There is a place where screenwriters land when they’re big-time enough to get their scripts read and considered by serious L.A. production companies, but still lack any real clout or appreciable forward movement in their careers. Like the first circle of Dante’s Inferno, the limbo-land writers find themselves in is a big step forward—but ambiguous in it’s actual impact upon your life. Yes—you’ve made it—somewhere. A year ago you were still pounding out a spec script at your favorite Starbucks. But now--
You’re sitting in a LOBBY sipping WATER.
And it’s an IMPORTANT lobby.
It’s the lobby of Sony. Or CyFy. Or Showtime.
Other writers who are now big-time showrunners once sat neglected in this VERY SAME SEAT, you tell yourself. I’m on my way…
Writers in-the-know affectionately call this stage of one's career progression “the water bottle tour,” and that’s exactly what it is. Once you get a manager, or an agent, or an attorney, or a big-time producer to start sending your scripts out into the world, those companies that like your writing will call you in for a “meet and greet” to talk shop about the POSSIBILITY of ONE DAY working together. These meetings can be very big deals. They can jump start careers, and sometimes they can even get you paid.
But most of the time—meet-and-greets are just relationship builders. They’re schmoozing, just like you’d do at a Hollywood party—except this time you can be confident that you’re talking-up a genuine exec rather than someone’s personal assistant, and you don’t need to yell over some crappy Cure cover band to be heard!
If production execs like your writing, they will call you in for a meeting even if they have no intention of buying your spec or hiring you to write a new project. They simply want to meet you because they recognize your talent, and one day—maybe next week, or maybe next decade—you may be the perfect guy or gal to script their next flick.
Now—that doesn’t mean they’re not also secretly hoping that you’ll bring them their NEXT BIG PROJECT. I’ve never been to a meet-and-greet where the producers didn’t ask me what else I was writing and what other scripts I might have sitting on a shelf at home. They wouldn’t have called you in if they weren’t genuinely impressed by your writing—so now is the time to tell them about that amazing project that is the perfect match to their company.
So—yeah. Getting a few meet-and-greets on your schedule is a good thing. A very good thing. On the path from obscurity to out-of-the-ballpark success, all writers once traveled through this space. This LOBBY. (Or another just like it.) But that doesn’t necessarily sterilize out the cattle-call quality of the whole thing.
You’re a writer. You’ve written stacks of scripts, gotten them read by movers and shakers, and been recognized for your talent. And yet—
Here you sit.
For new-ish writers, meet-and-greets usually unfold in the same way. You arrive at Warner Brothers, or CBS/Paramount, or wherever it is you’re going and make your way to the right production office five minutes early. You check in at a front desk and tell them who you are there to meet, and then—you’re offered a bottle of water.
You take a chair. Or you take a pee, then take a chair. Or you take a magazine and lean in the doorway. Whatever your waiting-style, one thing is for sure—you’re gonna be WAITING. And you’re gonna be SIPPING.
Sometimes it’s five-minutes and sometimes if forty-five, but this is the part of the day when the producers you are about to meet let you know your importance. Does Diablo Cody wait? Hell no. But you do. Because you’re new—and because the producer’s time is more important than your time.
And let’s be honest—it probably is. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be here. You may know this, but it doesn’t make the wait any more bearable. For however long it takes, you are now trapped in a power game of someone else’s making, and your only weapon is that 12-once bottle of Fiji water. It tells people—I belong here. I’m not a delivery person or an employee’s friend. Do you see this water?! They don’t give this out to just ANYBODY!
By the time you’ve done five or six meet-and-greets, you’ll get a feel for how they work, and will start to appreciate the mixed bag of emotions that come with this stage of your career: excitement, nervousness, resentment, boredom. What at first feels like a huge breakthrough can begin to feel like a lot of time spent suckling on small plastic bottles.
But keep your head up!
You won’t be on the water bottle tour forever, so enjoy this stage of your life for what it is—a big promotion, and an enormous leap in the right direction.