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The Organization of Black Screenwriters was started nearly 20 years ago and now has more than 200 members across the country. Meetings take place once a month, usually on the first Saturday of the month. Each month, special guests are invited to come along and talk to members and this month’s guests were Marc and Elaine Zicree, who have started running a mentoring programming after several decades in the film and television industry. Marc is the author of The Twilight Zone Companion and has written for a host of TV shows including Deep Space Nine, Babylon 5, and Star Trek: the Next Generation.
There are amany people who had come close to having projects optioned, or who had been on the verge of actually having something made but at the least minute, funding was pulled or the person responsible for optioning them had been fired or moved on. The Zicrees pulled no punches about how hard it was to break into the film or TV business. That said, the one quality that stood them in good stead was tenacity. Those who stuck with it would succeed in the end, they maintained.
But how to get your first break into the business? First of all, the Zicrees said to think carefully about your writing and about the kinds of things you want to say. Sit down and make a list of 50-100 people who are doing the work you want to do – and approach them to be your mentor or ask if they would like to work with you. If you are concerned about getting access, Marc advise to start writing for an online magazine. “The internet is changing everything. Every network and studio has someone whose soul job it is to look online.”
Another approach is to simply cold call executives at production companies or studios whose details can be obtained from the Hollywood Creative Directory. Elaine advise having a prepared script ready before picking up the phone – a single sheet of paper stating brief details about your project and why you would like to send it to them. Marc says not to bother with junior executives – it was important to speak to the person with the power to say “yes,” to get your work to the people who matter. “In Hollywood, nobody wants to read,” he says.