Inside the Producer’s Corner with Suzanne Lyons
This is a series of articles that film producer and best-selling author Suzanne Lyons (listen to her interview here) will be writing over the next 6 months. I personally asked Suzanne to share her knowledge, experience, and motivation with you the IFH Tribe. Whether you are a director, producer, cinematographer, screenwriter or editor I think you’ll get a ton out of this series. Check back every week for a new post that will help you on your journey as an indie filmmaker.
10 Tips on How to Get a Meeting in the Film Business
How do we get face time? I realize that online social media is a big part of our lives. I was watching CBS Sunday Morning a while back and the reporter talked to a husband and wife who said they actually text each other while in the same house. They said they seldom have face to face discussions anymore. Is that crazy or am I just old-fashioned?
Our iPhone and iPad are our new best friend and the social network is here to stay. When I was checking out David Sayce’s website I read his article about Twitter. He gave fascinating information on just how many times a day we’re online. He said that just one year ago “every second, on average, around 6,000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter, which corresponds to over 350,000 tweets sent per minute, 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year.
The Facebook stats I found on statista.com are equally as interesting. As of the second quarter of 2017, Facebook had 2 billion monthly active users. On brandwatch.com they noted that Facebook sees 100 million hours of daily video watch time with users generating 4 million likes every minute and more than 250 billion photos have been uploaded to Facebook. This equates to 350 million photos per day as of the summer of 2016. On businessinsider.com, Alex Heath said that as of April of this year, Instagram’s user base has doubled in the last 2 year to 700 million.
Okay, I get it! I get it! In fact, I surrender. It has become a way of life. I would guess that even moms are no longer saying “you never call, you never write.” Now it’s “you never text, you never tweet!” The times, they are a-changing.
But my big question is, what about face time? Nothing can ever replace meeting someone face-to-face. Especially in this industry. It’s during the meeting that you really connect. Just seeing facial expressions, body movement and even looking around someone’s office tells you a lot about them… their interests… their hobbies. It gives you a whole other insight to that person, providing the possibility of a stronger, more powerful, relationship.
So let’s get some face time. Here are 10 Tips to help you get a meeting.
1) MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE ASSISTANT
When my husband took my Flash Forward workshop years ago, his goal was to set up 10 brief relationship meetings with showrunners of hour-long television. He did his research, organized a detailed binder listing all the info on the execs, and started his calls. He soon realized that the ‘gate keepers’ – the assistants – were who he really needed to get to know.
Focusing on creating relationships with them over the phone was what opened the doors to the next step… getting the meeting. Also, the assistant is a wealth of information. They are tuned in to what’s happening at their company, network, show. And someday soon they will be the boss. Get to know the assistant! I am a member of Vicki Abelson’s Women Who Write group and our guest last month was, Chris Brancato, writer and creator of “Narcos.”
He said that when he was first starting out, getting to know the assistants was essential. In fact, he said, “one of the assistants he got to know back then went on to be the president of a major network and they ended up working together.” “We all grow up together in this industry,” he said, “and it’s those early relationships that you create and nurture that are so important.”
2) GET REFERRALS
Go through your visual relationship display. In previous articles, I’ve talked about this visual display (Map of Relationships). It’s a categorized list of everyone you know in the industry. Now it’s time to put it to good use. Start to connect the dots. Who do you want to meet, and who on your display may know that person and be willing to make a referral for you?
This would be a fun exercise to take on now! Get your Map in front of you and start connecting the dots. When you make your calls to set up the meetings make sure you mention the person who referred you right away. Mentioning the name of someone they know well will help tremendously when it comes to getting in the door.
Now it’s time to put it to good use. Start to connect the dots. Who do you want to meet, and who on your display may know that person and be willing to make a referral for you? This would be a fun exercise to take on now!
Get your Map in front of you and start connecting the dots. When you make your calls to set up the meetings make sure you mention the person who referred you right away. Mentioning the name of someone they know well will help tremendously when it comes to getting in the door.
Speaking of your visual display, it’s time to double it… or how about tripling it? Can you imagine how much easier it would be to get meetings if you simply knew more people, had more authentic relationships with more people in the industry?
Join new organizations. Make a point of scheduling industry events in your calendar. When you’re at an event, stick out your hand and introduce yourself. Even one networking event a month, with a goal of meeting three people is a total of 36 new people this year.
And when I say meeting people I don’t just mean exchanging business cards. I mean really get to know them. That’s what makes the difference.
4) VOLUNTEER AT EVENTS
To take the networking idea a step further, consider volunteering at events, film festivals, seminars and screenings. I was one of the founders of an organization called Canadians Abroad here in LA and I made a point during the first couple of years to be at the name tag table during our events.
I met tons of people and it opened doors to dozens of meetings over the years. Make a list of organizations and events where you would like to meet more people, then offer to volunteer at their next function.
