There comes a time in a man’s life when he decides “Fuck this shit, I’ve had enough”. This was me a couple of years ago when I started to realise I was rapidly approaching 40 and felt like I had done nothing and accomplished nothing in my life. This was mostly mind games and a mid-life crisis but I decided I had to take some action.
Ever since I took up screenwriting 6 or so years ago, I wanted to work in Hollywood. I grew up watching American films as a kid and into adulthood and this love of great American cinema has been a huge influence on my writing. I had to go to LA, it was a need to, not a want.
I met a guy called Andrew Zinnes at the London Screenwriter's Festival who ran a programme that takes a small group of writers that aren’t based in LA to Hollywood twice a year for meetings with top Hollywood executives that writers with no agents or managers would never usually have access to. I applied to go on the programme and luckily for me, I met the criteria and packed my bags.
The programme, The Hollywood Field Trip, started with a meet and great brunch followed by an afternoon of pitching preparation at swanky The Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica. The group of writers that were also selected for the trip were a great bunch and a lot of fun. I feel great friendships were formed over the course of the week. They were writers that wrote everything from high concept comedy to blood curdling horror.
Andrew handed us our schedule and I was blown away by the names on the list. I was a tad happy to say the least. Two companies jumped out to me, but I’ll get to those later.
One first meeting was in the glorious Hollywood Hills and at the home of Jason Shuman from Blue Star Pictures. He was the producer of feature films Lone Survivor, Role Models, Bangkok Dangerous and TV shows Anger Management and Are we there yet? Among others. He was a cool guy. We all got to pitch to him and he responded well to all our ideas.
Our next meeting was with Joe Wiggins and his assistant Alex at Intrigue Entertainment. They were cool guys and were really passionate about the business and how Hollywood works. They seemed to like a thriller feature I pitched them and a TV series and said they would read them.
On Tuesday morning we headed off to a delightful cuban cafe in Malibu where we met with the director of Tucker and Dale vs Evil, Eli Craig. He was great and spoke about a deal he’s got with Netflix for his new film. He also said he would read one script from each of us. Nice.
The next meeting was a special one. Christopher Lockhart, story analyst at the biggest talent agency in the world, WME. What a character he was. We had 3 hours with him to learn about the business and character actions and was a fountain of all kinds of insightful story knowledge. He reads screenplays for actors to see how big their part is and has read 60,000 screenplays in his time at WME. he gave us all some great feedback and said I sounded like Bob Hoskins which became my ice-breaker for the next lot of meetings.
On Wednesday we met with Morgan Pichinson at the offices of Mosaic Media on Sunset Boulevard. They are a production and management company that represents the likes of Will Ferrell and Jessica Chastain and has first look deals with Sony for features and Legendary for TV. She was great and really open to our ideas. I left her with a bunch one pagers and she said she would read both my feature screenplays. She also said my Superdry messenger bag was cool.
After this I met with John Hillary Shepherd at Cross Creek Pictures. He’s their VP of development. Their films include Hacksaw Ridge, Black Swan, The Woman in Black and A Walk Among The Tombstones. This meeting was arranged for me courtesy of the awesome Joey Tuccio . I spoke with Shep for a good hour or so about just about everything, and in the end we exchanged cards and he’s reading my screenplay.
I missed a meeting with screenwriter Alex Ankeles and had to jump in an Uber to join the other field trippers in Studio City to meet with Arrow writer Jenny Lynn. She was great, and had a lot of advice for new writers trying to break into television.
The first meeting on Thursday was with production and acquisitions company, MarVista Entertainment. They were cool. They make a lot of Christmas movies and made for TV “Women in peril” stories. They said they would pretty much read all out stuff which was really cool.
The next meeting was one I was really looking forward to, Alex Goldstone, one of the top managers at management and production company, Anonymous Content. They produced the tv shows True Detective, 13 Reasons Why and Mr. Robot and represent talent including Ryan Gosling, Samuel L Jackson and Michael Keaton. Alex was a cool, chilled out British guy which was a slight contrast to some of the hyper-out going American execs we had seen so far. He responded well to my thriller screenplay and requested it which was a result. I wanted to punch the air.
The final meeting of the day was with producer Gloria Fan at Fox 21 Television. Their offices were amazing and adorned with huge posters of their shows; Homeland, American Crime Story and Genius as well as many more. She gave us an insider view of the television market and listened eagerly to our pitches. She requested a lot of material which should keep her busy for a while. She liked both my TV ideas which was awesome.
On our last day, our first meeting of four was with management and production company Kaplan/Perone. Lindsey Framson and Hannah Ozer were really nice and warm. They liked a lot of the pitches and said they would read them. They liked my ideas and responded well to them.
Next up was manager Ray Miller at his management company, Archetype. He was really cool and very open about the business. He gave us a lot of information about getting visas to work in LA which no one else had given us. When we were introducing ourselves, I got half way through my logline and he stopped me saying “Cool, I get you”. There’s no bullshit with this guy. He requested my screenplay and gave his business card to all of us.
The penultimate meeting was a big one. We met with agents Debbie Deubel Hill & Sheryl Peterson at APA. They are a big agency that represent Gary Oldman, 50 Cent and Point Break’s Peter Ilif. They told us how a crazy guy entered the building unannounced saying he had a message from god which has led to a massive step up in their security. They were really cool and funny. They clearly loved their job and love to nurture writers. They co-sign new talent so they have more time to develop the scripts with the writers. I like this approach a lot. They liked a lot of our pitches and said they would read our material.
Our final meeting was with Sukee Chew, producer/manager at Hopscotch Pictures. She represents the writers of Moana. She was really friendly and told us a lot about how she works and her clients. She responded well to my screenplays Scanner and Wonder Shake and will read both.
Overall this has been a fantastic opportunity and experience for me. Seeing how the business works and hearing about the ins and outs directly from the people working on the front lines of Hollywood was priceless. Everyone we met with was top level and extremely thrilled that we had made the effort to go out to LA to take our careers further.
I will never forget this.
Oh, and on the Tuesday night, Andrew skyped me to say the producer of Lone Survivor, Jason Shuman, emailed him something along the lines of “Would the Brit guy be interested in taking a producer credit and letting someone else write his TV pilot or co-writing with someone else?”
Incredible. Achievable Unforgettable.