I can’t stress it enough. A big part of making it as a screenwriter, from both professional and craft points of view, involves networking. I honestly believe that the more writers you get to know, the bigger an impact it will have on your writing (along with your networking skills).
While I’ve always been a big proponent of inviting my fellow creatives for a get-to-know-you coffee or lunch chat, I decided I’d take it one step further and actually host a networking event, primarily geared towards screenwriters in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout northern California.
I live relatively close to the ocean, and there’s a small-but-charming deli a block from the beach. The owner is a big supporter of the arts, and always seems to be having some kind of event there (live music, poetry readings, stand-up comedy, etc), so I asked about having my event there. He was quite receptive to the idea.
I posted an announcement about it on Facebook, sent out some invites, and hoped people would be interested.
As you’d expect, several people were very interested in attending, but had previous engagements. A few had last-minute cancellations. Some just couldn’t make it. In the end, 15 of us enjoyed an afternoon of meeting and connecting with other screenwriters. A good time was indeed had by all.
More than a few attendees, especially those I was meeting in person for the first time, asked why I’d decided to do this.
A few reasons:
-I really enjoy networking and getting to know other writers. It’s always great to meet a kindred spirit, and is a pleasant reminder you’re not the only one trying to do this.
-Not being in Los Angeles, there aren’t as many screenwriters around here. For those that are, this seemed like a good way to try and bring a part of the community together.
-Networking and social skills are two of those underrated tools for helping you develop your career, and you should take advantage of being able to work on both whenever you can. From swapping script notes to industry connections, the more people you know, the better your chances of helping yourself out.
-An event like this gives you and others that you meet the opportunity to talk about your work and everything going on with it. One of the writers was just starting out, and I got to hear another writer (with a lot more experience) help them figure out the story they were working on and the most effective way to pitch it.
I was also asked if I’d be doing this sort of thing again. Based on the positive responses, I believe I will. Probably sometime in the spring.
In case you’re wondering, it wasn’t too big an undertaking. If you’re interested in expanding your local network of writers, I heartily recommend looking into it. Pick a date. Find a venue. Get the word out. Be social. Wins all around. Both you and the writers in your neck of the woods will benefit and appreciate it.