This is a weekly column behind the scenes of Alex LeMay’s latest project, DARK JOEY. DARK JOEY is a collaboration between LeMay and writer Jim Uhls, who wrote the major motion picture, FIGHT CLUB, as well as his writing partner Ric Krause. Follow along here: #Film-School:lemay-makes-a-series
A lot of you ask me how you get in the room with buyers, so I’ve created a sort of checklist for you to follow. These are things I do every day and it has become a matter-of-course whenever I want to to get my work in front of a busy studio exec or acquisition & development person (the person in a studio who looks for and buys content).
So why reach out to these people? Yes, you want them to screen and buy your work, but it can’t just be that. People in Hollywood (short for the world of commercial media) who only form transactional relationships quickly get named 'mooch" and before you know it, the phone goes silent and your inbox will only have spam emails for Russian nutritional supplements. Be sure you are bringing value to them and their studio. In many cases, it’s about developing relationships that make you better as a person by surrounding yourself with people who are great at what they do. These kinds of two-way relationships usually culminate in doing business together, but the best and most profitable relationships I have are about exchanging ideas. Money is a byproduct.
A couple things to note before you start your outreach. You are attempting to contact SUPER busy people who have email inboxes that are full of other people asking them for things. In addition, reaching out and immediately asking them to do something for you, especially asking them to look at your work, in the first email is a big no-no. Unless it is coupled with an offer to do something for them with no expectation of them reciprocating.
So, here we go. This is how I have met the head of Spotify, the Executive Producer on THE OFFICE, a bunch of execs at YouTube Red and Maker and so on. This requires that you do research and send out a ton of emails. Remember, it’s a numbers game.
Everyone’s email is on the internet somewhere:: You’ll need to dig, but they’re out there, there is also a digital tool that will create every version of that person’s email in the most commonly used email address conventions, but you’re on your own there. I prefer the old fashion way. Also- look to your contacts. Can anyone you know make an intro?
Know what distinguishes you from other creators: Successful people don’t have time to meet everyone so they tend to interact with interesting people. Know what you’re good at, know what you have to offer. What obstacles have you overcome that would be interesting to that person?
Look to see if they have a blog or have written articles: Have they commented on blogs? This will let you know what they are interested in. Also, one of my favorite hacks to find out how they think is to check if they have a metafilter or newsvine account. These are social bookmarking sites that are popular with media people. They allow the user to bookmark news stories or links they find interesting (a gentler Reddit). This is a powerful tool to get inside their head. Mentioning these things in your intro email is a huge way to get in with them.
Start a blog and ask to interview them: Now, don’t just start a blog to meet people. Try to add value to the world with what you write, but, this is such a non-threatening way to meet busy buyers. Do a Skype call, an email interview, or see if you can meet for coffee.
Follow-up if you haven’t heard from them: These are busy people (did I mention that?), so don’t expect them to get back to you right away. Give it a couple weeks and then shoot them another email.
Here are a couple email scripts that should get you going. Notice how short they are. In all transparency, these are email scripts given to me by a friend and I’ve used them for years. You’ll need to customize for who you are contacting, but this is a great starting point.
I know you’re busy so I’ll make this quick: My name is _________, and I noticed that you are involved in ___________. I have a great deal of experience in __________, and I’d like to offer my services, free of charge. Here is a portfolio of what I’ve already done. How can I help you?
Hello! I’m a blogger over at whatever.com and I noticed you are doing some cool and relevant stuff ( be specific about things they are doing). Would you be free anytime in the next couple weeks for a coffee/Skype interview? If not, I could send over a list of questions by email.
Here are some times I’m available: _______________.
Thanks so much!
In the end, it’s about giving, not taking. You want to develop long-term relationships that will be with you throughout your career, that are based on mutual respect and interest. A TIP: Make this outreach a habit, not something you try twice and then bail. These are not people who will reach out to find you. You have to go to them and show why a relationship with you brings value to them and their studio.
Now you have that tool. That, paired up with this training guide I just made, 5 LAWS FOR SELLING YOUR WEB SERIES will give you a one-two punch for contacting and selling to web series buyers. Please let me know when you get a win. I’d love to hear about it.