Film Courage: This question comes in from Flower Power…
“My question: How do you get producers to read your script? I don’t have any money or connections. How do I approach this? Just try to get lucky?”
Justin Warren, Writer/Director: That’s a really good question, I’m still trying to figure that out. But the one thing that I’ve learned is that Hollywood is incredibly relational in the sense of…in theory it’s really bad because I used to always think Why does this writer make it and this one doesn’t? Why does this director not and why does this one not? The reality is, it’s not fair. Life is not fair. Hollywood in particular is definitely not fair. And I don’t mean that to knock it, but I think when I began to realize that there are no rules then it sort of opened up for me.
For instance I know this producer friend who literally got a movie made because he knew the stunt man who worked on the movie with that actor and he asked for him to pass the script over.
And some how it seems like in theory that should not work, but some how that worked and he attached at actor to his script and BOOM! It got made. It was a horror film or something like that. But basically there’s no way. It seems like in my limited experience (I’ve only been out here 7 years) but three of that I was in film school and about four-ish years have been trying to crack this things called “Hollywood.”
I’m very introverted and it’s very difficult for me to meet people but I’ve noticed that when I start becoming more relational with people, things start to happen.
I’m not saying that means that I’m going to be writing on HBO next week. But I’ve noticed that every single year that I’ve been out here I notice more things that make LA feel smaller if that makes sense.
For instance, the other day I was watching a commercial and I saw a friend that I knew on a commercial. And I’m like Oh? I know him. I met him last year. That’s him on TV. And then the other day I was driving down the street and I saw a billboard and I was That’s Billy! What’s Billy doing? It’s crazy. And every year that seems to happen a little bit more.
And I know that just sustained effort over time should eventually equal “breaking into Hollywood” whatever that is. And so I think that I definitely don’t have an answer to that but just from my experience I’ve noticed that things are starting to happen for me by interfacing and hanging out with people who are like-minded who you jive with, who you feel a connection with because I think a lot of times the piece of advice a lot of people give is You’ve got to network, just network. But networking inherently feels not relational, it feels transactional at least in my brain. So for me I’ve sort of tried to tip it to think like Okay, well I’m just trying to find other like-minded people who I connect with. And then try to pursue that great feeling of putting a movie on the screen or telling a story or doing something and it’s not just movies, it can be anything. Any sort of story that moves people. If we can find a way to connect on that, we can become allies. We can fight for each other and be in the trenches together and that’s a really beautiful thing since I’ve taken that approach.
Like I said I’m sort of super new at this whole pursuing filmmaking career. But I do know that if you just don’t give up and just keep meeting people, connecting with people who you like, and they like you back, eventually something is going to happen.
I don’t remember what the quote is but something along the lines of the people who get lucky, luck is opportunity meets preparation. That’s what luck is. The more opportunities you have, the more people that you get to start to know, that know what you do and like what you do, eventually there will be an opportunity for you to step up and do something.
There will be long stretches of time where nothing happens and it feels like you’re not making any progress. I literally just got out of a long stretch of time where I felt that way. I was just like What am I doing out here? I want to move back home. I’m wasting my time. It’s super expensive to live out here. This is awful. But something twisted, something turned in my brain. I was like You know what, I may not know anybody at these big studios that could get me a movie, but I do know a lot of people out here that are on my level (sorry I shouldn’t say level) but are on their same progression in their journey. I know all of these people and what I can do is just connect with the ones that I feel get me and understand me. And I started that process 4 months ago. And it’s been amazing how many opportunities have come from that. Like Okay, I know this writer who is in my class. Let’s just grab coffee and talk to each other and see how we might be able to help each other. And that’s been phenomenal. You can get your script to people that way.
I have a friend who ended up getting representation because she ended up meeting with her friend who was repped by…a rep. Anyone who was repped by someone they went and met with them and basically felt it out. Is this a good fit first? Do I feel like I connect with this person and if they did and everything seemed right she would be like Hey, it might be a huge ask but would you take a look at my script? And not asking Hey, would you take a look and give it to your rep? Just like Hey, will you read it? And if you like it, could you maybe pass it on? If not, no harm, no foul. And they seemed to be pretty successful doing it that way.
There are so many different avenues but there is no real one way. Hollywood seems to be the wild, wild, west. And I think (at least for me) that’s what makes it intriguing. Of like Man, the next thing could come from anywhere. There is way more opportunity around us than we feel. It’s only just a matter of focus and attention. If you focus on the world being abundant instead of scarce then suddenly the world becomes abundant. And I know it sounds really weird but I’ve noticed that when I’ve made those conscious choices, things seem to happen.
JUSTIN WARREN was born in Little, Rock Arkansas in 1987. He started making movies at the age of eight, making his own stop-motion animated Star Wars films. He graduated from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas with a B.A. in Theatre Arts and Dance, where he took the lead in numerous stage plays and won awards for his bold playwriting. In 2008, Justin and his family were featured in the 2008 CNN documentary “Black in America” with Soledad O’Brien which was broadcast globally. In 2014, Justin graduated from the prestigious USC School of Cinematic Arts with an M.F.A. in Film and Television Production. In addition to writing, directing, and co-editing his own films, Justin has also written, performed, arranged, and engineered three albums of original music. In 2018, his first comedy feature film, Then There Was Joe, made its World Premiere at Jeff Nichol’s (Mud, Midnight Special, Loving) Arkansas Cinema Society to sold out crowds. The film is currently screening around the country on the festival circuit and received a glowing review in the L.A. Times, which declared Justin as having a “bright future” in Hollywood. You can visit him online at Justinwarren.me.
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