Monday, August 25, 2008

That Guy

Dan posted a comment in response to my post about the Paley preview events:

How does it work when you meet somebody like a TV writer or showrunner and you'd like to meet up with them or have them read a spec? Do you give out a business card and ask for theirs? Or is that too forward?

It's funny you mentioned this, because I was just talking about it at drinks with another assistant. You go to a panel or something and there is always That Guy...well, two kinds of Those Guys:

That Guy #1: Cringe-inducing Bad Question-, Multiple Question- or Non-Question-Asker

You know him. He runs up to the mic or waves his hand wildly in the air, only to A) ask a personalized question that wastes the time of the group, B) ask many complicated questions because he's self-absorbed, or C) make irrelevant comments instead of asking a question at all. That Guy always makes me feel so awkward and embarrassed that I have to look away. It makes me mad that he paints all us eager aspirers as idiots who don't get it. Usually I don't ask anything for fear I might lose myself in fandom and become this dude. Remember that the writers are being generous and taking time to give advice and insight. Don't make it all about you. Nobody came to see you. When people are just greedily using other people to get ahead, it's obvious. And annoying.

That Guy #2: Overzealous Script-Shover

There she is. That writer who created Your Favorite Show Ever. She eats crackers and drinks Diet Coke like you do!!! It's remarkable. And there is just this perfect little slice of time in which you can accost her and shove your script into her crackerless hand. Please don't be That Guy. Even if she does accept the script, she's probably gonna throw it out, because you're another dude who doesn't get it. And you might sue her someday. This harkens back to all my posts about networking: don't ask for favors you haven't earned. When you write a query letter, or make a cold call, or shove a script at someone you've just met, you're essentially asking for a favor you have no right to be asking for.

That being said, you've gotta have some balls sometimes. You've gotta network. Play the game. Whatever. So, sure, walk up to the showrunner and say hi. (I honestly need to work on this more myself.) Tell her you love her show. Who wouldn't want to hear that? Introduce yourself - get on her radar. If you strike up a bond, maybe you can exchange a number or card. Cards are pretty harmless...but I kinda doubt a big showrunner would hand you one, or call you after you give her one. If you hit it off, maybe you can meet for drinks or coffee sometime. Maybe you can talk about a script and ultimately get her to read it - but don't expect this, Greedy McGreederson. If she OFFERS to do favors for you, awesome. Just don't expect it, or try to force it to happen.

I DID hear a story about some eager beavers who gave a script to a showrunner at a panel, and during the strike, he got bored and read it. And liked it. And called them in for a meeting. And liked them, but realized they were too young to remember the 80s. So he made them writer's assistants. Hooray for all. I feel the need to share this, because yes, crazy shit happens sometimes. Having balls pays off (oh, how I didn't intend for that to be grand gender commentary...). But the story probably never ever would have happened had there not been a big strike that rendered showrunners bored. Know that this is certainly an exception to the rule. If you're That Guy, it most likely won't result in a great gig for you. Plus, I'll think of you as a That Guy.

So yes. Go to events. Network. Get yourself out there. But don't be pushy and ask for favors you haven't earned. Don't be That Guy.

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Dan In LA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan In LA said...

Can we add to That Guy #1's description: asks a question everyone who's done even a little bit of homework already knows the answer to.
(ie. What's a spec?)

There are no stupid questions, but there are stupid times to ask them!

Dan Williams said...

Thanks for the reply. It's always a bit awkward to break the ice. I know what you mean about Guy #1 and #2!

I guess when you are talking to a showrunner or somebody on a show you could say you like their work and then tell them that you are "Amanda, of Aspiring TV Writer fame." And maybe tell them how many blogs you've written and questions that you've answered. But the thing you're not so sure about is how to get a spec read by a panelist -- is this the time to pitch a spec or not?

Anyway, I think you are right -- sooner or later you just have to come out and ask for what you want in a sensitve, respectful way.

Emily Blake said...

Oh I HATE that guy. That first guy, the one who prevents smarter people from asking good questions because he's so busy asking how a 32-year-old half Chinese former attorney should go about turning his mixed race Asian attorney thriller into an animated feature so he can pitch it to this one guy he met at Pixar at the last Expo.

I want to punch that guy right in the face.

adam ___________________ said...

Very true. Which is why I have yet to attend a panel or a Q&A that was more than 50% useful. I sometimes wonder why they hold them at all, since they KNOW That Guy will be there. Generosity? Karma? I don't know. But a small part of me always dreads going to those things, because -- like you said -- I know I'm going to be lumped together with That Guy.

ath said...

Haha, I'll be finding Amanda, and forcing my spec onto her.

READ THIS PLZ!!!!!1!!!!one!