The One Question Everyone In Hollywood Asks And How To Answer

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Make The Most Of Your Meetings With This Answer

When we start out as screenwriters, we sometimes believe that the one question everyone will ask is: “What are you working on?” This is definitely a question that gets asked. But often times, you could be in a situation where you’re invited to a “meet and greet” or a “general meeting” (as those in the industry call it when there isn’t a specific project to discuss but a Hollywood executive likes your writing and wants to get to know the writer). The agent, manager or producer has already read your script. They know you can string together a story. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be there.

In fact, the real purpose of the “meet and greet” is often to find out about you.

No agent, manager or producer wants to work with someone who is difficult. They want someone who would be a good collaborator, because collaboration is the name of the game in film. They want someone they connect with, because they’re going to spend a good bit of time with any writer they hire (industry insiders say the average time from script to screen in Hollywood is roughly seven years). Part of your job at the “meet and greet” is to sell yourself as a person.

Not many of us enjoy selling ourselves. It can be awkward and embarrassing. But since it’s such an important part of the meeting structure here in Hollywood, let’s think about some ways to pitch yourself.

It took a lot to get this story going. 300 (2006) Photo courtesy: Warner Bros.

It took a lot to get this story going. 300 (2006) Photo courtesy: Warner Bros.

No 1 – Think of yourself as a protagonist in a story

This may sound strange at first, but think about it: everyone loves a good story. So tell them one — only make it about you. If you were the hero in your next script, what would it be about? Set it up like a logline. What was your life before you decided to be a screenwriter? What made you decide to take up screenwriting? How has your life changed? What are your goals? What kinds of movies do you want to write, and why?

You needn’t go overboard and say that you battled wild boars to get to Hollywood. Stick to the truth, but tell it like a story.

She's totally normal. Nothing to see here. Move along. Stepford Wives (2004) Photo courtesy: Paramount

She’s totally normal. Nothing to see here. Move along. Stepford Wives (2004) Photo courtesy: Paramount

No 2 – Come up with a good hook

So, here’s the gamey part. You need a hook for your story, just like you need a hook for your movie.

You want people to be immediately interested in hearing what you have to say about yourself. The best way to do this, often, is to say something unexpected. What makes you unusual?

Are you an amateur taxidermist? Do you have a side hustle selling homemade pickled eggs? Sometimes being ordinary can be the hook. For instance: “I was the most ordinary housewife anyone had ever met until I stumbled on a screenwriting book at the library’s 50¢ sale. Now, I write horror.” The point is: give us a hook.

Best. Posse. Ever. Baywatch (1991-2001) Photo courtesy: NBC

Best. Posse. Ever. Baywatch (1991-2001) Photo courtesy: NBC

No 3 – Make your aspirations clear

Part of your answer needs to be focused on what you hope to accomplish as a writer. This is not the time to quote your Best Screenwriter Award acceptance speech or explain how you would like to rule the world or at the very least own oceanfront property in Malibu and invite all your highly-toned friends over.

Be specific about your writing goals, and explain why you’re interested in them. Some people want to work on children’s animated shows; some want to write popcorn action flicks; some want to be indie queens; some want to work in development. Obviously, if you end up with a bunch of highly-toned friends who wear nothing but red bathing suits, all the better.

Just make sure it’s a good story. And when anyone says “tell me about yourself,” start with the hook.

What would you say in a meeting? We’d love to hear about you.

 

author-avatar

Jennie Evenson is the author of “Shakespeare for Screenwriters” (Michael Wiese, 2013) and the forthcoming “Storytelling Secrets of the Masters.” As a writer in LA, Evenson worked as a consultant for Netflix and developed ideas at production houses from DreamWorks to Focus Features. You can follow her on Twitter: @JM_Evenson

9 Replies to "The One Question Everyone In Hollywood Asks And How To Answer"

  • comment-avatar
    Heidi Haaland July 28, 2016 (3:32 pm)

    Tweeting this!

