When you are around other Hollywood professionals, for any reason, they are going to take note of what kind of a person you are. They’ll make up their mind about whether they want to work with in the future, or if that want to avoid you in the future.
While you’re trying to break in, you’ll be faced with a variety of social situations, including, working on a set as a day job, helping someone shoot their Indy short, working as a writers assistant in the writers room, interning to connect with industry professionals, meeting people in “get to know you” and pitch meetings, meeting other writers at screenwriting events, seminars, pitch contests, classes, and just plain networking over coffee or drinks.
The most important rule is not to come off like an asshole. Your reputation is one of the most important aspects of your career; it follows you around. Writers with bad reputations get excluded; writers with good reputations get included.
Making films and TV shows often take long hours in difficult circumstances. Consider working on a set in the rain, for sixteen straight hours. Consider being on a TV writing staff that works twenty-four hours straight on a rewrite.
Everyone in those situations with you will be struggling to cope, and to keep from becoming cranky, or irritable. Those who will be well remembered will hold it together, be friendly, helpful, stay calm and remain productive.
What they don’t need around them is a writer who complains about everything. They don’t need around them is a guy with a lot of attitude, who talks about other colleagues behind their backs, who gossips incessantly, or comes off as self-absorbed.
You get the idea, try to be the best version of yourself you’re capable of. Don’t complain about the food on the set, about how slow the camera guy is, how bad the script is, or how sloppy the director is, or how you could be doing a better job.
Don’t be the egomaniac that can’t stop talking about himself. Don’t tell people around you how important you are to the project, how lost they’d be without you. Don’t be the guy who drains the life out of the group with incessant chatter.
You want to be helpful, agreeable, pleasant and hard-working. You want to be the guy who volunteers to do extra work. You want to be the guy who appreciates the work others are doing around you. You want people around you to get that you’re a team player.
With other writers, you want to be the guy who responds well to criticism of your scripts. You want to be able to accept critique gracefully, and find a way to use the feedback you’re getting to improve your screenplay. When other writers ask you for feedback on their scripts, be diplomatic, thoughtful and constructive.
Don’t respond to your colleague, who’s done you a favor by reading your script, by telling him he’s a tasteless, talentless hack because he doesn’t appreciate your work. And especially don’t act this way when you’ve asked an agent, manager or producer to read your material.
Get used to it; not everybody has the same taste. Most likely you’ll get more negative feedback than positive. Accept the feedback without becoming inflamed, outraged, or verbally abusive. Cultivate an ability to get along with everyone, to appreciate other’s points of view.
This applies to the internet, too. Don’t be the guy who constantly rags on other writers, producers or directors on the net. Try to be positive and offer tips, and advice to others. If you hear that a great writing seminar is coming up, share that. If you saw a producer online asking for a low budget horror script, share that information with your writer friends.
Writers do have to be proactive in getting their name, and their ideas and projects seen online. It’s a reality now that a certain amount of self-promotion is appropriate. However, don’t go overboard to the point where you’re spamming (and annoying) everyone with your “me, me, me” attitude. There are agents and producers on line, too, so when you send something out, remember to always be professional.
Don’t get drunk and call other writers, or producers to discuss your scripts. Don’t get drunk and send out Tweets, or other posts right off the top of your head. Be thoughtful, sober and cautious with your posts, remember everyone online will see them. Don’t piss anybody off.
Along those lines, avoid racial remarks, sexist comments, just don’t be a hater. In person, or online. If you tend to be impulsive, and get yourself in trouble that way, create a 24 hour rule. Write something, but don’t send it until you’ve considered it the next day.
Keep in mind, professionals in the industry want to work with people they can get along with. Don’t forget, Hollywood is a place where word spreads fast. If you have a bad attitude, are rude, argumentative or a soul-sucking toxic individual, lots of people are going to find out fast. And that’s something you’ll carry around for a long, long time.
Be positive, and thoughtful, protect your reputation, treat people they way you’d like to be treated. Respond well to feedback and give constructive feedback when asked by fellow writers. Always be gracious and interested in what other filmmaking professionals have to say. Protect your reputation. It’s the only one you’ll get.