A good script can take you far, but what about good manners?
Navigating the film industry can be intimidating for newer writers and veterans alike. The space is full of unspoken rules where supposedly “no one knows anything.” Pair this with the stories of people breaking into it in various ways, and there’s no singular path to success.
Regardless of where you are on your screenwriting journey, how talented you are, or who you know, good industry etiquette can work wonders and even give you an advantage.
To be fair, film industry etiquette isn’t too far off from general business etiquette, so you may not be too surprised by the following list as many of the same guidelines still apply.
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Mind Your P’s and Q’s
Being polite and saying please and thank you will get you far. Demanding, begging, or guilting anyone into doing you any sort of favor won’t get you far. Whether it be notes you disagree with or a pass on your script from a production company, thanking them for their time and moving on is the way to go.
Be Mindful of How Frequently You’re Following Up and When
If you’re querying or have sent a script of yours to an industry professional to read, give them adequate time to respond. Don’t email them in a day or two asking if they’ve read it yet. Give them up to two weeks. Yes, you read that right. If in two weeks you send a follow-up email and they don’t respond, they likely have a lot on their plate and aren’t interested at the moment. Even though it can be upsetting, try not to take it personally. Unfortunately, it happens a lot.
Keep Your Emails Short and Sweet
This is something not many people think about. With how many emails industry professionals get daily and how busy they are, the more concise your emails to these individuals, the better. In other words, don’t send a novel each time you converse with them. Trust me, they’re pressed for time, and they’ll appreciate your condensed emails, and more often than not, respond to them if they’re short and sweet!
Always Be Nice to Assistants and Interns
If you’re a jerk to anyone’s assistants or interns, don’t expect their boss to make time in their schedule for you. Assistants and interns are what make the industry go round. If you’re rude to them, expect your emails to “go missing.”
Don’t Speak Poorly About Others on Social Media or Publicly
This also goes for speaking negatively about movies or television series that weren’t quite your cup of tea. You never know who is looking at your tweets or considering you for a job. If they see you trash-talking them or a project they (or a friend or a family member of theirs) wrote or produced, it’s *probably* going to hurt your odds.
Don’t Ask Execs for Reads or Send Your Work Unsolicited
This can’t be stressed enough. Do not send your scripts to people via social media or email to managers, agents, producers, or showrunners unless they ask. These individuals are bombarded with scripts incessantly. Not only is it considered rude, sending your screenplay without permission could lead to potential legal issues down the line. Just don’t do it.
Don’t Be a Creep
On a similar note, this is a point that shouldn’t have to be said in this day and age, but here we are! Don’t send your script to people’s houses in pizza boxes, harass them via phone, or stalk them to get them to read your work or interact with you. The industry is small, and word travels fast. If you do anything of these things, there’s no coming back from it. RIP your career.
Don’t Pitch During a General Unless Asked
Congrats on getting a general! For these meetings, come prepared to talk about yourself and your projects. They’re casual and a way for the executive on the other side to get to know you. Don’t break out your elevator pitch or the likes unless they specifically ask. Otherwise, keep it casual, and get to know them, too!
Be Kind, and You’ll Be Fine
You’d be surprised how many people don’t thank executives or treat their staff poorly. If you can leave learning anything from this article, I hope it’s that being genuinely kind to everyone and saying please and thank you can make you memorable, and give you an advantage in the long run.
It’s safe to say many of us in the industry, emerging and professional didn’t follow industry etiquette when we started learning the ropes. We were excited and hungry to have our work seen and made mistakes along the way. Hopefully, these etiquette guidelines help those newer to the industry avoid making the same mistakes we did (as well as avoid a restraining order).