  • comment-avatar
    Diane Williams July 28, 2016 (3:50 pm)

    Your picture is not Spartacus. That’s Gerard Butler as King Leonides in Zach Snyder’s “300.”

  • comment-avatar
    Alain Raymond July 28, 2016 (5:07 pm)

    It’s always a hard sell talking about oneself. That’s why agents and managers exist. Thank you for the tips.

    Here is my hook: aspiring filmmaker turned soldier, soldier turned to medical provider and now medical provider returning to his roots of filmmaking.

  • comment-avatar
    william sowles July 28, 2016 (7:59 pm)

    T’was the ‘Rader’s of the Lost Ark’ that got me into writing.

  • comment-avatar
    Robin Brantley July 29, 2016 (7:49 am)

    Who you are really IS as important as your script. I was an American girl who found herself runnin’ from the Ayatollah Khomeni, escaped back to the States to run off at 15 and become an Olympic equestrian contender. Then I then met the love of my life and ran across the stages of the Great Northwest for a good stretch with my band and my guitar. 50 songs and book about Iran later, I’ve now fallen in love with the art of screenwriting. Been working on story alone for over 6 months now and yes, the love of my life is my writing partner 😉

  • comment-avatar
    Prema Rose August 4, 2016 (9:07 am)

    I was an actress on Broadway and top North American regional companies when I had an NDE that changed my life. In a few months the download of the firs draft of The MicroCosmic Cartoon Show came through on Christmas Eve. I found the spiritual path that I had been searching for and went on a 7 1/2 year pilgrimage around the world and back again. This animated/live action musical is deep in development.

  • comment-avatar
    Michael August 9, 2016 (3:36 pm)

    Top motorsport journalist, first script that came close to getting picked up was based in the motocross world.

    I’m an avid UFO investigator and threscript that got optioned was sci-fi Roswell: The Beginning. Yes aliens exist, X Files was right.

    I am an Amateur champion motocross racer, but I’ve made all of $250 racing but thanks writing about racing…lol, easy decision what I’m best at.

    But the kicker is as a telephone spliced repairman, I installed phone lines at the prodco of The Preachers Wife, was on the set of Rollerball when a bodybuilder actress I recognized mistook me for a Producer. And I repaired lines for the prodco of Mona Lisa Smile and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

    While these were exciting jobs to be working on, they were still a tease, Hollywood came to my hometown of Yonkers NY but I was still an outsider looking in. My day is coming, Roswell:The Beginning. 👆💪🙏💗😎

  • comment-avatar
    Michael August 9, 2016 (3:43 pm)

    Top motorsport journalist, first script that came close to getting picked up was based in the motocross world.

    I’m an avid UFO investigator and the script that got optioned was sci-fi Roswell: The Beginning. Yes aliens exist, X Files was right.

    I am an Amateur championship winning motocross racer, I’ve made all of $250 racing but thousands writing about racing…lol, easy decision what I’m best at. I’m the official biographer of Hall of Fame racer Steve Wise.

    But the kicker is as a telephone splicer repairman, I installed phone lines at the prodco of The Preachers Wife, was on the set of Rollerball when a bodybuilder actress I recognized mistook me for a Producer. And I repaired lines for the prodco of Mona Lisa Smile and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

    While these were exciting jobs to be working on, they were still a tease, Hollywood came to my hometown of Yonkers NY but I was still an outsider looking in. My day is coming, Roswell:The Beginning. 👆💪🙏💗😎

  • comment-avatar
    Veleka Gray August 19, 2016 (7:46 am)

    I worked on daytime dramas for fifteen years, and all the time I was on those soaps, acting other people’s dialogue, telling other people’s stories, I felt I could do that, too. I loved movies as a child. It’s how my mother baby-sat me. So naturally I wanted to write them, and I’m writing one now that my child self would love to watch.

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