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OUR BUSINESS IS COMMUNICATING. SO WHY ARE SOME SO BAD AT IT?

There's nothing more frustrating than getting an email from a producer asking if I’m interested in writing a screenplay and then, when I email back and convey my interest, all I hear are—

.

Good communication is a writer’s most important skill.

Duh! Everyone knows that.

Well, did you know it’s also the most important skill for virtually everyone? Especially business people who want their businesses to thrive. And that includes producers.

There is nothing more frustrating for me than getting an email from a producer asking if I’m interested in writing a screenplay or developing a series and then, when I email back and convey my interest, all I hear are—

Speed of communication can be as important as its quality.

For communication to be good, like justice, it needs to be fast. Slow communication is no communication.

I doubt these producers were aware of it, but their lack of communication did communicate. It said many things. It said, “Jeff, you’re not really important to me.” It said, “I’m in the communication business but I suck at communication.”

The first impression I get when someone displays poor communication skills is that they’re not a professional.

Although failing to communicate at all is the most frustrating thing, poor communication can be nearly as bad. One of the most frustrating examples of poor communication I experience all the time is when a producer asks me, “How much do you charge for a script?”

Can you imagine going into a jewelry store and asking, “How much for a ring?” The salesman will ask you what kind of ring? Gold? Silver? Platinum? Diamond? One carat? Two? Ten??? Do you want to spend $500? $500,000???

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received queries and had to explain that, like jewelry stores, I don’t have one-size-fits-all fees. It depends on what they need. How many pages? Live? Animated? Action? Comedy? Two characters? Fifty characters? Is the budget $10,000? $10 million? Do they want one script? 52 scripts? All of these things—and more—affect the time and effort it takes to write. And thus they affect the fee.

Many producers are not aware that the budget affects the script fee. They figure the writer does the same work regardless of what the budget is. Not true. A lot more work goes into building a Bentley than a Kia. And a lot more work goes into writing a $50 million dollar film than a $50,000 film. The Writers Guild of America’s minimum fee schedule reflects this with scales for low-budget and high-budget films.

So what would good communication be for a producer who’s requesting a fee quote? Perhaps something like this:

Hi Jeff,

I’m producing a $25 million dollar animated feature. We’ve got the concept: It’s a comedy about an alien Santa running out of toys and coming to Earth on Christmas to steal ours. It’s intended for a crossover global audience. We’ve got development financing and are ready to roll on the screenplay (about 100 pages). If you’re interested, let me know if you have any questions, and what your fee would be.

Regards,

Irving R. Thalberg

Although the above relates to writing, the same holds true if the person is querying a film editor, storyboard artist or any other potential hire. The communication needs to be precise and complete.

Let me give you a real example of a good communicator. No, make that GREAT communicator.

Every time I would send a fax or email to Jeffrey Katzenberg I would get a swift response. My reaction would be, “Oh, my god! What a pro!! Who the heck am I to deserve Katzenberg’s instant response? I’m just a lowly cartoon writer.”

Yet he is such a pro that he knows the importance of good communication. And how easy it is. And it shows in his success.

Jim Henson was the same way. I once needed his help on something and called his assistant. The next day I got the help I asked for. Then she told me he was on the set in London directing a movie. Yet he took the time to get back to me. And he didn’t have to. In fact, most people wouldn’t have. I was floored by his thoughtfulness and professionalism.

The hallmark of a great professional is their ability to communicate well and fast.

If someone thinks that by ignoring communication they will have less to do they are wrong. Slow communication actually causes more communication, because it results in more queries to have to read, and rereading old ones when they finally decide to communicate. It also creates frustration, which usually causes worse communication to follow.

Good, fast communication is not only good for business, it’s good for people. It makes them happier. It sure makes me happier!

The formula is simple:

INFORMATION + SPEED = GOOD COMMUNICATION

The more precise the information and the faster the speed, the better the communication.

©Jeffrey Scott, All Rights Reserved

 

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