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Screenwriting and General Meetings: The ONE Thing You Need To Do!

July 23, 2020
3 min read time

Congratulations! You’ve scored a general meeting. This usually means someone has read your script and liked it enough to want to meet with you. That’s great! Taking general meetings is a large component of being a screenwriter. It’s not unusual to take upwards of 20 general meetings in a year; and if your script gets a lot of attention, it can be as many as 100. Even during the pandemic general meetings are showing no sign of abating as Zoom makes it easier than ever before for executives and producers to connect with writers. But what should you expect from a general meeting, and how do you make the most of it?

A general meeting is an opportunity for a producer or exec to get to know you. They’ll want to know where you’re from; what inspired you to become a writer, what inspired this particular script, all questions that should be very easy for you to answer. You might talk a little about the movies or TV shows you love and want to write. The idea is they get to know what you’re about, the types of projects you want to work on, and whether you might be a good fit for any projects they currently have or might have in the future.

When taking generals, it’s hard not to go into it without having expectations. After all, the idea of a general meeting is to try and secure work as a writer, right? But sometimes going into a general meeting with the weight of expectation can make the exchange a little awkward. If you come on too strong, it can even be a bit of a turnoff to the person on the receiving end. So how do you strike that perfect balance of eager-but-not-overly-eager, friendly-but-not-overwhelming?

A key point to remember is that producers and executives already know that you want to work; you don’t have to go out of your way to appear eager. They know purely from the fact that you’ve written a screenplay that you want to work as a screenwriter; this is not something you have to communicate to them. They know you’re hungry to get going! Of course it’s important to show enthusiasm, but there’s a thin line between enthusiasm and eagerness, and you definitely don’t want to cross over into the dreaded territory of desperation.

So what’s the one piece of advice I would give for navigating generals? Let go of your expectations.

This is actually a pretty good piece of life advice, too. If we focus more on what we are doing in the moment and less on the outcome, the experience is usually much more pleasurable. If you go into every general meeting expecting you’re going to book a job from it, you’re going to wind up disappointed. If you do end up booking a job, great! If you don’t, it’s still great! You’re getting generals, which means you’re well on your way.

My manager is fond of saying, “No meeting is ever a bad meeting.” Even if you walk out of the meeting and never hear from the person again, you’d be amazed at the ripple effects meeting people can have. I’ve been in many meetings where executives have heard about me from another executive who I assumed had completely forgotten who I am. Meetings can take you to weird and wonderful places — getting to know people, regardless of what they can and can’t do for you, is always fantastic material for a writer. Sometimes I’ll ask an exec or producer how they got into the industry and they’ll give me a wealth of information that actually helps me navigate my own career. Even if the meeting goes “wrong” in the sense that you make a mistake, put your foot in your mouth, or you just don’t hit it off, it will leave you with lessons for next time.

So try to enjoy yourself, regardless of the outcome. You’re going to meet some very interesting people and hey, you may even make a friend or two in the process! Letting go of expectation opens the door to so many other wonderful possibilities, some you may never have even expected.

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