Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spotlight Interview: Blake Snyder/Part 4

Blake Snyder, Screenwriter/Author

Mike: You live in Beverly Hills, right?

Snyder: Yes.

Mike: Do you think it’s important for aspiring screenwriters to live in the Hollywood area to make it bigtime?

Snyder: I think that planning a trip out here is definitely a good idea, not just to network and make good connections but also to get a lay of the land. I don’t, however, think you need to live here to have a successful screenwriting career. I do think you have to get an “in” with successful film people and have them be a core group of allies.

I wouldn’t advise an aspiring screenwriter to come out here until he or she has a good reason—which means they have a meeting with someone, or a few people, interested in their script. Try setting up four appointments for a week if you can. And every time you go to one of these meetings, ask for a referral. One question I always asked: “Do you know anybody else who might be helpful to my career?” It’s a myth that big people in the business will be cold to you and slam doors in your face. These people usually want to help you. If you’re a reasonably nice person—and not a stalker—they likely will, because they’ve all been there. Plus, they don’t know who you might turn into. You might be the future Martin Scorcese.

Mike: So, you should always be looking to extend your network?

Snyder: Absolutely. Every little connection leads to a bigger connection. And always remember that it’s just six degrees of separation or less to knowing somebody that can help you. Believe me, you know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who can help you in your writing career. Everybody does. It can as simple as knowing a guy who cleans pools for an executive in Bel Air. He can get your script to that guy. The trick is, doing your networking without being obnoxious or silly or outrageous. You want to get attention, but not cross the line. Just carefully, calmly make inroads and try not to burn bridges. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the people to whom you’re trying to give your script.

Mike: When do I stop pitching my script?
Snyder: I trust the look in someone’s eye. If they have a twinkle, I’m ok. If they look away and say, uh, huh, I’m in trouble. If too many people are looking away, I know I have to reassess things: What’s missing from the pitch? What elements do I need to work on? What do I need to include or exclude?

Mike: What are the realities of the business?

Snyder: That it’s very hard to sell even one script. That even the best screenwriters typically sell scripts without them ever getting made into movies. That out of the 50,000 scripts registered with the Writer’s Guild last year, maybe 20
got purchased and of those 20 maybe one will get made.

So, in the end, your script is not a finished product. It’s merely a possible blueprint.

Mike: What online resource sites would you recommend?

Snyder: There’s the Hollywood Creative Directory at:

I would definitely make that your bible. It’s updated every quarter, and the addresses and phone numbers and sometimes the emails of anyone who’s anybody in the business.

Another wonderful site is:

Mike: Any final words of advice?

Snyder: When you come up with a new movie idea, pitch it to real people. It’s more important to get the opinions of strangers than friends. You’ll know fast how good it is by pitching to people with no vested interest in your writing career. It’s THE best way to find out if what you have is gold—or just dust. Pitch it to the person in front of you on the line in Starbucks. Pitch it to the guy behind the counter in the drug store. And especially pitch it to people buying tickets to movies. Find out what brought them to the theater. Was it a concept? Was it the star? Was it the special effects? I mean, we screenwriters are all working for the same goal—get the people into the theater and give them a great experience. So go to the source. You’ll be surprised at what great ideas you come up with.

Remember that concept will always will be KING! The hook is vital for getting all of us interested—agent, producer, studio, AND ticket-buyer. Lure people to your movie with a concept they can’t wait to see, regardless of who’s starring in it, and keep their attention with great storytelling—which will always be in fashion.

Learn to tell a great story and you will always be in demand.

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