A mentor should do a few key things for your career. Mike breaks it down for all screenwriters as only a mentor can.
Purpose of Mentorships
Finding people that are better than you at what you want to do is always good practice. If you want to be good at business, you should start hanging out with people that are better business than you.
Writers get better when they work with producers that give them development assignments. To reach a new tier of screenwriting, writers need to be a part of a collaborative process. This means that the assignment comes with particular instructions about the rewrite. Working on other people’s screenplay story structure may not seem like much, but it’s a great training process.
With so much exposure to different kinds of script outlines and writers, you get to steal the mojo. For instance, if a writer is really great at character development, you will be able to absorb the key points. It’s amazing to receive feedback on a project and see how a professional writer transforms the character of your screenplay story structure and gives it more depth.
When thinking about mentorship, think about being around people who are just freely giving information and wanting to contribute collaboratively. This is exactly what happened at SAN’s ultimate screenwriter mentorship. Three days a week, Mike gives the best information he can to the writers. The notes, analysis, and feedback that the writers get are specifically tailored for their script. This is a prime example of a collaborative process. They tell the writers all that they need to do to make sure that their scripts get financed and produced.
Mentorships transform your mentality. They boost your confidence by allowing you to participate in projects. Even working as a ghostwriter under good mentors can do wonders.
Genuine Mentors vs. Exploiters
There are many people out there who hire writers to do jobs but these producers aren’t really good. Their scripts aren’t special nor do they have a standout talent. Their scripts are likely to not get financed. Writers should avoid these kinds of persons as mentors.
To know whether someone’s good or not, you need to read their material. If the script format or the script outline is good in that it has some kind of value to it, then you should go for it. However, if the producer wants to start you out on a project without showing you their work first, then you should be careful. It is better to work for a known person on a small project than with an unknown person who has no material to judge them on.
Anyone soliciting writers has a goal to get their scripts financed. There is no guarantee that the work will attract investors. So, look for people who are further along in their craft. Find people who are committed to the industry.
How To Approach Someone For Mentorship?
The first rule of approaching anyone, a writer or producer, is to approach them in a professional business manner. Soliciting people without any reference point doesn’t work. You shouldn’t spam people and approach them, say if you see them walking in the street. The best way to interest the people you want to mentor you is by providing a service. You have to start out by what you are good at to get their interest.
If you’re having trouble finding the right mentor, visit the film festivals. Film festivals are where people hunt for and find good talent with potential. Remember, a mentor doesn’t have to be a big name in the industry. That doesn’t mean that you should avoid aiming for them. The point is to try with all kinds of people. Approach them from a business perspective and find those young hungry filmmakers. Those are the kind of people who are going to stick around. And as mentioned before, commitment to the industry plays a big part in what kind of mentorship you will get.
A typical image of a mentor in most people’s head is of a grey-haired man who’s old and seasoned. However, it’s not a good idea to limit yourself to older people for mentorship. The age of the mentor doesn’t really matter as long as they are beneficial to you. The objective of any mentorship is to get better to get connected. It is to help you understand the industry and to grow mentally as a person as well in the craft. And the way to do that is by connecting with people who are simply just very talented.
Go For What Feels Good
Finding a mentor means finding people who make you feel better and uplift your talent. Just being around an amazing artist that you respect is a great way to learn. Receiving compliments on your work from someone that you respect and see eye to eye with is a great booster. It will give the same effect as having a seasoned old grey-haired mentor. But looks and age don’t really matter. Think about what it’s accomplishing and how it affects your career.
So, find someone who you regard as being very talented and creative. Someone whose synergy and creativity makes you want to be around them. Being in a creatively supportive environment keeps the ideas flowing in the screenplay story structure. What’s a really big deal is to find someone whose talent you respect.
Now, there’s also the aspect of getting along with each other. Understandably, not all personalities match and like each other. Sometimes you’re an introvert and you don’t know how to socialize with new people or how to network. The thing is that you have to meet people who you respect. Respect allows you to look at the person’s work from a professional angle. It shows that you can rely on their professional opinion to get pointers on your work.
If you find people that believe in you then, regardless of their age, that person is going to take you a lot further.
Believing In Yourself
People want to hire people that believe in themselves too. You want a person that believes in you and you to want to be around people that believe in you. Avoid people who are overly critical and irrationally critical and really don’t believe in you. These are somethings that you can sense. It is possible to sense and feel if a person really doesn’t have your best interest in mind.
In a writer’s context, a mentor will want to work with you when you believe in yourself. The way to approach superiors is by having confidence in your work. The thing to understand is that in this industry no one has time. People only want to work with people that provide a service that helps them in furthering their agenda. If you are not 100% confident in your ability, then you shouldn’t be looking for a mentor. A mentor is not someone who gives you everything you need to get better. You need to get better yourself and then find a mentor that will help you connect the dots.
A big part about mentorship is about learning things beyond your current craft. In the SAN Ultimate Screenwriter Mentorship, writers learn things that they never would have known. Mike answers questions that writers have about their careers or any other topic. The ultimate goal of mentorship is to find answers.
Mentorship is your guide out of a maze that is this industry. Mentors show you how to get the helicopter view of that maze of your screenplay story structure and script format. Beyond information, a mentor may provide you with opportunities. However, you do need to put in the work.
Bring Skill To The Table
Mentors will work with someone who brings some kind of skill to the table. If they are going to spend their time with a writer, then they need to be able to exploit their skills. They will not mentor someone who doesn’t help them further their objective. The whole program at SAN is about building up writers and giving them the application the tools that are required for improving their skills. The writers get feedback and rewrite notes on their scripts that help them take it to another level.
Essentially what a mentor wants is to give writers the mechanism that they need to streamline the story and improve their script format. But that can only happen when you bring something to the table. A core characteristic of mentorship is to teach you how to come up with a financially viable script. Sometimes writers just need the approval of someone whose craft that they respect. A pat in the back won’t take you to another level, but it will give the confidence boost that you need to carry on.
The Bottom Line
Writers all start at different starting points. Mentorship is about providing you with ways to connect the dots in your career. It’s about providing you with ways to actually get better at your craft while getting better at your business.
Often, writers have a distorted view of what this film industry actually is and the goal of the script development master class is to demystify this. To really give some clear vision on what it is. And this is what a mentor needs to do effectively and consistently to have growing mentees.
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