A contrast in opinion(s)

pecan & cream
One thing we can all agree on: pie is wonderful. Anybody who believes otherwise is just wrong.

During my recent sojourn to Los Angeles, I filled up a lot of my schedule with in-person meetings with several folks with whom I’ve only interacted via social media or the telephone.

To those I’d contacted but we couldn’t make happen – maybe next time.

But back to the matter at hand. Every one of those meetings generated some thorough conversations about working within, or at least working on breaking into, the industry. Some were more experienced than others, but everybody had a lot of interesting things to contribute.

Plus, they were all well aware of my goal/ambition to be a working writer, so suggestions and advice were plentiful and happily offered, and I was more than happy to receive them.

And that’s also where things got…interesting. As you’d expect, there was a wide variety of information offered. One person would suggest something, another would suggest something different, and more than once did these two suggestions totally contradict another.

Someone says “THIS is what you need to do,” while another says “Whatever you do, DON’T do THIS.”

What’s an aspiring creative-type person to do?

One of my meetings was with a semi-retired industry veteran. I’d received some advice the day before, and was a bit hesitant, or maybe call it skeptical, to accept it. Seeing as how the person I was meeting with was pretty savvy, I asked what they thought about it. They had that “Huh?” look. “I’ve never heard of that before,” was their response, followed by some rational explaining why they respectfully disagreed.

It’s been my experience that everybody has an opinion about what works and what doesn’t work, but that’s also based on how it applied to them. Circumstances and conditions will always be different in every situation for each individual. What worked for somebody else may totally backfire for you. Figure out what you think works best for you.

And be forewarned – sometimes you might choose wrong. It happens to everybody. Use it a learning opportunity to help ensure it doesn’t happen again. In theory, you’ll only make that kind of mistake once.

I was very fortunate to be able to meet with so many knowledgeable people, which now enables me to more or less cherry-pick from the suggestions and advice I think are the most appropriate and applicable.

Hopefully, they’ll yield the desired results. I’ll let you know how it goes.

O, the joy of a southernly jaunt

gable colbert
Fortunately, I didn’t have to resort to this

The suitcase is put away. The dirty clothes laundered. The thank-you notes sent.

All the result following your humble blogger’s recent trip to the land of potential future employment, aka Los Angeles, which continues to yield results and, hopefully, keep on doing so.

“Los Angeles? How in the world did that come that about?” you may ask, and probably just did.

I was invited. At the behest of a new media company (as in “new media” i.e. online content, not “a media company that is new”) called AfterBuzz TV that produces a myriad of programs about an even wider variety of topics – all entertainment-based.

This one in particular is called The Unproduced Table Read. As the title implies, after finding a heretofore unproduced script they deem appropriate, they assemble members of their core group of actors and do a table read of the script – first as livestream video, then viewable on Youtube. Following the read, there’s a brief q&a with the writer. Sometimes the writer’s there in person, or if they can’t make it in, done via Skype.

Seeing as how the City of Angels is an hour-long plane ride away, I opted to attend.

They’d found my fantasy-swashbuckler in the archives of the Black List website and thought it fit the bill. The producer contacted me earlier this year, and after some informative back-and-forth emails, it was all set.

Seizing the opportunity of being in town, I also went about setting up meetings of both personal and professional natures. Although the scheduling didn’t work out with a couple of potential representatives, I was able to have some very productive conversations with some exceptionally talented professional contacts.

Networking, people. Establish and maintain those contacts! SO worth it.

But getting back to the table read. It was great. And fun. The actors did a fantastic job, and as a bonus – they really, really liked the script on several levels. I’m quite thrilled with how it turned out.

Was it worth doing? I’d say so, and not just because it got an enthusiastic reception from the people involved. It’s probably a little early to see if it’ll contribute to the career-building aspect, but it definitely makes for a strong marketing tool.

