Class Etiquette – Sherwood Oaks Protocol
(A must-read, not just for Sherwood Oaks newbies, but for anyone who wants to succeed in the film business)
Sherwood Oaks is not your typical class environment. We are serious about jump-starting the careers of our students and therefore have created a curriculum that duplicates a professional film atmosphere – afterall, our students come to us because they want to be film professionals! Because of this approach, it is very important that our students understand what it means to be professional in this unique business. We pride ourselves on preparing our students for the realities of this industry in a way that no one else has accomplished.
When you sign up for a Sherwood Oaks course for the first time, you will be asked to participate in an in-depth phone conference that will describe in detail what is expected from students – and what the students can expect in return. However, the information below will give you an introductory understanding.
Sherwood Oaks conducts courses much in the way film professionals conduct business, in a roundtable style discussion (See “Choose Your Style” for more info). Because the top level industry guests that we invite are used to this way of doing things, this puts them at ease and allows everyone to get the most out of their class time. It also gives YOU, the student, valuable experience with this manner of conducting business. However, since many people are not used to attending a course that is formatted in this way, it can be easy to forget at times that we are in fact in both a class and a professional environment! Therefore, please keep the following guidelines in mind throughout your course:
Developing strong relationships the Sherwood Oaks way:
- Due to the nature of this business, we strongly recommend that you connect with speakers on a human interest level, rather than pushing your material. This GREATLY increases your chance of being remembered by them!
- Every student is given the opportunity to submit a one-sheet synopsis to each guest, so there is no reason to push your material or log-line. All one-sheets are collected in an envelope and given to a speaker at the end of a session. Many students – more than 25% – have gotten call backs and writing assignments from these envelopes.
- No student is to discuss the envelope with the speaker. Instead, a moderator or the Sherwood Oaks director will give it to the speaker.
This time-tested and proven method is much more effective, because it takes pressure off the speaker and most importantly – you! Since you do not have to worry about impressing the speakers in order to get them to accept your one-sheet, you can focus instead on building a REAL relationship with the speakers that will ensure they remember who you are and look forward to working with you!
“Sharing the table”:
- Loglines: Please remember that – because we are committed to giving each and every student equal time – each student is allowed a maximum of 2 minutes to share ONE logline, whether it is during a roundtable or brief one-on-one discussion with a speaker.
- Breakout Sessions/Discussions: Roundtable discussions are designed for everyone to listen, learn, and network, and we here at Sherwood Oaks work very hard to ensure that each and every student enjoys this experience in equal measure. Therefore, it is extremely important that no one student dominate or otherwise behave inappropriately (including inappropriate language) in a breakout session/discussion. In addition to helping the students, this also prevents any annoyance to the speakers. It benefits no one to risk such annoyance, since the speaker will be less likely to read the offending person’s material. Also, the speaker may be reluctant to return to Sherwood Oaks, greatly impacting both our reputation and the offending student’s.
Respect our guests!
- Privacy: Never ask for a speaker’s email address because often times they are overwhelmed with email and cannot keep up. Asking for this information puts the speaker on the spot, thereby creating an awkward situation for him/her that may cause them to not return to Sherwood Oaks. Most importantly, it is our experience that when a speaker voluntarily provides his or her email address to a student, a future relationship can and often does flourish outside of the classroom.
- Almost all speaker information is available through the Hollywood Creative Directory.
- Do not follow a speaker out the door unless you feel that you have a personal, human connection or a specific, unique genre that the speaker has expressed interest in. For example, if you speak French and the speaker speaks French, this is a strong personal connection. Another example is if the speaker says that they are looking for Vietnam War material and you wrote a screenplay about this, then you can hand your contact information to him or her.
- Please limit conversations to less than two minutes. Please remember your time is valuable and so is each speaker’s time. By valuing their time as you value your own, you demonstrate yourself to be a professional who is in fact worthy of their time!
- Never push your material onto a speaker.
Due to the potentially severe impact of inappropriate behavior, whether in the form of disrespect to a guest or a fellow student, Sherwood Oaks reserves the right to remove the offending person from class immediately – without a refund. In addition, Sherwood Oaks cannot police every table during a Breakout Session, so if you feel that a student is dominating a discussion or annoying a speaker, please inform the director or Sherwood Oaks staff member.
Advice for those with no agent or representation:
- Never mention this to a producer.
- It is wise to have your material copyrighted in Washington DC before submitting to a producer and have an entertainment lawyer send it.
- You can send material to a producer without representation, but you must do it with permission such as that received by attending a Sherwood Oaks event.
- All producers are taught to say “no” and deny unsolicited material.
- Feel free to discuss submitting material without representation with the Sherwood Oaks director or co-director to gain more insight.
AFTER THE CLASS
No student is ever allowed to send a script to any guest unless the guest requests it. Never send unsolicited material especially not a full script.
No student is ever allowed to call any speaker (executive, development person, agent, manager, director or producer) unless they initiate the call to you.
The proper protocol is to send a written thank you note to the guest after the class.
Approximately a month after the class, a student may write (not call) to see if their synopsis (one page summary of their script) was covered but no pressure.
If you send an unsolicited script to a Sherwood Oaks guest then you will be placed on academic probation and not allowed to attend any courses.
Remember patience and pleasantness is rewarded in Hollywood.