Wednesday, November 16, 2011


          Okay, you finished the world’s greatest screenplay.  You’ve sweated out the hours and hours of work.  You’ve managed to get through the days of self-doubt.  You might even have managed to stay married through it all.  Here it is, that great masterpiece, staring you in the face.  You say to yourself: “What do I do now?” 

          The answers come to you in droves.  There are agents, managers, producers, studio executives, lawyers and consultants that might see your genius and want to buy your script, sign you to contract and/or at least refer you to a powerful friend.  If only you knew who they were and how to get to them.  There’s the rub.  Then, there’s that little voice either in your head or whispered by a friend or screaming at you from the myriad of internet blogs and sites.  It says:  “ENTER THE SCRIPT IN A CONTEST!”  Well that sounds like a very good idea.  It is a good idea if you know exactly what to do if you win, place or even show in that contest.

          Winning a script competition is a great feeling and it often comes with a few dollars as a prize.  It might even show some of your friends and relatives that you actually do have some talent.  All of this is fine, but what does it do insofar as your professional career is concerned? 

          Unless you take the next steps, entering and even winning contests doesn’t do a thing for you.  The steps begin with your showing up at the film festival, event, seminar, etc., that has sponsored your contest.  You must be there to receive your award or prize and to be seen by the people in attendance.  Next, you must connect with everyone who is a professional in Hollywood who attends that event.  Do your networking in a powerful and positive way with these people.  You are someone that they need to know because you’ve won or placed in the contest and because you have a terrific and marketable screenplay that they should read.

          Make sure that you have the basic information on all of those professional Hollywood people.  Get their names, addresses, emails, phone numbers and their exact titles as well as the names of the companies for whom they work.  After that you must make sure they have your business card or at least a piece of paper with your name, address, email and a reminder note that you are a writer that they met at the “such & such” event.

          Now you are home and the real work begins.  Follow up with those people and remind them that you met and that you were in the contest.  Ask if you can send the screenplay or any other original screenplay that you have.

          The next step to using a contest positively in your life is to write query letters to other agents, managers and producers or development executives wherein you mention one or two of the contests that you’ve won or placed in.  Never mention more than a couple of contests.  These people want information delivered to them quickly and precisely. They are not interested in a list of you accomplishments. 

          If you continue to enter many, many contests without following the above, you will be wasting a tremendous amount of your valuable time and energy.  Use that time and that energy to write another screenplay, or rewrite the ones you have.

          A contest is merely means to an end for getting your foot in that Hollywood door.  Use it wisely.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


You may know that I've written a book titled "MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent's Guide To Your Writing Career", but you may not know what it is about.  Here is a review by
Craig Berger that shares a great deal of information on what you will learn in this book:

"What’s great about Michele Wallerstein’s “Mind Your Business” is that she doesn’t just tell you what to do, she tells you what NOT to do, and that may be much more important. Michele has compiled twenty-five years as a literary agent watching the rise and fall of countless screenwriters, and she has given you, the budding screenwriter, the chance to not make the mistakes that those other screenwriters made, mistakes that ended careers, many before they even began.

I wish I had Michele’s book ten years ago, when I started on this journey to Hollywood screenwriting glory. I would have known to watch out for “fringe” players. I would have known that you need to scrutinize any potential agent to make sure they are right for you, and that once you get one, you have to work just as hard as they do (if not harder) to get your career going. I would have known the eleven rules to live by when writing spec scripts. And a lot more.

Fortunately, since I’m confident my career skyrocket is just around the corner, there’s still a lot of great information I’ll be able to use. Stuff like what to do in a meeting. Yes, it’s the common sense things that you would think of for any interview, like proper grooming and hygiene, but it’s also crucial information like who to address in the room and how long to stick around.

Most importantly, it’s clear this book is a labor of love. Rather than reading like a “get famous quick, I’ll show you how” scheme, you can tell that you are reading a work by someone who truly cares for all her clients, and for every gifted writer out there struggling to navigate the fierce winds of Hollywood. If you’re still trying to get a grip on the business side of this screenwriting game (and I know few writers who aren’t), I definitely recommend “Mind Your Business.”

Thursday, September 29, 2011


          Being a filmmaker is not only a great job, but it is an important career choice.  So many great films have been able to uplift the spirits of their audiences as well as enlighten them. 
          Here are some more reasons that it is a wonderful and significant time to be a filmmaker now:
1.    You will be able to unleash the creative genie in your soul.
2.    You will be able to influence a tremendous amount of people.
3.    You will be able to entertain people whose lives are difficult.
4.    You will be able to share your thoughts and feelings.
5.    You will be able to share important information.
6.    You will be able to find out just how capable you are.
7.    You will be able to continue to grow and learn.
8.    You will be able to meet and enjoy many creative people.
9.    You will be able to work with many intelligent and quick witted people. 
10.You will have the time of your life.

Filmmakers and creative people of all arenas are blessed to be able to live a life filled with meaning.  They can follow their calling instead of finding a job.  It’s a great way to live.

Friday, June 10, 2011


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.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My Book's on Kindle

Just received the exciting news that my book, "MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent's Guide To Your Writing Career", is now on Kindle!!!!
They sell it on, for $9.99.  Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.  I guess I'll have
to go buy a Kindle.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Studio System - "ON BEING RE-WRITTEN"

Be prepared.  That’s the best advice I can give to new writers. I know it will be a shock to your system, but at some point, other people will be hired to rewrite your work.   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 from the business of movies, 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 or even a minor 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 a need for more rewrites.  This will always happen. You may think that the script is perfect the way it is, but this is an industry that lives by committees.  There are so many people involved with each project and each one of those folks has a different idea of how to make it better.  It is actually the job of Development Executives to find errors (real or imagined) in the scripts on which they are working.  If they simply read a draft and move it up the ladder, their boss will think that they aren’t doing a good job.  So they write up lots of notes with suggestions, questions and ideas to improve your draft. 

The question as to who will do these next rewrites is up to the studio and the 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.     If you have a good agent he/she will try to get you a “notes” meeting after your draft is read.  If you are lucky enough to get this meeting you will listen to all the suggestions for rewriting as well as all of the areas where they have decided that you went wrong.  It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but swallow it you must.  Usually the writers’ first impulse is to scream and run out of the room.  You will be sitting there all alone while facing one or more executives and assistants who are propped up behind very large desks and who have offered you designer water and cafĂ© lattes.  You will want to zone out while they drone on about the problems in the script.  These are the times that you must gather all of your inner strength and bear up to the task at hand.  Your job is now to win these people over by your positive attitude, willingness to do as they suggest and to come up with other ideas to improve your project.  What you want to accomplish here is to get another chance to rewrite your own script. 

6.    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 go to work on your next project.

7.    Remember that your purchase price and production bonus are often tied to your on-screen credit.  Also, remember that the more you are able to do these rewrite, the more likely you will be to have your vision put up there on that wonderful big screen.  In the event you share that screen credit with other writers, your fees will be diminished.  If there are more than three writers who ask for writing credit, or if you decide to arbitrate a credit decision, the screen credit will be determined by an impartial panel at the Writers Guild of America.  Keep your fingers crossed and pray.
You must 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.