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Preparing for a meeting Jun 11

Michele  Wallerstein

Preparing for a meeting, any meeting

Guest Post by Michele Wallerstein
Author of:
MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career

Lately I’ve noticed that clients don’t seem to know what they want in their career conferences with me. I offer these conferences to help writers and other would-be filmmaking professionals to help them define and achieve their goals. They pay me a fee and we set up a time and place. Once we have our coffees in front of us and are seated comfortably, there is often a short silence. I wait for their outpouring of questions. They are not forthcoming. “What is it you want me to help you with?” I ask. There is a bit of stammering accompanied by a small grimace. It seems that they just want me to miraculously know what they need and to tell them the brilliant bits of knowledge that will open the magic doors of Hollywood.

Once I see what is happening I explain the procedure to them and try to find out what they need to ask and, more importantly, what they need to know. Often the client doesn’t really know how to get the right information. I have to figure it out for them.

All of this leads me to understanding why some folks get ahead in their fields and why some don’t. You have to know the questions. Take heed people, all meetings are important. They tell who you are. Even silences send out information like arrows to the recipient. Be prepared for your meetings, whether you are paying for them, asking for them, or are asked to be in attendance at them. Think through what the agenda will be or needs to be. Ask friends about their meetings. Figure out what you want to accomplish.

OK, now, dress nicely and go to that meeting.


Michele Wallerstein is a Screenplay & Novel & Career Consultant and author of “MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career“.

Email: novelconsult@yahoo.com
Web site: www.novelconsultant.com

On Being Rewritten Nov 19

Michele  Wallerstein

Event Reminder: Michele Wallerstein will be holding a free seminar on Saturday, November 20th, 3PM at the Sherman Oaks Borders store.

The topic is: “Getting Started.” It’s the beginning of a 4 part series that she’ll be doing for Borders Books.

On Being Rewritten

by Michele Wallerstein
Author of:
MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career

Be prepared. That’s the best advice I can give to new writers. Be prepared to be rewritten, overruled, ignored and even forgotten. It’s a tough business that you are knocking yourself out to get into. It’s also rewarding, exciting, fun and eventually financially amazing. If you are ready to accept all of the above, then, by all means, get those fingers flying on your computer and aim your sites on Hollywood.

If you know what to expect, you’ll make better choices and have less concerns. Here’s the skinny on what will happen when you finally write the right screenplay that garners you an offer from a major production company:

1. The company will ask for a free option. “Oh, no”, you will say to your agent, “I thought they would offer me money”. Your agent will have to explain that producers don’t pay option fees unless the writer is BIG, EXPERIENCED and someone that the studios are dying to get. Producers are not the people who pay for options. Studios pay for options. If you have a good agent they will have submitted your screenplay to producers prior to studios. This way the studio people will know that a particular production company will be attached to see to it that a good film is made. Studios often have agreements with production companies. This means that they want to make movies with those producers. So, what this means is there is now a good script and a good production company. The option period that your agent will give the producer will allow them the time to: (a) Take the project to a star and/or director and (b) Present the project to their studio.

2. There will be a contract, negotiated by your agent, wherein it will state that X amount of dollars will be paid to you in the event a studio (or an independent third party financier) wants to move forward with the project. The deal will divide up the payments to you as installments (steps) for rewrites, polishes, production bonuses, and a purchase price. These steps are not promised to you. They only occur if and when they are required by the studio. The contract will be transferred to the studio in its entirety. This means that whatever the producer promised you in their contract must be accepted by the studio. The studio will now be responsible for paying you the option price as well as whatever other fees have been spelled out in the initial agreement. Just like in any other business, the folks with the money have all the power.

3. When you have agreed to the contract you will probably get the chance to do the first rewrite on your screenplay. Please note that I said “probably”. First you will have meetings with the producer(s), their assistants, their development executives and possibly a studio executive or two. If you are good in the meetings (see Chapter 21, in my book, “MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career”) you will begin the rewrite.

4. Once you turn in that first rewrite things begin to get tricky. Inevitably there will be requests for more rewrites. The question as to who will do these next rewrites is up to the studio and producers. You and your agent will have no say in this decision. If you read your contract carefully you will note that further rewrites by you are “optional”. This means that the studio has the right to either hire you or someone else to do those rewrites. All new writers have this in their contracts. There is no getting around it.

5. Try as you might, you will never be able to second guess what these studio executives will decide nor why they will make those particular decisions. You will probably never know why another writer is hired to rewrite you. They won’t tell your agent and they certainly won’t tell you. There are innumerable scenarios that may occur. The studio may owe another writer for a different project that didn’t go forward, or the producer has a friend that they want to give some work to, or, over lunch, the studio executive mentioned your project to another writer who came up with ideas that the executive loved, or there was some other situation that has arisen. It’s a moot point, so move ahead and work on your next project.

6. Remember that your purchase price and production bonus are often tied to your on-screen credit. In the event you share that screen credit with other writers, your fees will be diminished. The screen credit will be determined by an impartial panel at the Writers Guild of America.

