Thursday, 15 September 2011

Breaking Into Hollywood

Last night I attended the Breaking into Hollywood presentation by Alan Denman. It was two and half hours long - and overran. Comprehensive doesn't even begin to cover it. Alan has been in LA for around nine years and the purpose of this course is to distill that experience into a one evening lecture and give the rest of us the shortcut and benefit of this experience.

I can't possibly go into too much detail in one blog post - simply because there was so much detail. But the evening covered things like the layout of LA, where best to stay, the need for a car and the pros and cons of renting against just buying one, parking regulation, how to eat well but economically, important visa information and of course, where and how to network. Things like The Table and Britbreakfast that I'd never heard of. Free screenings that go on all the time, where, if you're watching Social Network for example, Justin Timberlake and Aaron Sorkin might turn up to watch it with you (true story.) Info about agents, managers, entertainment lawyers, the list goes on and on.

Do your research and prep before you even get on the plane. Figure out who you want to meet and how to get to them. It's much, much easier in LA than it is in London. Take plenty of quality business cards with you. Have a US mobile phone because you'll need to be contactable at all times. Be polite and respectful when networking and everyone is really friendly and helpful. But if you have a cynical, pushy or arrogant attitude, no one is going to give a damn. You're just not that important.

One thing that really stood out for me was that writers in LA are far more industry savvy than here. You're expected to know about things like budget, finance, actors, sales, territories, target audience etc - i.e. the practical nuts and bolts of filmmaking. That's in addition to having a verbal logline on tap that will get people excited, before you even get to the polished script you've got on your laptop. If your pitching a project you should probably have a short 1-4 page business plan to go with it that covers this sort of thing. Everything in LA is geared towards commercial movie making. That doesn't necessarily mean high concept, but it does mean it's treated like a business and movies need to make money (even if most still don't.) The indie scene is far more prevalent in New York. But even then, it's probably best to leave your gritty, kitchen sink drama in England.

This is a practical course. It's geared towards people who are genuinely interested in going to LA - not necessarily to live - it might be for 2 weeks, 2 months or multiple trips every few months. But before you do I would seriously urge you to get in touch with Alan. He also offers residentials, either scheduled like the upcoming American Film Market or any time throughout the year tailored to what you are looking for. You'll probably even be invited to dinner. You need to be brave out there. Introverted is going to be a waste of time and money. But so is just turning up, script in hand, and having absolutely no idea what do to or where to go in this huge city. Get in touch with Alan. You won't regret it.


Janice Okoh said...

You planning to go out there, then?

Jez Freedman said...

Ha well no to be honest, not for the time being at least. But my wife's American so moving Stateside at some point in the future is a possibility and I wanted to get an insight of what it's really like over there