If you ever get the chance for a table read to be done for one of your scripts, take it. You can even put it together yourself. It’s a great way to evaluate the material, plus the actors might provide some unexpected insight. All you need is a workable space and the ability and willingness to feed your performers.

While talking afterwards with the show’s producer and some of the actors, somebody asked what other scripts I had. I mentioned the western. “We haven’t done one of those,” was the reply. Thus raises the possibility of a return trip. Time will tell.

Getting to know you

party
Formal wear and hors d’oeuvres are optional

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.

They were.

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.

Hey! Long time no (preferred form of communication)

operator
A hard-at-work pre-Internet server keeping things up and running

There’ve been several previous posts here regarding the benefits and necessity of networking. It can’t be stressed enough how incredibly helpful and effective it can be, especially if you’re not in Los Angeles or somewhere you don’t have a lot of in-person access to other writers.

But it’s not enough to just make a connection. An effort needs to be made by at least one of you (most likely you) to maintain that connection and keep it healthy. And it’s not as hard as you might think.

While it can be extremely easy and tempting to get sucked into the never-ending rabbit hole of the internet, designate a portion of your non-writing time to be just as productive and try to get some networking stuff done.

Are you connected to another writer in your area, but you’ve never actually met in person? Ask them if they’re up for a get-to-know-you coffee or lunch chat.

If you’re limited to online communication, send them an email or tweet asking how they’re doing, and how their latest projects are coming along. Be helpful, or at least offer to help. They might just take you up on it.

*Important – if it’s been a while since you’ve been in touch, don’t start things off by straight-out asking for something. Would you want someone to do that to you? Didn’t think so.

If something good (career or otherwise) has happened for them, send a note of congratulations. Likewise, if something not-so-good has happened, express your sympathies accordingly.

Cliched as it may sound, keeping the lines of communication open really can help you out. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have established strong relationships with several local writers and filmmakers, and exchanged notes with writers scattered across the globe.

I reconnected with a consultant I hadn’t been in touch with for several months, and that conversation led to them offering up coverage (which I still paid for) that proved to be quite helpful.

A writer I know who works in TV and film emailed me, wanting to discuss her latest concept because she thought I was a good match for it.

None of these would have happened if I hadn’t taken the time to keep each relationship going. Rather than taking a “how can you help me?” approach, I go in with the mindset of “maybe I can help you?”

One of the things you hear so often when it comes to establishing a screenwriting career is “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. I’ve found both parts to be true. You definitely have to know what you’re doing in terms of craft and writing ability, but it’s equally important to establish and maintain solid, professional relationships with as many people as you can.

Because you never know who’s going to suddenly be a person of influence willing to help you out because you did the same for them.

So here’s your voluntary assignment:

1. Contact five of your connections.
2. Ask them how things are going.
3. Take it from there.

Good luck!

Is it that time already?

pocket watch
Land sakes. Where has the time gone?

Yes, that’s right. Because you demanded it.

Well, not really, but it has been a while.

So without further ado, time once again for the much-heralded and talked-about Project Status Update Time!

For those unfamiliar with the concept, which I would imagine is pretty clear from the name alone, this is your opportunity to give a quick mention regarding the latest on your latest project, no matter what it is.

Doesn’t have to go into too much detail. Just what you’re currently working on, and how it’s going.

Hit your page quota for today? Got to a pivotal scene or significant plot point? Finished that rewrite? Feeling stuck? Seeking the right wording for that logline?

In search of help/guidance/suggestions of any sort? All you gotta do is ask.

Did a little networking and connected with another writer? Signed a deal? Had a good meeting? Packing up the car and heading for LA?

Got something to crow about? Want to vent any pent-up frustration?

Don’t hold back. You’re among friends here.

Real quick for me. Just about done with the 2nd draft of the low-budget comedy. One sequence needs revising, followed by maybe one more quick polish, and then it’s off to some of my reliable readers.

Also have some reciprocal reading to do for some of those aforementioned readers. Quite excited about diving into these.

How about you?