Typing Faster

August 15, 2009

The Meet ‘n’ Greet: A Writers’ Psych Eval

Filed under: Breaking In, Networking, Pitching, ProdCos, Staffing, the biz, Working — petertypingfaster @ 5:16 pm

When you’re looking to become a staff writer on a show, there are two kinds of meetings you’ll wind up taking. The pitch meeting and the meet and greet. A pitch meeting is pretty self explanatory, you go in and pitch some episode ideas, and hopefully they buy one.

Meet and greets are a little more nebulous. You’re not pitching anything, at least not directly, so in some ways there’s less at stake, but really it’s actually the opposite, because while you may not be pitching any ideas, you’re pitching yourself.

Meet and greets are psychiatric evaluations for writers. They want to make sure you’re not crazy.

They want to know that they’ll be able to spend long hours in small rooms with you, and that you won’t go completely nuts when the pressure hits. To quote Jeffrey Stepakoff’s awesome book, Billion Dollar Kiss:

…the purpose of these meetings is to, as the name suggests, meet you, greet you, and determine, if they were to hire you, if they could be locked in a small room for long periods of time with you. You have been invited to this meeting because someone has read your work and wants to see what you’re like, or because someone has heard good things about you, read the first five pages of something you wrote, and wants to see what you’re like.

Everyone’s a fan of everyone else. They’re fans of your latest pilot. You’re a fan of their show / company / shirt / whatever, even when you’re really not, you’re still a fan. Meet ‘n’ greets are full of fans, most are real love-ins, everyone getting along with everyone else.

But while making sure that everyone can get along with each other is the primary goal of these meetings, there is a secondary one, which is just as important. They want to make sure you’re not going to be a waste of space.

Going back to Billion Dollar Kiss:

So not only do people want to make sure they can tolerate you for long periods of time, they want to make sure that you can actually contribute something of use to a writing staff.

Now, trying to predetermine this in a meeting is pretty much like interviewing someone you just met to go into a barroom brawl with you. Despite what they say, you have no idea what they’re gonna do when the chips are down. All you can do is look for the most qualified person who, even more importantly, you think you can trust.

The more I went on these meetings, the more I recognized a similar look in showrunners’ eyes, even hugely successful writer-producers who I greatly admired. They were all trying to figure out what I’d do on the battlefield. Would I help take the hill, pee my pants, or shoot them in the back?

So how do you convince people that you’re going to be someone who will help take that hill as opposed to a piss stained, back stabbing wretch?

Obviously it’s not an exact science, but here are a few random thoughts:

1. Keep it light
Show them that you’re fun. Don’t crack wise the entire time, but don’t be afraid to be a bit funny. Be someone that they want to spend time with. If, after the meeting, you leave them feeling like you’d be a cool person to grab a beer with, then you’re on the right track.

2. Be knowledgeable
Show them that you know what they do, what they’re about. If you’re meeting the showrunner of a comedy series, then know your comedies. Know the show you’re meeting on. Know the background of the people you’re meeting with. In other words, do your homework.

3. But don’t be obnoxious
No one likes a know it all, so don’t be that guy. Don’t lecture, don’t tell them everything that they’re doing wrong, don’t tell them how to do it better.

4. Don’t be precious
Novelists can be precious. Feature writers can, to a certain extent, be precious. Television writers can’t be precious. You will be rewritten at some point in your career. Give them some reassurance that you’re alright with that.

5. Try to relax
No one wants to spend loads of time cooped up with a ball of nerves. It’s no fun for anyone! Do your best to at least appear relaxed.

Meet ‘n’ greets are usually pretty fun. So last bit of advice is enjoy yourself! You’re going to be going on a lot of these over the course of your writing career…

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