Screenwriter Michael Elliot built a career on sending his screenplays — not to Executives at the studios or producers, but to Hollywood professionals on their way up. This proved to be smart and radical play, but also quite a brilliant play.
He made a list of all the most talented, up and coming lower-level players in Hollywood. These were ambitious people, slightly over-the-hill actors, crew members, commercial and music video directors and producers – generally the professionals who were most likely to make it as filmmakers themselves.
Even without an agent or a manager, he was able to get his scripts to people who were about to become powerful players. He also got his scripts to movie stars who had aged out of the popular spotlight.
Here’s the list of the types of emerging power players, and the established actors that helped him get his movie bought and produced.
“Older” Academy Award winning actors, or former stars who are still looking for great parts. Not only are they dying to act again, they’re still bankable, and still have lots of important contacts. They know producers, and directors and other actors. If they love your script, they have lots of leverage.
You’ve got to make sure they love your script. The part you offer them had better be a terrific part. Roles that movies stars might be interested in include historic (and sometimes larger-than-life) characters like Napoleon, Hunter Thompson, or Emperor Norton.
Another way to go, adapt a famous novel, or play that’s still in the public domain like A Confederacy of Dunces, or Othello. Better yet, option an off-Broadway play that received terrific reviews. Actors will be drawn to the roles, and — since plays generally have few characters and sets, it can be adapted inot a low-budget film script.
Cinematographers, or Directors of Photography, who are dying to direct. The best cinematographers and DPs are looking to move up into directing. They often have have all the contacts that can help them make the move, but they’re actively looking for a great screenplay to help them make their move.
First AD’s (Assistant Directors), for the same reason. No first AD wants to stay in that position the rest of their careers. You know they all dream of directing, and have probably made some great short films. What they need, and here’s where you come in, is a terrific screenplay.
Music Video Directors. Many of today’s best feature film directors started out as music video directors. Some examples include David Fincher, Spike Jonze, and Brett Ratner. Again, they’re extremely talented, they have powerful connections, and they need your script.
Commercial Directors. Some commercial directors who have successfully made to move up to feature directors include Ridley Scott and Michael Bay. They’re ready to move up to features, they just need a great script. Plus, studios like them because they can create an emotional connection in 30 seconds.
Production Managers. Production managers are responsible for putting together a crew, interacting with actors, directors and crew members, planning production schedules, creating and enforcing film budgets, and selecting locations. They all want to be producers. Take advantage of other people’s ambitions. They’re hungry.
Casting Directors. Like everyone in town, they want to produce. They develop personal relationships with some of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. They have access to stars, often directly. The more ambitious casting directors need your material to change their careers.
Produced Screenwriters. Successful screenwriters want to produce or direct, too — and obviously have the contacts at the studios. They have credibility. Executives at the studios know they’ll get the script in shape, and be available for rewrites.
Tomorrow’s Agents and Managers. The Assistants are always looking for their own clients to represent when they get their break, and move up. If they love your script, it may make the difference for them.
The tricky part then is; how to get your script to these people? You need to get a their home addresses, or office addresses. You might find that information by Googling them. Same with Oscar winning actors, and bankable movie stars. Another way; get your script to them at their own production companies, (like Tom Hanks, who runs Playtone).
If you go through the star’s agents to get them scripts, you might try the New York offices of the big agencies. The L.A. based agents are generally too busy chasing stars to represent, or hustling to get them cast during “pilot season.” Find a junior agent at the New York offices of CAA. You’ll have better luck.
Where else can you connect with stars? If you want to “accidentally bump into them,” go to the big film festivals, like Sundance, Toronto, Cannes, or South by Southwest.
Other places to find stars; five star restaurants in and around town, including Spago, Dan Tana’s, and The Ivy. You can also try to “bump into them” at places like the Chateau Marmont Hotel, The Polo Lounge and even, Laker Games.
Same with many of these other categories. There are Hollywood Directories for many of these people, too. There’s the Hollywood Creative Directory. Check Amazon. Log onto IMDb, or better yet subscribe to IMDb Pro. It’s over a hundred dollars, but well worth it. Buy the directories. Go to bookstores and copy the pages if you can’t afford them.
You can find contact information for many of the production and crew people discussed above, including first assistant directors, directors of photography, commercial directors, production managers, cinematographers on ProductionHub.Com.
Don’t forget to check in with your friends, co-workers, classmates, and mentors in the business. Be creative. You know someone who knows someone who knows a a cinematographer. Reach out. And make sure your scripts are awesome.
This is a summary of Michael Elliot’s article on the subject. To read his article in full, click here.
For a free 20 minute consult about you film career, or your screenplay, just click here.