Screenwriting : How does one network with producers? by Janet Elizabeth Swainston

Janet Elizabeth Swainston

How does one network with producers?

It's been on my mind lately that no matter how many scripts I write, how the hell do you get to a producer to even HAVE a conversation let alone convince them to buy your script? Seriously. Cold calling isn't working. Emails and letters or inquiry are not working. I don't have the money for contests nor do I have the money to just up and move to California. So, how does one get the attention of a producer?

William Martell

I am just going to cut & paste this: If you are pitching your scripts and no one wants to read the scripts, what you have learned is that your ideas are not interesting enough... so start there. When you are phone pitching or equerying, it all comes down to the idea. So the idea has to be something amazing. Years ago I had a meeting with the producers who made WATERWORLD (and I admit to that), and they had a huge plastic garbage can next to their FAX machine and an assistant standing next to the garbage can. I asked what the heck that was all about, and they told me that they gave out their FAX number to everyone and and encouraged then to FAX a query letter with the logline for their script. They got a hundred a day, and that assistant's job was to read the loglines and then throw the queries in the trash can. But every once in a while he'd read one and not throw it away, instead he would request the script. But that gives you an idea of what happens on the other side of you cold call or equery. Hundreds, probably thousands, get trashed in search of the one great idea that gets a script request. You want to have that idea. You want to sift through a hundred ideas to find that idea before you type up 110 pages of the trash can idea. Then, when they request the script, it has to be equal to the quality of that idea. None of this is easy.

Richard Toscan

Since you're based in Canada, it might be best to focus on the film industry there rather than trying to jump the boarder to Hollywood. I'd start with trying to make connections with representatives of the National Film Board of Canada ( See if there are ways you can volunteer or intern with filmmakers around Waterloo as a way of making contacts. Once you have any sort of connection with folks in this business, it's much harder for them to say they don't want to read your script.

Danny Manus

I totally agree with Richard. Realistically, if you can't enter contests and you can't move to LA and you can't go to conferences where the producers and execs are looking for material, then you have two options. One - be a networking QUEEN through social media. And get to know people through that and make real connections. Or 2 - Focus on the people around you because there really is no other way.

Yasmin Neal

Moving to hollywood is NOT a guarantee. I agree with the above poster; work your network in Canada. Everyone in hollywood is in the same muddy puddle. Everyone has the next GREAT SCREENPLAY. Find a way to stand out OR SHOOT YOUR STUFF YOURSELF! Thats what Im focusing on.

Floyd Marshall Jr.

Janet take a look at this link. Stephanie Palmer is awesome. Download those ebooks, they're full of great info.

Amanda Toney

Watch the OnStage with RBs. He literally discusses how to network effectively. I think it will be so beneficial for you!

CJ Walley

Certainly watch the OnStage with RB webcasts. They are free and invaluable. That said, you present yourself pretty well here, Janet. You have a small bio and your website, which is linked from your profile, lists your loglines and even has the first 30 pages of your scripts. Good stuff :) But I still think that can be improved somewhat. For example your positioning statement on your bio, while admirably humble, is really self depreciating. For example you open with the line that your life story is boring and the same as everybody else's. This is the polar opposite of what your target audience is looking for. Try to put together a 500 word summary of how your life has formed you into a fascinating person with something interesting and different to say; and don't think that isn't the case for you. Also note that stating you don't like following orders may portray you as less of a maverick and more of an insubordinate. And having the call to action to check out your Facebook page without providing a link could be seen as a little sloppy. There's some streamlining you can do. For example, you can bring in your loglines into your S32 profile and then either upload your first 30 here or simply link straight to your hosted pdfs. When it comes to targeting any marketplace, there's always going to be three proactive routes. The machine gun approach where you try to bombard everyone with a generic message, the sniper approach where you pick specific people and target them with something specific, and the hitman approach where you get close and creative. The fact is that the easiest routes are always going to be the most crowded and the most passive channels the highest cost. So for many the answer is to work smarter and/or harder than the majority.

