It’s no secret that part of every screenwriter’s job is to get the work out. By any means necessary.
Writing a great script is indeed only half the work, which is why it’s going to be so busy at the Burbank Marriott next weekend.
A while ago, I gave an example of two filmmakers who surely didn’t need to learn the art of networking. Most screenwriters, however, can use some tips and encouragement on how to break out of the isolation.
Monday’s scriptchat was all about the upcoming pitch fest and at some point I tweeted the following advice:
Then this tweet came back, which broke my heart.
If you don’t network naturally, you’ll have to make deliberate steps. You will need to move out of your comfort zone, and don’t forget: for most acts of networking, you can engage a wing man/woman.
So here are a few ideas – one easier than the other – on how to get networking. Some may pave the way for you to the decision makers, others may only find you a shoulder to weep on after yet another rejection.
But be open to it and you will get something out of most of these.
1. Volunteer on a film set
No better way to learn about film production than being in the middle of it. You should have plenty of opportunities to network, as 90% of the time most people aren’t doing anything anyway. So you’ll have plenty of time to tell your life story – or better: listen to that of your fellow cast/crew member. I’ve heard stories about people networking on Hollywood film sets and walking away with the business card of someone who could make their film happen.
2. Sign up for an internship
This is the longer-term, in-house equivalent of the above. Ring the production company of your dreams and see if they take interns. Most do. And believe me, you don’t have to be 19 or under to be accepted as a volunteer/intern. If you’re in L.A., you can score a volunteer gig as a reader; just google around, there are plenty of blogs talking about this. Even in lesser movie-friendly countries – Australia included – interns are hired to read scripts.
3. Volunteer for a festival, conference etc.
Every major town has its own film festival and they all work with teams of casuals and/or volunteers. You may be looking after some of the international guests, helping out during events, organizing film transport etc. If it doesn’t get you close to the celebs, at least you’ll connect with others in the industry and learn about how it all works. Similar to festivals are (screenwriting/production) conferences, seminars etc.
4. Join your local guild and attend events
Most writers’ guilds organize events on a regular basis, some of which are meant to help members connect with each other or with relevant industry folk. Even at those events that are not specifically designed to bring the members closer together, if you become a regular, inevitably you’ll start recognizing other regulars. Before you know you’ll be having drinks with them.
5. Become a social super-networker
The sad tweet above was by far not as sad as it sounded. The writer was networking while he sent it out. We’re on each other’s radar now and I’ve added him as a friend. Talk about movies and screenwriting on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and you’ll find like-minded people. Share your thoughts and experiences, help each other out.
6. Sign up for the screenwriting forums
Apart from the generic social networks, there are now heaps of dedicated, specialized sites for filmmakers and screenwriters: TriggerStreet, ScriptChat, Scripped, the annual Script Frenzy, etc. Each of these have a whole array of ways for screenwriters to connect: review each others’ scripts, discuss the craft, chat sessions etc.
7. Start a blog
Allow me first to bust this myth: to start a blog, you don’t need to have any readers. Most people started with zero or 1 reader (mum or best friend). While you have no readers, without any pressure you feel your way into your own blog and once you’ve found your voice, suddenly they’ll be there. Communicate, challenge, interact, provoke and connect. Before you know you have a tribe and this network will be there when you need it.
8. Start a MeetUp Group
Every major town has a filmmakers or even screenwriters MeetUp and if yours doesn’t, it’s waiting for you to launch it. The great thing about MeetUp is that you don’t have to invent the wheel. All the features to help your members connect with each other are there. All you need to do is clear some time in your diary on a regular basis and show up.
9. Attend Workshops and Seminars
By just attending screenwriting workshops and seminars, you’ll have the opportunity to bond with the other attendees during breaks, group work etc. There have been cases where people in the same class ended up being writing partners on their next screenplay… and more.
10. Become an online movie reviewer
Many web sites allow members to rate and review movies – and comment on each other’s reviews. What better basis to start an online relationship than a shared taste for movies? Where there are obsessive movie lovers, there are movie makers.
11. Become a compulsive blog commenter
Many blogs have notorious regular commenters. After a while, they all know each other and ultimately this leads to meeting up in the flesh. Commenting has another beneficial side-effect: it helps you refine your thoughts. It takes confidence to put your opinion out there, so it will help you think through what you have to say.
12. Work in the right bar or restaurant
Armies of actors and creatives have day jobs in restaurants and bars. The smart ones have jobs in restaurants and bars frequented by the celebs. I’m not saying that you should do this with a view to harass your clientèle with your movie script. But if you’re excellent at your job, one day your boss might do you a favor in the shape of an introduction.
Each of the above may read like a long shot when it comes to creating that breakthrough in your career. But each has worked for some and it’s merely a matter of being open to it. Sooner or later it will happen.
Obviously this is assuming that you made the first step, which is writing a great script. Because ultimately who you know is only half of what matters.
What you write is the other half.
– Karel Segers
Karel Segers is a producer and script consultant who started in movies as a rights buyer for Europe’s largest pay TV group Canal+. Back then it was handy to speak 5 languages. Less so today in Australia.
Karel teaches, consults and lectures on screenwriting and the principles of storytelling to his 5-year old son Baxter and anyone who wants to listen.
He is also the boss of this blog.
photo credit hand connections: mrehan
Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in acquisition, development and production. He has trained students worldwide, and worked with half a dozen Academy Award nominees. Karel speaks more European languages than you have fingers on your left hand, which he is still trying to find a use for in his hometown of Sydney, Australia. The languages, not the fingers.