SWS Question 3: If a writer living outside of L.A. writes “the right script” do they really have a chance of creating heat in Hollywood? (And what if they live outside the United States?)
CHRISTOPHER LOCKHART*: If an out-of-town writer scores a local manager or agent, the writer can certainly see results. However, because the business is so competitive, I think a writer really needs to be in Hollywood to maintain his professional status. He wants to mingle with those who do the hiring. He wants his face in front of producers and executives in order to create relationships. It’s not easy to break into this business, let alone maintain a career. Distance makes maintenance even more difficult. Once you land on the “A” list, then you can pretty much live wherever you please. But it might be difficult to get on the “A” list without spending some time in town.
But if you don’t live in L.A., believe it or not, your being in Iraq or France isn’t all that different from a writer living in Missoula, Montana.
Most communication between writers and Hollywood is through letters, e-mails and phone calls. Since you cannot attend parties to mingle and network, you’ll have to make contact in other ways.
Firstly, you must exhaust all your existing contacts. Be sure to squeeze them of any helpful information and leads.
Although many hate the dreaded query letter, they DO work in terms of getting someone to read a script. Query letters are a way to let executives know who you are and what your script is about.
Although you’ll want to query production companies, managers and agents – your efforts might be best served by pursing management.
The likelihood of you being able to find the right production company for your script can be very difficult. Finding a manager might be a bit easier. Also, once situated with a manager (who will help guide you), he will come up with a logical strategy for marketing you and your scripts. Managers are a good choice for new writers who are developing their craft and business acumen.
In tomorrow’s post Lockhart will address loglines and querry letters.
* Christopher Lockhart is a film executive, educator and producer. He is the Story Editor at WME, the world’s biggest talent agency, where he looks for projects for “A” list clients including Denzel Washington and Steve Martin. He has an MFA in dramatic writing from NYU and lectures around the country. His writing workshop “The Inside Pitch” was produced for television and earned him an LA Area Emmy nomination. He co-produced “The Collector” (2009) and its sequel (in post production) “The Collection” (2012). He wrote and produced the documentary “Most Valuable Players (2010),” which won the “Documentary Channel Audience Award” at the 2011 Nashville Film Festival and was acquired by Oprah Winfrey as part of the OWN Documentary Club for a fall 2011 premiere. He has been a guest judge for screenwriting contests like Big Break!, The Wisconsin Screenwriting Contest and the UCLA Showcase 2011. Christopher is a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, The Writers Guild of America, West and the Producers Guild of America.
Lockhart’s blog is “The Inside Pitch”; A Hollywood executive discusses screenwriting. The Inside Pitch; Selling A Script in Hollywood is available on DVD.