You’ve written a script or you have a great TV show idea--now you need the producer to make your dream a reality. A producer is the person who shepherds a movie or TV show from idea to finished product and who is essential to getting projects financed. There are thousands of producers in Hollywood, but the real trick is how to get to them. You can't just walk into the office of CSI’s Jerry Bruckheimer or Brian Grazer who produced “The Da Vinci Code.” For someone with no contacts in show business, there are ways in which you can reach into the closed-off world of entertainment and find someone to make your dream idea a reality.
Have an attractive, properly formatted screenplay or television treatment ready. The more attractive a package you have for your project, the more likely a producer will want to become involved. Make your material presentable. Grammar, spelling and format mistakes turn people off immediately. Have several people proofread your script. You can even hire a professional to check it. If you have a script, do you have a known director or actor attached? If you have a show idea, do you have a known actor or host interested? Even if you do, you still have to get that information to a producer and sometimes that’s like trying to fight through an enemy army.
Look for a producer on websites like mandy.com and mediabistro.com. The problem is how to tell if the people who respond to you are legitimate producers. To be honest, few well-established producers look for work on those sites. You could get lucky, but the chances are slim. If you pursue this route, remember one iron rule: no legitimate producer will ask you for money to represent your project. It’s their job to find money and financing, not yours. Never pay anything to get someone--a producer or agent--to consider your material.
Find producers who have made something similar to your idea, at least in the same genre. Research this information on the Internet Movie Data Base. Once you have their names, how do you find them? Reference a book called “The Hollywood Creative Directory” from the publishers of "The Hollywood Reporter." This book lists a large number of production companies in Los Angeles, along with the main players and their addresses and phone numbers. It also lists the submission policy for many of these companies--and unfortunately that policy usually is “no unsolicited submissions," which means they want you to have an agent. Getting an agent is just as tough as getting a producer, but you can still sometimes get your material to companies that don't accept unsolicited projects. Write a query letter that has a quick one-line synopsis of your project and a few of the elements that you think will help sell it. See who the development executives are at the various companies. Target one of the execs lower on the list who are more likely to want to discover new talent and new ideas. Try calling, but don’t nag. Make friends with their assistants if you can and try to win them to your side. The Hollywood Creative Directory won’t have their emails, so you can get those from their assistants and try your query that way. Odds are you’ll get hundreds who say "no"--but you only need one "yes," so don’t be discouraged.
Also try any company that will accept unsolicited work. If they will accept unsolicited submissions, they’re probably hungry for projects.
If you do get a chance to submit your material, drop it off in person so the company can see you’re presentable and normal. That counts for a lot.
Attend film festivals and meet producers there. Be friendly and warm, but don’t hit them over the head with your project immediately. If they’re open to it, pitch your idea and follow up by giving them your business card with your email address. Otherwise, email them after the festival and remind them where you met.
It's not easy to find a producer. It takes determination and stamina because you’ll get tons of rejections. If a producer is kind enough to give you notes on your project, take those notes very seriously and consider reworking your script or idea. They’re the professionals and they know what they’re doing. Once you rework it, ask them to take a look at it again. If they don’t want it, ask them if they know someone who does.
Show business is all about connections and being in the right place at the right time, so if you keep at it, the right producer will eventually come your way.
Read all the entertainment news sites and trade papers to see what projects producers have in the pipeline and what kinds of projects are popular right now.
Read classic screenplays to make sure you have the correct format.
Find examples of television and movie treatments and synopses to use as your guideline.
Dennis Coleman is a veteran of the TV and entertainment business. He wrote, directed and produced for hit shows such as "Entertainment Tonight" and "Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous," as well as for networks like MTV, A&E, VH1 and ESPN. He has a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from Rutgers University and also spent a year in communications at Emerson College.