When I first started writing I figured it was pretty easy:
Write something, it gets made, you get paid.
There, that all sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?
Admittedly, there do seem to be a few gaps in that strategy. Namely, how do you write something good? How do you get it to someone who wants to make it? And why the fuck should they spend their money on you?
Luckily, this kind of delusion also coincided with the ‘telling people I’m a writer without actually doing any writing’ stage.
A day every couple of months doesn’t count. I wash my car once or twice a year – it doesn’t make me a car-washer.
When I finally knuckled down to actually writing in as much of my free time I could spare without getting divorced, I’d thought out a much better strategy.
Or at least I think it’s better – I’m still working my way through it.
I figured that some people do leap-frog straight to the top; they might win a contest or accidentally sleep with the right person. Basically, the very good and the very lucky can go in right at the top.
I’m neither of those things.
So I need to work my way up. The luck thing, you still need; but you can significantly improve your chances by simple networking. Talent – hard work will get you at least halfway there; and since I’m rapidly becoming of the opinion that most pro-writers are decidedly mediocre and just shine because the majority of aspiring writers are appallingly shit, then halfway is good enough.
I don’t have to be good, I just have to be consistently mediocre.
The other thing which occurred to me was if you leap straight in at the top – not only do you have to be bloody good (or lucky) to get there, you have to be consistently good to stay there. Luck won’t help.
I see success as a kind of pyramid, if you fail you get knocked down a level. If you start at the bottom, jump to the top and then turned in something shit – there’s a long way to fall and you’ll look like a one trick pony who will probably disappear into obscurity. There’s no foundation to your career.
Someone who worked their way up, a level at a time, building a consistent reputation at every level – if they fail, they obviously just weren’t ready to move up a level and can settle back into the level immediately below. In other words, the longer it takes to get there, the longer you’ll stay there.
So, I thought, my new strategy needs to contain a lot more steps. It has to build slowly but steadily. Every move needs to be reinforced, ready to build the next level on. I want a pyramid with a broad base, not a pole with a narrow platform at the top.
My new strategy became a series of mini-strategies for each level of the industry. I figured the levels were something like this:
Low-budget films and corporate work
Mid-budget films and writing for other people’s TV shows
Creating your own TV show and high-budget films
And on each level: Get good, get experience, get a reputation, move on.
How’s it going for me? Okay, I think.
I’m somewhere between levels 2 and 3. The beauty of this system is, I already know some of the people on level 3 from working with them on 1 and 2. Some producers and directors have moved on ahead of me and are waiting for me to get there, some are moving up with me and the ones still on level 2 are eager to work with me again and will gladly welcome me back if it doesn’t pan out.
The key here, of course, is to be good enough and personable enough for people to want to work with you more than once.
Tomorrow, I’ll go through the levels in more detail.
Unless there’s anything good on the telly.