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.
My profuse thanks to you are long overdue. I’ve kept the whole thing pretty quiet just in case it went tits up and thought first day of shooting would be a reasonably safe time to announce it to the world, and then I’ll thank that nice Mr Barron for making it happen.
Your generosity still amazes me. It’s easy to think networking is all about us screenwriters competing with each other for the attention of producers, agents, directors, but that kind of attitude comes from a mentality of scarcity. Two people on set yesterday asked me to read their scripts and give them some help and were sure I’d say I was too busy, but I said yes straight away. Your peers are not your competition (frenemies, anyone?)
I’ve actually been telling everyone who’s asked how the script came about that it all started with a walk from the hotel to the festival venue with a hangover and chatting to some writer guy going the same way. He seemed a bit gruff 😉 but, what the hell, maybe he was hungover too and better to have a chat and meet someone new than ignore each other. Six months later he’s recommended me for a job and it turns out to be my first feature.
That’s why networking is half of the job, and why a ten minute chat can pay for your festival ticket many times over.
I shall be chucking several drinks down your neck at the LSF. Pack some Nurofen.