First of all, congrats on scoring a general meeting. And if you happened upon this blog because you’re simply hoping to land a general meeting, congrats to you, too, for doing your research ahead of time! Put those good vibes out to the universe. 😊
Now to the details. What exactly is a general meeting? What happens in one? What questions will you be asked? What WON’T happen in a general meeting? This is all starting to sound a little intimidating, so we are bringing in the pros.
Danny Manus is a former development executive who sat on the other side of the table in general meetings. He now owns and operates No BullScript Consulting, where he prepares writing clients to take their place in the entertainment industry.
Ross Brown is a veteran television writer, producer, and professor of creative writing. So he, too, prepares writers for the real world.
Both seasoned experts join us today to make sure you’re ready to crush that general meeting.
What is a general meeting?
A general meeting happens when an executive or producer invites a writer for an informal opportunity to get to know you. The executive or producer has read your work and liked it enough to want to learn more about you and see if you’re a good fit for current and future projects. Likely, if someone read your work and liked it, many others did, too, so you’ll probably have more than one general meeting lined up in a short time frame. In the industry, this is often referred to as a “couch tour” or a “water bottle tour” since you’ll spend quite a bit of time on couches and being offered bottles of water. General meetings are focused on relationship-building, not pitching. It is a first step on the path to future job opportunities, kind of like speed-dating. It helps you, and them, narrow down some options.
What questions will I be asked in a general meeting?
You’ll be asked several questions in a general meeting, mostly softballs that you shouldn’t have too hard of a time answering. However, your answers will paint a narrative about who you are and where you’re going. Make sure to consider these questions ahead of time and how the answers paint a picture of who you are.
Where are you from?
Why do you write?
What inspired your screenplay (the one that got you this meeting)?
What else are you interested in writing?
What are your industry goals?
How does your writing voice and perspective stand out?
What ideas do you have for future projects? (This is early-stage info, not a full-on pitch. What else do you think about writing? Pick one or two ideas so as not to give everything away.)
How to make the most of a general meeting
- Be yourself
Only you could have written what landed you in this meeting in the first place, so remember that YOU are who these execs want to meet, not some strange, nervous, wannabe version of you. Dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable, but that is not overly casual. This is a professional meeting, after all. Remember they want to meet you because they respect the work you’re doing. That’s a big compliment, and you should take it as such.
- Be friendly to EVERYONE
From the secretary to the janitor in the bathroom, be kind, courteous, and genuinely curious about everyone you meet on your way to “the” meeting. Chat them up if you have the time. You’ll learn more about the company and the people who choose to work there in the process.
- Be prepared
Do your research on the company and the person you’re meeting with. What do they work on, what’s in production, what’s in development, their previous experience, and what credits they have to their name. Do you have any friends or connections in common? Also, arrive early. Google the directions ahead of time. Plan out a few light talking points in case you run out of things to say.
- Don’t appear too eager
Don’t pretend to be interested in projects that you’re not. Don’t talk about how you’re so ready to work, or looking for work, etc. They know this. Don’t pitch but be ready by being able to talk conversationally about your projects without a hard sell if asked.
- Set reasonable expectations
“Try to relax,” Brown cautioned. “Try not to think that this is the most high-stakes meet and greet you’ve ever had in your life. It’s just a chance to meet other people like you might meet them in the waiting area of an airport.”
Focus on the moment and less on the outcome. A meeting is always good, even if you don’t land a job from it. Meeting new people, especially in the industry, will create ripple effects for you the more you do it. You are as likely to be hired on the spot at this meeting as you are to meet George Lucas in the elevator. That’s not what this meeting is about.
- Ask questions
Be genuinely interested in this person and the company that you’re meeting. What do they have in development? How did they land where they are now? What’s their favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant? Do they have any open writing assignments? Take a pulse on the room and use it to cue the direction of your questioning.
- Actively listen
Even though you’re going to run to your car to jot down everything you just learned in this meeting when it’s over, actively listen as if you’d have to memorize the conversation. Get to know who’s doing what. Pay attention to your surroundings. Use this as an opportunity to understand the development exec community better.
- Follow up
If anything from the meeting sparked your interest, follow up and express that via email. Express thanks and include something unique that stood out to you in the meeting, so they remember you and the connection. Make notes from the meeting since you’ll likely have several and will need to keep them straight.
What probably won’t happen in a general meeting
Remove these things from your expectations of what might happen in a general meeting, and I promise you’ll be happier with the outcome.
You will probably not get notes or feedback on your screenplay
You are unlikely to be hired on the spot for a project in development
It is unlikely you’ll be asked to develop that spec that landed you the meeting
There’s a chance they won’t ask you about your spec script(s) at all (but you should still be prepared on the more likely chance that they will ask)
Meet, greet, and be awesome,