Tuesday, July 19, 2005

It's about who you know...

Admit it, we'd all like to believe that talent alone will get us noticed, get us an agent, get us a job or a sold spec. As with any other career and probably more so, we know the truth is there is a combination of factors that will help us along. Talent is pretty important but talent is not the most important thing to have. Luck is hard to gauge, but I'd assert it plays a part. No, the most important factor in success has got to be determination. But how do you focus your determination into positive results.

Answer, you've gotta have friends.

Networking is probably the most important skill to have as an aspiring screenwriter. I like many others I'm sure, can be pretty darn hermit-like. While this may be great for focusing on honing our craft and making our scripts great, it doesn't help us much in "playing the game." I also don't think there's any shame in networking. I've actually met other aspiring screenwriters who have told me that they feel that an agent will kill for their script. Sure, they don't know anyone at CAA or Endeavor, but their script is dynomite and it cannot be denied.

Look, this blogging thing -- it's great to keep me motivated, but I'll admit it, it's also a way to connect with other people. Don't be closed off to any avenues of meeting people. In my experience, here are a few of the best ways:

  • Take a class -- I've taken several classes at UCLA and in each one I make a point to stay in contact with instructors and classmates. Building a good network takes time, but this can provide you a quick way to advance your circle of friends and colleagues very quickly.
  • Message boards -- The Artful Writer is a great one. So is Wordplay. Without being in the WGA, these boards provide not only insight into working writers' psyches but direct access to them. Along with message boards, the next best thing are other writer blogs, particularly working writers like John August. Now, don't be stupid and ask them straight out for a job. That will get you nowhere fast. Many of these blogger writers are however willing and able to answer questions from newbies. Take advantage and LEARN.
  • Meetup.com -- Did you know there's a Hollywood screenwriters meetup group? Actually, there are many many meetup screenwriter's groups all across the country. See if there's one in your area and join it. If there isn't one near you, why not start one? You may be surprised how many aspiring screenwriters live in your area...
  • Other writer groups -- Besides Meetup.com, there are other writer groups out there. I know the Alameda Writer's Group (AWG) is a pretty substantial one. I've already signed up to their Yahoo! group and plan to attend the next meeting, provided I'm in town. Some groups may charge a membership fee, so be sure to check. Don't live in Los Angeles? Again, just start googling. Another way to find other writer's is to refer to my previous suggestion about taking a class. Can't afford a class? Why not just post a flyer at the nearest campus looking for writers to share pages and to meet with. You may be able to form a group without hitting the classroom.
  • Screenwriting Expo -- It's probably the biggest screenwriting event in the country (Austin's Festival is probably #2). Hundreds, no, thousands of aspiring writers will be there taking in panels, listening to writers, pitching scripts. You could meet not only other writers, but pros, maybe even an agent or two. Networking goldmine.

So you've found some ways to network. What do you do when you network? How should you approach people? How do you build connections with people. Most importantly, how can you make these connections work for you?

Ah, that's the next post. Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

When (and I say when instead of 'if' now) I get out there, the first thing I am going to do is get into a writing group and then look up all my Blogger writing pals. I think it is important to have a little support group surrounding myself like a literary cocoon... plus I'd rather you tell my my latest pages are crap over margaritas and salsa dip (heh). Thanks for being around Shawna, you were one of the first who showed me the Blogger way of staying in touch with people

John Donald Carlucci said...

Networking, the cause and answer to all of our problems (misquoting Homer).

I did not networking my first four years in LA and made little progress. I'm getting more networking done now by blogging from Florida. I can't wait to get back and work up that new head of steam.


Warren said...

Good post. I'd also recommend that LA-Area writers consider joining the Scriptwriter's Network. It's a bit pricey (about $100 a year, I think. I can't remember), but in the long haul, I think it's worth it. Two meetings a month, lots of familiar faces if you go to a few, and you get onto the CBS and Universal lots, which is very cool.

Anonymous said...

The most important skill to have as a screenwriter is to be able to write great specs. Networking is great, but as someone who worked as an assistant at Endeavor, I can tell you that if you have a great spec or writing sample...you'll get noticed...even if your homeless. It may not sell, but it'll get you represented.
The catch is that most writers think they're better than they really are...and that their average to ok spec is great.

John Donald Carlucci said...

"I did not networking my first four"

Nice, that's what I get for commenting when I'm tired.