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Takeaways from Talent USA: LA

Attendees of Talent USA: LA 2019 share their key learnings from the week-long program.

Talent USA participantsTalent USA: LA 2019 participants

Talent USA: LA was first run in 2017 and is an opportunity for Australian creators to learn and network on the ground in the US. Participants take part in a series of bespoke workshops and forge connections with both Australian and American creators, which they can leverage for their Australian projects.

The inaugural program proved so beneficial it returned in 2018, was expanded to Talent USA: NYC in 2018 and 2019, and an Indigenous delegation. The participants of the third Talent USA: LA have just returned to Australia and share their key learnings below.

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Apart from the reminder there are amazing people helping us in Australia, when meeting so many brilliant creators a singular message started to emerge. For me, that was to really dig deep to make your work special, and uniquely you. And then, to persist. Keep working. These things came up over and over. Talent wins only if it endures long enough to be seen. (And be nice).



Talent LA taught me that if you have a unique voice and a strong story, there will always be a market for your work, it’s just about finding the right fit. But it takes constant perseverance and although there may be successes, it is harder to stay working on the industry than it is to break in. Strangely enough, I found this reassuring! Why? Because it makes it seem less like a random lottery and more like a long term love affair for the super passionate, somewhat crazy and often hilarious (because you have to have a good sense of humour to survive in this mad industry!) few who remain! And who doesn’t like a love story in some form or another?!



Talent USA: LA was a whirlwind of learning a phenomenal amount of industry knowledge across a huge spectrum of the industry, from writers to network decision makers and all the folk who operate in between. One of the key take aways that trickled down throughout all these talks was why you and why this story? To really dig thematically into what the hell you really are wanting to say with your story and why it is you that needs to tell it... and that means being vulnerable in a professional environment... wtf. I can't even be vulnerable when I date #trying. But thus is the nature of being an artist and from now on I'm 100% in on basically confessing my sins to a whole bunch of execs... I'll report back in a year and let you know how it goes.



The Talent USA: LA program has been invaluable, even as a mid-career practitioner who has had success with the international industry, the initiative has given me a better understanding of the current global market place.  The other extraordinary benefit was travelling and engaging with a great group of Australians. I can see many long-term collaborations forming as a result of this experience. Thirdly, the program offered an opportunity to reflect and consider what we can shift and adapt for best practice at home. I’m very grateful for the experience.



There are 2 questions you need to know the answer to when you go in to pitch. Why now and why you? What is it about this story that makes it important to tell NOW. And why are YOU the right person to write it. These meetings are about pitching you as much as pitching the story.



The most helpful tip for myself personally was in relation to pitching - explain your idea like you're explaining an app to someone! It can be simple and quick, then get into specifics as the conversation continues and develops. Make sure to drive home why you are the only person who can tell that story!



People in Hollywood are always changing, it's really important to be nice to the assistants, because in about six months they'll be Vice President of the company. It really does happen that fast! If they offer you a water bottle, always say yes and use the opportunity to make friends with them, because they'll be more powerful when you next meet them. This seems obvious, but it's always really important to be nice to people- you never know who you'll meet or what they become!



The Talent USA: LA program was a reminder that being authentic and strong in your voice is a huge asset, and the various sessions translated the cultural differences between the US and Aussie film industries so that I feel on sure footing to approach Hollywood.

The session with Meg LeFauve was a reminder that vulnerability is required for brilliant writing.

In the US, television writers sell rather than producers, meetings have a ritual and rhythm, and representation is necessary for getting in the door to get meetings.



We learnt HEAPS! … But probably my biggest take away was how quickly the industry is changing, thanks to the rise of streamers. By next year, there will be eight or more streaming platforms in the US – Apple TV Plus, Disney +, Peacock, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube… It’s extremely competitive, as audiences have access to more content than ever before. They have enormous libraries at their fingertips; they have high expectations and short attention spans. Only two years ago, audiences would tune in for at least three episodes of a new show before deciding whether to stick around. Today, they make the same decision within ten minutes…. Content being pitched here needs to be bold, audacious, contentious and global – and take big swings to cut through.

It was really interesting to hear that many exec’s felt a show like Fleabag could not be made in the US – it’s not big enough. But it was specific enough and local enough that it travelled and therefore was global (or “glo-cal.”) I thought that was really encouraging for Australian content; we don’t necessarily have to make high-concept television. Specificity will also help a show cut through!



It was invaluable to hear so many different points of view about pitching in LA, and get a chance to take note of the common likes and don’t likes but also the unique wants of each company. If left to one’s own devices it could take months, if not years, to gather the intel Talent USA: LA gave us access to in six jam-packed days.

It was also great to learn from the other Australians on the delegation! An incredible experience that will change the way I do business moving forward, a big thank you to Screen Aus, AiF and Screenworks for giving me the opportunity.

*Part of Mentor LA

**Part of Screenworks/AIF Regional Scholarship