A lot can go wrong in Hollywood, but you have to learn to take it as it comes. When I was the head of development at a well-known production company, I was so excited because I sold one of my favorite pilot scripts to a big studio. That was on a Friday. I celebrated over the weekend. Then, I was stunned to read in the trades that the president of the Studio resigned on Monday morning. Typical. It happens… to everyone. It’s so common that when something like that happens, people just say “Welcome to Hollywood.”
Execs that love your project leave their jobs. Companies get bought and dismantled. Your showrunner gets fired. YOU get fired. The network gets a new President with entirely different taste. A project just like yours gets sold or picked up first.
This is why you need a Hollywood Game Plan.
This is one of the most exciting times in history to be involved in entertainment. Technology is pushing the industry to evolve at lightning speed and you’ll see the business change more in the next five years than it has over the past fifty.
Creative entrepreneurs are writing, producing, directing, editing and acting in their own projects. They’re getting their friends together, creating content and putting it online, where millions of people see it without anything going through a studio or network. Traditional media is frantically trying to figure out how to make money in this new climate, while digital media giants like Google and Amazon are cutting into the traditional entertainment market.
This constant flux necessitates flexibility. Make sure your body of work includes a variety of different formats, like long-form features, television shows, and short-form narratives like an episode of a web series or short film. The point is to show you can write for any (and every) emerging media platform.
Have Irons in the Fire. Many Irons.
Something that surprises many new writers is just how long the Hollywood process can take. “Overnight” success takes years. The pitching process can take more than six months, and negotiating a deal after that can take the better part of a year. And that’s just for TV (arguably the faster-moving part of the business). I’ve known writers who have had features in development for more than a decade before they’re made.
This is why it’s important to develop, pitch, and write new projects as often as possible. You never know how long it will take for that project the executives are “so excited about” to come to fruition, so do yourself a favor and stay busy. For more tips on this, read my post about how to stay sane while you wait for answers from decision makers. It’s also a good idea to practice resilience and self-care to avoid burnout.
Develop a Unique Personal Story.
I talk a lot about this in my book. In show business, a “log line” is a one-sentence, intriguing description of a movie or television series. It’s what producers throw around to sell their project and it’s what makes viewers clamor to watch it.
Not only do you need great log lines for your projects, you need a great personal log line that will help buyers and decision makers understand what makes you unique. A personal logline is a few sentences that describe who you are, what you currently do, what you want to do and what makes you different from other people doing it. An effective personal log line makes a listener want to find out more about you, and work with you. Once you create it, practice it until it rolls off your tongue, but without sounding overly memorized.
What are your craziest Hollywood stories? Let me know! I’m @CaroleKirsch on Twitter.