My final comments are for you to simply do the best job you can and keep moving forward. If you are responsible, agreeable, creative and clever, you will eventually have more power and decision making choices. Remember that this is the beginning of your writing career and that, like other industries, you will find that your status will improve with each new project.


Michele Wallerstein is a Screenplay & Novel & Career Consultant and author of “MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career“.

Email: novelconsult@yahoo.com
Web site: www.novelconsultant.com

Copyright 2010 Michele Wallerstein. Not be used without written permission from Author.

The Decision To Become A Screenwriter Nov 12

Michele  Wallerstein

Event Announcement: Michele Wallerstein will be holding a free seminar on Saturday, November 20th, 3PM at the Sherman Oaks Borders store.

The topic is: “Getting Started.” It’s the beginning of a 4 part series that she’ll be doing for Borders Books.

The Decision To Become A Screenwriter

by Michele Wallerstein
Author of:
MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career

OK, so, you’ve decided to write a screenplay. Your motives may be good, bad, strange, silly or desperate. You may not even know what they are. In any event, you’ve made that emotional commitment to become a screenwriter. Here come the important questions you now have to ask and answer. Just like a journalist you need to find out the who, what, where, when and how you will be able to accomplish this feat.

The questions of “who” has to do with looking within yourself to discover if you have the right combination of creative talent, business acumen with a bit of brio thrown in. Yes, you will absolutely need all of these personal qualities to be a successful screenwriter. If any of them are missing, you will be in big trouble. If you aren’t really creative, how will you be able to tell a great story, or provide fascinating characters? If you don’t have some business sense, how will you be able to know if your project is salable, or marketable, or if your representatives are doing a proper job for you? If you don’t have the personal fortitude to push yourself forward on a personal basis, how will you be able to pitch yourself and your work to strangers? How will you be able to attend conferences, workshops, meetings, seminars and countless other social situations with confidence and verbal clarity?

The “what” has to do with your choices of what to write. Are you interested in romance, drama, sci-fi, thrillers or comedies? If there are a couple of areas you are interested in, how will you choose?

The “where” deals with moving to the hub of the motion pictures and television industry. Can you really be a Hollywood screenwriter by living outside of California?

The “when” is now. Writing is primarily thinking so you may begin immediately. If you are serious in this endeavor, don’t put it off. You can even keep your day job and become a screenwriter. I love the Zen saying: “Leap, and the net will appear.” Go ahead, if it feels right, do it. Procrastination is a terrible thing that can haunt your life forever.

The “why” is honestly defining your motivations. Are you someone who has always been a dilettante? Do you simply feel that every time you go to a movie you think; “I could write a better movie than that”? Do you imagine a glamorous life with cocktail parties attended by famous directors and actors? Finally, do you have the calling?

Now, for the really hard one; the “how,” which is the finding of your starting point and moving on from there. This means making more right decisions than wrong ones which, in and of itself, defines success.

Of course you will need more than these things to discover about yourself, but these are jumping off points that are important to having a successful writing career. None of them can be ignored, but some of them can be learned.

You can learn to be braver and more forthcoming in personal interactions. You can practice, get into therapy, get help from seminars on self-confidence and find other avenues to learn to get rid of that terrible shyness.

You can also take steps to learn the craft of writing. It is actually imperative that you read the books, take the classes and most importantly, practice, practice, practice.

Writing takes sweat and tears. It’s a combination of a cruel and immensely rewarding occupation. It takes years to become a good writer. It takes a thick skin to listen to criticism and requests for changes in your work. It takes commitment and tenacity. If you either have the right answers to all of the above questions or you are dedicated to trying to work on the issues that you lack, then take that wonderful leap and see what amazing things can happen.


Michele Wallerstein is a Screenplay & Novel & Career Consultant and author of “MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career“.

Email: novelconsult@yahoo.com
Web site: www.novelconsultant.com

Copyright 2010 Michele Wallerstein. Not be used without written permission from Author.

Making A Commitment To Your Writing Career Sep 24

Making A Commitment To Your Writing Career

by Michele Wallerstein
Author of:
MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career

Are you willing to put yourself on the line?

Writing ain’t easy, and that’s a fact. Anyone who thinks you can simply sit down and write a good book or screenplay is living in the land of delusion. Writing is a learned craft. It takes time, energy, a willingness to devote yourself to something that may never pay off, diligence, ego and humility. Writing is a “calling” not a career or job. If you are a writer, you have very little choice about it. It’s something you simply have to do. You may find that you are financially unable to support yourself on your writing for a very long time. Most writers have a “real” job while they slave away at trying to get their writing career in gear. Does having a job make writing more difficult? Yes, of course it does. Does having a job make writing impossible? No, it doesn’t.

People often bandy about the word commitment, but do you really know what it means and what the cost will be? Probably not. The price of your being a writer is high, but try not to forget that the rewards are great. You will be fulfilling your destiny and hopefully, at some point, you will be making a good living while doing it.

The point of all of this rhetoric is to share with you that you will need to be resolute in your choice and unwavering in your actions. Not only will the cost be emotional but it will also be financial. Make your decision and go for it.

