Script Coverage Chronicles – March 2016: And You Thought Your Screenwriting Career Was About You?

Screenwriting can be frustrating, no doubt.  Rejections.  Blown deals.  Inexplicable heartbreak.  It’s all part of it.  But don’t take it all so personally, because there’s something I’ve learned along the way:  So many decisions about your precious career have nothing to do with you at all.

As just one example, here’s a quick story about an agent at a major agency who went out of his way to help me -- for reasons that turned out to have very little to do with anything I wrote.

A producer I had gotten to know recommended one of my scripts to this agent.  The agent was a major player.  He’s repped some seriously famous acting talent, and I was way over my head to be in a meeting with this guy at all. 

An underling, whose role seemed to be to prep me for the meeting with this very busy power broker, told me that I’d be sitting down in this guy’s office, then we’d chat for a minute or two, and then I was to “make him laugh.”  Apparently that was this guy’s litmus test:  You had to make him laugh on the spot.

I was definitely feeling on the spot.

When the time came for the meeting, this agent seemed insanely busy and kept taking phone calls.  Our “chat” consisted of this guy telling me how time-starved he was and that he needed to get up at five in the morning to fit in time on the treadmill. 

And then it was time to make him laugh. 

I resorted to a comedy pitch I had used a few days before at a production company, one that had gotten a positive response.  But this agent just stared at me.  No laughter.  Not even a smile.

I figured the meeting was a bust, but then this guy proceeded to recommend me to some of the top management companies in L.A.

Given that the meeting didn’t go very well, I wondered why this busy guy was taking the time to help me. 

That is until the agent found out that the producer who had recommended me had interest in managing me.  The agent called me up in a huff.  He was hugely concerned that his recommendation of other managers might offend this producer.

Around the same time, it came to my attention that this producer who had recommended me had a movie in the works, and that this agent had clients in mind for this movie. 

Hmm. It was all starting to come together.  The agent was helping me to curry favor with that producer so he could get work for people other than me.

I was a pawn in an industry where relationships are 90% of the equation and substance is 10%. 

In this case, being a pawn actually helped me gain some exposure.  I have other anecdotes in which the movie-making chess game didn’t go so well for me, but I prefer to focus on the positive. 

The thing to take away is this: 

Don’t beat yourself up when you get a no.  Or when a meeting doesn’t go as planned.  Because there’s a very good chance that what happened had very little to do with you. 

And when things do go well, and your name is up there in the credits, don’t let your head get too big, because the same truth applies to your success.