Janet Elizabeth Swainston

Thanks everyone...this is exactly the kind of feedback I've been hoping for and need. CJ...I will take your advice and revamp my S32 profile....and you are right...who wants to "buy" something boring when they can have a unique outlook. Thank you all.

Janet Elizabeth Swainston

Well, my profile is updated nicely and hopefully will grab some attention. Thanks again everyone!

CJ Walley

That's so much better, Janet! Nice job and great background! :)

Janet Elizabeth Swainston

Thanks CJ....

Jaime Goza

You can submit your script to and they will give you an answer within forty five days. You might try it, it is FREE and easy.

Janet Elizabeth Swainston

Alle...would be happy to chat about my work....The Perfect Woman is a really old sp...but it stillhas love LOL ... thank Jaime...had a really bad experience with Amazon so...not sure I want to go back there...but I will give it another look.

Chidi Ezeibieli

Hi Jaime, I have heard tons of "not to good" stories about Amazon Studios. Have you had a direct relationship with them?

Jaime Goza

This is my first go round with them. So, I can't say anything good or bad, as of yet

CJ Walley

I've only every come across one single relationship story about AS that's been negative. That was a female writer who was supposedly brought in, had an offer put on the table, and subsequently saw that offer dismissed when the executive who made it was let go. Everything else I've seen is just criticism of their fixed contract terms for non-represented submissions.

Janet Elizabeth Swainston

Good to know bad experience was actually with other writers there....I encountered a bad group that for the most part were well, sharks to put it nicely....and while competitiveness is part of the business, rudeness and douchbaggery should not be. LOL

Janet Elizabeth Swainston

Has anything actually been made by Amazon?

CJ Walley

Yeah, they've made a lot of TV and they're still progressing most of the features they've optioned. They recently updated the website and made some significant changes.

Shane M Wheeler

I highly recommend attending or starting Stage 32 meetups in your area if possible. I've found them to be invaluable networking opportunities.

Rita Wheeler

Not sure where you're from but going to a Screenwriting Festival - The London Screenwriters' Festival is at the end of October and they have pitching sessions. Or try an online pitch. I'm trying one for the first time next weekend. If not, I've had success with Inktip.

Barry Kneller

This is an excellent question, Janet and a common problem for the majority of screenwriters. Unfortunately there is no one, easy or right way to get your work in front of producers, directors or production companys. You can try a query letter to lit agents, but that is also a very difficult thing to find success with. One thing I would recommend is instead of writing multiple scripts, write one amazing one and then spend your time trying to get it over to whoever will read it. I would prepare a one page to send out before sending the script. That allows producers and directors the ability to quickly see if they might have interest in your project. Personally, I don't think the festival or contest route is advantageous, unless your script wins Sundance or something of that level. Those types of investments can pay off for writers. I hope this info helps. Good luck to you!

Leah Waller

That's a good question and unfortunately it's nearly impossible to do without a little bit of money behind it. Stage 32 has meet-ups - which are awesome (and free) but it's not the same as a pitch. Pitch sessions make the producers, more or less, a captive audience. From the looking around I have done, S32 is much cheaper then the other pitching forums out there - like going to LA or to a festival. I have seen other "face to face" Skype pitches online, but I don't think I would trust any of them. The nice thing about the Stage 32 pitch is you can do a lot of research on the producer so you can be sure your script is in their wheel house. As far as cold calling and sending out equerries - that got me no where. Ironically, I sent an email query letter to a management company a few months ago and still haven't received a reply, but I did a S32 pitch with a manager at the same company, even pitched the same script, and now we're in discussions. If you do a pitch or 2 on Stage 32 that will give you an idea of how your script will be accepted. If they pass on it, usually they will tell Joey why, if they ask questions - then you will know what the important parts of your script are. If they request it then you know you are on to something. I did a pitch to a manager and all the follow-up questions were totally different then the approach I took pitching. I focused on it being a darker retelling of an ancient story, she was far more interested in the fact that I added strong female leads.

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