Ask LA Screenwriter: (Ab)using Your Network

Today’s question comes from godtisx:

There is an actor I wrote [a] feature film for as a lead. And I would like to pitch him first. But my plan was to pitch him and the director of photography then use their promise to raise the money through the industry and angel investors.

The problem is I really don’t want it to sit on someone’s desk, I would like to get it to him to read for a yes or no.

Do you as a writer think it skates a line to ask a personal contact of the actor to have a look then pass along? And do you think the manager will have me on the s–t list for not coming to them? Out of curiosity, I was wondering what you would do, and if going straight to the actor was common in LA.

It seems to me that the heart of this question is about networking. Setting aside the feasibility of whether or not your script is up to snuff, whether the actor will like it, and whether you’ll be able to get interested investors, what you’re really asking is what is acceptable etiquette when dealing with contacts that you have made in the industry — in this case, a friend of the actor.

Let’s assume that you’ve written an amazing script that is the absolute best that it can be. (If this isn’t the case, that would be step #1.) Is the person you want to pass along the script to someone who you know well? Someone you would call a friend? Or at the very least, someone who has expressed an interest in your writing career? If the answer is no, then I would work on developing that friendship before I asked any favors.

Someone once said to me, “It’s not who you know in Hollywood, but who knows you.”

Shaking someones hand isn’t the same as knowing them. Imagine being an agent with a huge stack of scripts on your desk, legitimate industry friends also asking you for favors on a regular basis, AND every last family member’s friend’s sister’s babysitter asking you to read their script, as well. You’re going to have to draw the line somewhere, and 3rd degree acquaintances simply don’t make the cut.

That said, never asking anyone for a favor isn’t any good either. You have to be bold and have enough faith in yourself to introduce yourself to the people you want to meet and take the time and effort to create real relationships (not just business card exchanges) wherever you can.

Offer to read other people’s scripts. Do favors for other people. Be a friend. And then you’ll start to build the sorts of connections that you’ll need.

Now, back to this friend of the actor. If you feel like you can reasonably ask this person to read your script, then go for it. I don’t think there’s any problem with going around the manager, assuming you’d even be able to get the script in the manager’s hands. Really, if the friend does pass along the script and the actor likes it, then you’ve just saved the manager some time. Of course, it’s never a good idea to burn a bridge or piss anyone off in this industry, but I think you’re pretty safe in this instance.

The problem is I really don’t want it to sit on someone’s desk, I would like to get it to him to read for a yes or no.

That part I can’t help you with — no one can. Scripts sit on desks. Things happen slowly, then very quickly in this industry. Your script is going to sit on some desks. It may never get read by that actor. And that would suck, but your job isn’t to worry about those sorts of situations. Your job is to make the script its absolute best and get it on as many other desks as you can until it lands on the right desk.

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