I recently listened to an episode of the Broken Projector podcast that featured an interview with a Hollywood literary manager. He talked about what he looks for in a prospective screenwriter client and gave some good advice, chief of which is to “write a great script,” but I was a bit disheartened by something else he said.
“I want to know that you’re personable. And good in the room. You know, that you’re not introverted and weird and awkward. Because there are so many writers that are good in the room. It’s really hard for those introverted individuals to have the success they once did.”
He doesn’t want to represent writers that are introverted? That would eliminate 50% of the population. Not to mention, the majority of writers are introverts, so that would further lessen the selection pool. Beyond that, to assume that introverts are not personable is an offensive misconception. I understand that agents, managers, producers, directors, and studio executives would want a screenwriter who is easy to work with, but extroverts aren’t the only people capable of doing that.
There seems to be an over-emphasis in Hollywood on writers who are good in a room. For television, that makes sense to a certain degree, as a group of writers work together in a room to write the same show. They have to be able to get along. But movies are different. Generally, one screenwriter works alone, either writing a spec script (an original screenplay written on spec with hopes of selling after completion) or an assignment, based on preexisting material. There are less and less spec script sales these days. Most movies are assignment-based, meaning studios come up with the idea for the movie first, based on some piece of intellectual property they own (a book, comic, old tv show, toy, board game, etc.), then they try to find someone to hire to write it. Screenwriters go in to meet with these studio executives and pitch their idea for the movie in the room. If the executives like the pitch, they hire them to write the screenplay. That’s how most movies are made in Hollywood today.
That may be a flawed system, however. It overvalues writers who are “good in the room.” Studio executives will naturally be drawn to the most enthusiastic and compelling speaker they hear. But ultimately the writer’s verbal pitch doesn’t matter. It has no bearing on the quality of the eventual movie. All that really matters is the script they write. Pitching a script and writing a script are two completely different skill sets. Extroverts tend to excel at the first, while introverts excel at the second.
Are there extroverted screenwriters who are great in a room and on the page? Yes. And those individuals are probably doing quite well in this system. But people who excel equally at both skill sets are rare. Could it be that the decline in the quality of Hollywood movies is due to the fact that studios are hiring screenwriters who are better at talking about movies than writing them? Are introverts with mediocre pitches for great scripts losing jobs to extroverts with great pitches for mediocre scripts? I don’t know. But there seems to be a market inefficiency in Hollywood today for introverts who are great at writing but not so great at pitching their ideas in the room. Does it really matter that a writer is “weird and awkward” in person if they are witty and awesome in print?