicitly why they should be spending their time on your script instead of someone else’s. Because before they even read the cover page, the question in the back of their mind is going to be “What’s in this for me?” If you have failed to answer that beforehand all your hard work was for nothing.
- Do not be pushy or obnoxious. Always be on the lookout for new contacts that could further your career, but understand that any professional with even a small amount of success is deluged daily with personal pleas from neophytes to read their script, watch their demo reel, check out their FX YouTube video, etc. When I make a new contact I give a friendly greeting, perhaps a word or two about my admiration for their body of work or current projects, and then leave them alone. I keep a careful eye on them and slowly build the relationship with optimistic and cheerful observations on their projects. It’s a slow process, but one that cannot be rushed. Eventually, hopefully, they or someone they know will be searching for someone with your unique skill set and have already formed a favorable opinion of you. You’ll be near the top of a very short list.
And always thank them for their time, as I now thank you for yours in reading this. It is my hope that I have helped some of you in whatever small measure my writings can afford. Feel free to send me a networking request on Stage 32, I want to get to know you. Perhaps someday we can help each other!
Michael G. McLarty