Be determined to write more than one book or script without selling it. Know that it takes time, practice and research to become good enough to eventually get paid for your work. Be amenable to moving on to the next project and the next one after that. Be willing to buy that new computer, go to those writing classes, seminars, conferences and pitch fests and the occasional Film Festival. Make the investment in meeting other writers.

Are you willing to spend the time?

Because this is not an overnight success type of career it will take you quite some time to become really good at your craft. It will also take you a good deal of time to break into your chosen field. It might take years to reach your goal. Once you accept this, you will be free to move ahead.

Don’t forget that you will need the support and understanding of loved ones in pursuing your endeavors. They may not be able to appreciate your desires but hopefully you will find a détente with them. Be patient with them and perhaps they will be patient with you.

Are you ready for the rewards?

As a screenwriter you will discover that success comes in all sorts of sizes and types. Success may be getting a job as a staff writer on a TV sit-com when you hoped to become a writer of major motion pictures. Success may be selling low or medium budget films with minor distribution. Success may be writing a great screenplay that is mis-cast and poorly directed. It’s a crazy business with lots of unpredictable results.

The good news is that you may get exactly what you want and even if it is a little off-kilter, it will be wonderful, exciting, rewarding. You will have beat the odds. You will have proven yourself. Writing is a terrifically stimulating and potentially thrilling career.

There are no half measures in your chosen craft. If you have the tenacity and talent, GO FOR IT!!


Michele Wallerstein is a Screenplay & Novel & Career Consultant and author of “MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career“.

Email: novelconsult@yahoo.com
Web site: www.novelconsultant.com

Copyright 2010 Michele Wallerstein. Not be used without written permission from Author.

How To Be An Agent’s Dream Client Aug 28

Reminder: Michele Wallerstein will be holding a book signing and free talk today from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Sherman Oaks. Click here for details.


How To Be An Agent’s Dream Client

by Michele Wallerstein

An agent works very hard to guide a writer’s career. We help them with their material, we set up important meetings for them, and we see that their material is read by the right people, we negotiate their deals, we share information with them and we even listen to their personal problems. Is that enough? OK, we also show an interest in their spouses and children, we try not to hurt their feelings when their work is rejected; we are loyal and often very caring. We keep our eye
on the ball and an ear to the ground. We know what’s going on in the business and who’s buying what. Is that enough?

But… then we must let the writers go out into the world by themselves and we pray that they do not do themselves harm. This is the most daunting of our tasks.

Here are ten (10) things that clients mustn’t do:

  1. Getting stuck on one idea. I’ve had clients that have written the same basic story in novel, screenplay and theatrical play form. This is an incredibly huge waste of time.
  2. Thinking everyone is wrong, except you. When your project has been turned down by more than five (5) companies, chances are it won’t sell. This can happen with a pitch or a completed novel or screenplay. Right or wrong, they aren’t buying and there’s nothing you or your agent can do about it.
  3. Ruining a meeting. Are you talking too much or not enough? Are you listening to the principal person in the meeting? Did you arrive late? Did you dress inappropriately? Did you argue too much? Did you stay too long?
  4. Missing your big chance. I’ve represented many writers who really wanted to direct. In one specific case the writer became a producer on various TV series over the years. I kept telling him to direct some episodes, but he said that he was too busy. He never became a director.
  5. Calling your agent too often or not often enough. If you don’t seem interested in your career, why should your agent. If you are calling every day without new material or ideas, you are nagging. Big no-no.
  6. Not showing appreciation to your agent, manager, and lawyer. Yes we all get paid, but sometimes that isn’t enough. Everyone wants to feel approval. We all want someone to simply thank us for a job well done. Take them to lunch; buy them a simple birthday or Christmas gift. Say “thanks.”
  7. Changing agents. Most of the time when clients change agents it’s because they aren’t getting work or selling their material. Is that really your agent’s fault or are you not doing your job very well? Have you brought in new ideas and scripts? Are you keeping up relationships with people you’ve met via your agent? Are you
    doing everything you can to further your own career? Remember, you get to keep 90% of the money.
  8. Moving from a small agency to a very big one. Bad idea. If a small agency has worked hard to build your career, you can bet a larger one will come along and make tremendous promises to lure you over to their client list. Invariably, you will be ignored, forgotten, mistreated and overlooked.
  9. Demanding too much. This can mean time from your agent, producer, development person, manager or lawyer. It can mean money for your project that may not warrant as big a deal as you want. Once you earn it… you’ll get it all.
  10. Drugs and alcohol. They will ruin your career.

Getting into the world of screenwriters and published authors is difficult enough. Making the mistakes listed above is a sure-fire way of losing any toe-hold that you may gain, at any time. All too often I’ve seen successful writers fall off the “hot writer” list in Hollywood because of any of the above errors. Don’t let it happen to you.


Michele Wallerstein is a Screenplay & Novel & Career Consultant and author of “MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career“.

Email: novelconsult@yahoo.com
Web site: www.novelconsultant.com

Copyright 2009 Michele Wallerstein. Not be used without written permission from Author.

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