Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Writing Week (Vol. 3) part 146 - The L.A. Trip

To say that it's been "quite the week" would be an understatement. The past four days have been some of the most important in my screenwriting career so far (if it can in fact be called a career). I met with some very well respected, very important people in Hollywood on Monday, and I'm pleased to say that things went incredibly well.

The agenda was simple: meet my manager face to face for the first time since we began working together in June of 2009, meet with my producer and the production exec we've been working with (both of whom I had met previously), and - most crucially - meet with an agent and a lawyer who were both interested in my post-Apocalyptic spec. In preparation for the meetings, I had a couple key jobs. First, I promised my manager a draft of the firefighter script by Friday, so that we could address the best way to talk about it in any meetings and go over points for the next draft. Next, I had to come up with three pitches for the agent - 3 or 4 sentences that I could go through in under a minute each to give an idea of other projects I've been thinking of. The overall goal for the meetings was to not only present myself as well-spoken and capable of taking a meeting, but also trying to prove that I have the potential to be more than a one-time writer. While both the agent and lawyer liked my post-Apocalyptic spec, they each would (rightly) want more from me than just that.

On Saturday, I flew out to L.A. for the first time since I was in fifth grade and on a family trip to visit my aunts in Pasadena. Sunday was the meeting with Kevin, my manager. We'd spoken on the phone and via email countless times, but our faces were still a mystery to one another. We met for coffee at noon at my hotel and talked for the next two hours. Kevin prepped me a lot for the two meetings I had on Monday - an 11am with the agent and the lawyer at 5pm. We discussed the first draft of a new spec (the firefighter one), which I managed to get to him Thursday night. We went over the three pitches I prepared. We talked movies, getting me a couple talking points (what I've liked most recently, what I most enjoy or most frequently see in theaters, basically what I'd want to write).

I spent most of my free-time Saturday and Sunday running over the pitches, repeating them like a mantra. I'd shuffle between them, making myself repeat any of them at any moment. If I got so much as one word wrong, I'd start from the top. Doing some vocal work, I added crescendos and falls here and there, trying to make them as engaging as possible. By the end of the night Sunday, I could have repeated them in my sleep. 

Monday was the big day, and it started with an unnerving, Murphy-esque realization. I woke up at what I thought was 8:30, ready for a slow breakfast before heading to the agency. When I turned on my phone and the morning news, thought, every other clock was telling me it was 7:30. Two hours later, I was still holding onto a shred of doubt as to what time it actually was. Somehow, as I slept, my alarm clock decided to jump ahead an hour. Better than falling back an hour, I suppose, but still a jarring way to start such a monumental day. I donned my Converse sneakers, jeans, and black dress-shirt, and I was ready for action.

Kevin accompanied me to the agent meeting. We waited a few minutes to be called in, making small talk as we sat there. I was still going over the pitches in my mind, cycling through them as quickly as I could. Finally, the agent's assistant came and got us. We thought a junior agent would be joining, but it wound up being just Kevin, the agent, and my self. The next 25 minutes were a combination of me trying to hold my own, absorb everything that was said (and not said), and trying not to sound too much like an idiot. Kevin prompted me to go through my ideas; the constant repeating of each 45 second pitch paid off, as I got through them without a hitch. Of the three, the agent latched onto one in particular, putting the first idea on the backburner for the time being. Unfortunately, that one that was tabled was the firefighter idea - which I'd just cranked out the first draft of - but we all agreed the idea he liked most was the most compelling. At this point, it's also the one that I have the most work to do on.

At about 11:30, we left the office. A lot of hand shaking and "nice to meet you" escorted us out the door. Kevin and I stood in silence as we waited for the elevator to take us down to the ground floor. My neuroses kicked in as soon as we stepped outside, and I needed Kevin to reassure me no fewer than six times that the meeting went well. He's done this much more than I have, so I trusted him when he said he thought it was a meeting to be proud of.

I had about 5 hours to kill before meeting with the lawyer (a meeting which Kevin would not be at with me). At many times, I was one of the only people standing vertically and not encased in an automobile (typically a Porsche, Lexus, Mercedes, or Jaguar) as I walked around Beverly Hills, coming down off the meeting and getting some exercise. It was rainy/dreary pretty much the entire time I was out there, so I didn't spend too much time out and about. But those walks after/before a meeting were a good way to calm down. 

At 5, I was in the reception area at the law firm, drinking a Diet Coke (which I took the third time it was offered), and reading a Hollywood Reporter. I was soon met by the lawyer - one of the partners in a firm that almost exclusively handles writers - and we spent the next hour talking one-on-one. We discussed everything from how I got into writing to what I wanted for my career, who the lawyer's clients are and what kind of situations he's dealt with to what he would do for me. We talked about my script and what I could reasonably expect (all types of scenarios) from future progress on it. It was another very solid meeting, and an hour definitely well spent.

The promising thing about both men I met with was that neither tried to sell me an immediate fortune. They were both realistic in that, while everyone would hope to sell the script sooner than later, the post-Apocalyptic project might not prove to be the one that fills my bank account with more zeros than the number of women I've been rejected by. Still, they were both hopefully for this project, and would do what they could - should we all wind up working together - to get it somewhere.

That night, Kevin, my producer Gretchen, and I all had dinner to celebrate the meetings and the potential for the project. It wasn't until the next morning that I found out just how successful the meetings were. I landed both the agent and the lawyer (will name drop if/when I'm positive I can), and the team is going to start discussing strategies for the script within the coming days. It looks like we'll try to package it, but that's all up in the air.

As my agent said to me during the meeting, my "job is both very simple and very difficult right now," I have to keep writing. I owe him a new script come winter. Time to get cracking.