While pitch meetings and staffing meetings can be some of the most exciting of your up-and-coming screenwriting career, there's a different kind of meeting you'll encounter far more often: the "general meeting." The "general meeting" (or "general") is an informal meeting between you and an executive or producer when they've liked a script you've written and want to meet you generally, they don’t have anything specific in mind for you. They just want to find out who you areand be sure you’re not a serial killer. Many writers write these off as ‘just a general’, but that can be a huge mistake. In fact, the smartest writers turn these benign ‘meet and greets’ into soft pitch meetings and effective career builders. Here’s how:
1. Know Who You’re Meeting
Do your research. I've heard horror stories of writers who bad mouth a movie or TV show in a general only to learn that the exec they're meeting with oversaw that project. You also don't want to squander a big opportunity because you don't know if you're speaking with a decision maker. Get up to speed on their taste, what they’ve done in the past and what they currently have in development. Put in the effort. This is a concrete way you may be able to turn your “general” into a “specific”.
2. It’s All About Connection
Remember, if you're sitting in that room, it means they already like your material. Now is the time to connect with them on a deeper level. Rather than focusing on being liked, find a personal connection with your meeting partner. But, generals are like speed dating -- you’ll click with some and not with others, and that's okay. It’s chemistry. Like any speed date, the match will only be successful if you go in with authenticity, so be yourself, (as Oscar Wilde said, everyone else is taken)and not what you think they are looking for. If you're an introvert (like so many writers I work with), check out my post on how to network successfully even if you're an introvert.
3. Have a Killer Personal Logline
Your Personal Logline is your brief, compelling story in a few short sentences that explains who you are, what you write, and what makes you different than other people writing in that same space. How are you uniquely suited to the brand of the company you're meeting with? Be prepared to talk about who you are, what you want to do, and where you are going next. Know what you want to say, practice it on friends beforehand, and be confident,concise and conversational.
4. So What Else Are you Working on?
This question comes up in every general. Just like with your Personal Logline, have the loglines of other projects you're working on rehearsed and ready to go so you can give the exec you're meeting with a short, engaging peek into your projects. If you nail this, it can lead to being invited back for an official pitch meeting. And that is the magic of general meetings: they can lead to more if you know how to navigate them. But read the room; pitching them without being asked may feel too forced.
5. Manage your Expectations
They may bring up a project they have in development that could be a good fit for you. This is exciting, but it’s important to manage your expectations. Talk of a potential project in a general is not a job offer, more often than not it’s an opportunity to pitch for that job. Before you dive into competing for it, find out more about it. Ask your reps, do your research, figure out if it is worth your time and energy.
6. Don’t Drop the Details!
This is a big one. Make notes after each meeting. Write down who you met with, anything personal you connected over, and the projects they have coming up. You may think you’ll remember it all, but after months of going on generals, you’ll be happy you have a reference point. Sometimes a company will have staffing needs on a project you're excited about a year -- or more -- after you've met with them. It's these times that you will be thanking the writing gods that you have notes about that long-past meeting. It also never hurts to send a thank you email to the executive and follow up on any material they’ve sent in a timely manner. Also, keep your reps in the loop if you’ve had a fantastic meeting or love a project you discussed.
What's your favorite trick for nailing general meetings? Let me know @CaroleKirsch!