Last year I went to the Screenwriters’ Festival in Cheltenham and I had a enjoyable few days of chit-chat with other writers. One day, en route to the venue, I bumped into a guy who’s got a reasonably high profile on one of the filmmaking websites I lurk on and we had a brief chat.
Months later (probably earlier this year, I forget) I was approached by a director to write a feature film, based purely on a recommendation from another director I’ve worked with.
Except, no, I haven’t got the time.
I hate saying no to people, I especially hate saying no without providing alternatives … and that’s when I remembered my SWF chat. That writer lives in the same town as this director, I like the way he presents himself online and (most importantly) he seems like a nice guy – so, based mostly on a few well written posts, I suggested him for the job.
To me, this is an extremely risky move – recommending someone when you haven’t read any of their scripts and have only briefly met them could backfire. If they turn out to be a talentless twat, it reflects badly on me. I try not to do it, since it can just lead to two contacts falling out with each other and neither of them talking to me again. Writer to director isn’t too bad, but director to producer can be a fucking nightmare – one I’m in no hurry to repeat.
Happily, in this case, the writer seems to have delivered and in fact the resulting script has just started shooting. It’s his first produced feature and he seems quite excited. This sort of thing makes me very, very happy. I like knowing I’ve helped in some small way. Obviously, the writer in question got the job solely on his own merits – if he couldn’t write, he wouldn’t have been hired; but I get a nice warm gooey feeling to think I nudged things in the right direction.
This is what networking should be about, helping your peers to advance. It’s not just about what you get out of it (gooey-ness aside) it’s about what you can do for the people around you.
It also, I think, nicely demonstrates why it’s worth not being a shitcock to people online and why it can be worth going to networking events such as the upcoming LSWF.
Make your own luck: be nice to everyone, be visible digitally and in person and (above all) have a decent pile of specs ready when opportunity knocks.