5) STAND OUT – ATTEND DIFFERENT TYPES OF EVENTS
This may or may not lead to a meeting but you’ll certainly get some face time. For example, if you’re an actor or composer and want to meet producers, see which producers are speaking around town. Go to those events.
There will be lots of writers and directors lined up to meet them afterward, but chances are you’ll be the only actor or the only composer. You’ll stand out just for that reason alone and they’ll notice. It works, I’ve done it.
6) MAKE COLD CALLS
Get on the phone. It’s fun. It builds your confidence, it creates relationships, and it makes it much easier to transition to getting the meeting. It’s no different talking to strangers than it is to friends – it just takes practice.
In the Flash Forward workshops, we had the participants pretend they each had a phone in front of them and we all practiced together. We pretended to pick up the receiver, punch in the numbers and even pretend to talk.
Then we would immediately do it again, and again and again and then faster and faster. It sounds silly but oddly enough it worked. It made people feel more comfortable when it came time for their actual calls. Give it a shot.
7) MAKE A SPECIFIC REQUEST & MAKE IT EASY TO SAY YES
In Tip #1 I mentioned that my husband’s goal at the time was 10 meetings with showrunners. To make it easy for them to say yes, his request was simple. He asked for only 10 minutes of their time. It was far more doable for them and far easier for them to say yes.
When you are vague and don’t make a specific request, it makes it harder for them to agree. When people are vague with me it makes me nervous. I assume it could be an hour or more! No one has that kind of time. So be respectful and thoughtful of their time and make your request something that will make it easy for them to say yes.
8) HAVE MORE THAN ONE PROJECT TO PITCH
I learned this one the hard way. Years ago, after my film partner and I had completed development on a script we’d optioned, I started making the calls to set up meetings for the pitch. As soon as I said I had a project to pitch they would say,
“Oh, you don’t need a meeting for one project… just go ahead and pitch it to me.”
From then on, when I called it was with a number of projects or a slate of projects and I’d always get the meeting. Also, when you’re in the meeting and you’re pitching your projects in person, you will have a better chance of finding out what they are looking for and you may end up generating something completely unexpected.
The project that you weren’t even going to mention may be the one they like best. I read a great article years ago in Canadian Screenwriter magazine, where writer Dale Schott said that it’s the writer’s job to engage the listener and get them enthused about the idea and “because passion can be infectious, it’s always best to pitch face-to-face.”
9) OFFER YOUR SERVICES
For all the actors out there, I recommend being proactive. Get quality face time by offering to be a reader for a producer or casting director when they’re auditioning. Or offer to help organize a producer’s table read for them. When actors did that for me I was so grateful. They not only got face time with me but they got to spend time with my director and exec producers.
For the record, of the nearly 1000 actors we auditioned for our three low-budget films here in LA, only three actors offered to help me with future films.
For everyone else in the industry who provides a service, set up meetings with people. Writers can offer to write scenes for actors for workshops; editors can help directors polish their reels. Stop relying on your agents and managers. Brainstorm with friends and come up with ways you can meet those people on your target list.
10) THINK OUTSIDE (WAY OUTSIDE) THE BOX
Okay, this is a bit extreme, even for me, someone who loves to be outrageous. However, if you want to meet someone who is pretty much impossible to get to, then here is what Christine Comaford, CEO of Mighty Ventures, suggests:
“If I can have five minutes of advice, I will give five hours to your favorite non-profit.”
She wanted a meeting with Steve Jobs at the time and she got it! She even brought a five-minute egg timer and at the end when she stood up to leave he told her to stay and they talked for another forty-five minutes!
EXERCISE: Take these tips and put them to use. Get on the phone now and get a meeting. Even if it’s just one, that would be great. Pick up the phone and do it now!
BONUS: When you do get your meeting, be on time, be prepared, be present, remind them of the purpose of the meeting, make sure you generate the conversation, set a date to follow up if required, acknowledge them and finally, thank them again for their time.
Suzanne Lyons is President/Producer of Snowfall Films, Inc. having produced/exec produced 12 feature films to date. She co-founded the Flash Forward Institute which focused on teaching the tools of business needed to market oneself in the entertainment industry. She recently launched a game-changing online course called Indie Film Producing Masterclass with Suzanne Lyons. She’s the author of Indie Film Producing: The Craft of Low Budget Filmmaking published by Focal Press. She has also hosted over 125 informational videos on the film industry. When time permits she does private career and business coaching. Suzanne is originally Canadian and lives with her husband in Los Angeles, CA.
- Werner Herzog’s Filmmaking MasterClass
- Filmmaking Hacks: Filmmaking Master Course
- Directing Actors Film Workshop
- USC Film School’s ONLY Online Course: Directing the Actor
- Film Lighting MasterClass
- Recording Sound for Indie Film
- The Art of Micro-Budget Filmmaking
- Cinematography MasterClass
- Film Festival Hacks: Submit Like a Pro
- Self-Distributing Your Film Online
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