Austin Entertainment Business Meetup Report: August 23rd, 2018
As I've mentioned many times on this blog, film industry people can't go wrong with attending the Austin Entertainment Business events. I've happily been attending these events for many months, and I just started to volunteer to help get more people there. This past meetup was the third installment of three series of presentations called "Tunnel to Hollywood," all organized by Jennifer Hutchins, a madly-connected and hard-working producer. Her guests were awesome: Neil Landau and Laura Brennan.
Neil Landau has a Hollywood pedigree to die for! He is not only a producer and award-winning screenwriter whose credits include Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, and Doogie Howser, M.D., but he is also a bestselling author. He had some great stories about how scripts that he was told were "trash" ended up being amazing. The best story was how he was told by an agent that this one script that he co-wrote would end his career if anyone read it. The script ended up underneath some old shoes in his closet until a very well-respected director friend of his asked to read it. That same script ended up netting him about $500,000 in a sale, and launched his career. Moral of the story? Don't believe everything you hear!
Neil's approach to getting his work out there was interesting: He used a golf metaphor (fortunately I wasn't completely lost considering I don't play) to explain that with a script you need to get closer and closer to the hole. It's rare to get a hole in one, so with each successive draft, you get closer and closer. He also mentioned that he has a group of very well-respected writers that he brings his work to. If the work excites his friends, he knows he's onto something. If each of his friends is lukewarm, he has some work to do. If all of them dislike it, likely, he'll not waste time on it anymore. It's a pragmatic, smart approach to the creative work you would do as a screenwriter.
Laura Brennan is a pitch consultant in Hollywood, a writer, and her work has appeared in television, film, theater, fiction, and news! I found that she had an excellent sense of humor regarding the relatively dour experience of pitching, and after watching her presentation I figured out how to pitch to other people as a composer in a way that is ridiculously compelling. Here's the secret:
Tell someone what you are currently doing, and never, ever tell them your job title!
So, instead of saying, "I am a screenwriter," you could say, "I am currently writing a script for a science fiction series on Netflix which involves statues in Washington DC coming to life and eating humanity off the face of the planet." A lot more compelling, no?
Here's another example. Instead of saying, "I am a costume designer," you could say, "I am currently designing costumes for a full-length narrative comedy that involves a twisted story of betrayal at the Rennasance fair."
I was really proud of my own: Instead of saying "I'm a film composer," I reworked it to say, "I'm beginning to compose the soundtrack for a full-length felt-animation movie about an animal's journey across the pacific northwest." All of it is true, and it seems so much more compelling
Laura's advice was priceless!