A LOT of people write to me, asking me for ideas on where to send scripts they’ve written, so I thought it was time I put my thoughts on this in one place, once and for all… Enjoy!
Writers write. But that’s NOT all they do. You simply must get YOURSELF out there as well – believe it or not, it doesn’t matter how you do this either. You don’t need to live in London; you don’t need to be the most confident or popular person in the world either. Hell, you needn’t even show your face (though it is advisable you do, more of that in a minute). In short though, if you’ve got a day job, a family, live in the North Pole or whatever – you should still be networking like mad. But how? Well, durr – on the INTERNET.
A blog helps, but avoid venting your spleen every five minutes. If you’re the type of person whom blogging does not appeal to, fine: get a Twitter account. Can’t think of anything witty or hilarious to say every five seconds? No matter – get a Facebook, LinkedIn or Icewhole or Talent Circle account. Hell, why not get all of them? Lots of people have all these internet connections covered (including myself – I’ll add you) and they’re FREE. Get your name about online, be funny, interesting or offer answers to people’s questions. Whatever works for you. But don’t lurk in the background while all the other kids chat – be brave, get talking!
If you have the money, join Twelve Point (it’s £29 a year). They have a forum – and what’s more, offer you the opportunity to upload examples of your work on your profile. In addition, there are industry leads on there to apply for; Q&As with REAL LIVE EXPERTS including literary agents; there are 600+ articles on the industry, scriptwriting, filmmaking and more. It really is exceptional value. What’s more, there are plenty of bloggers there too, including me again – check out the profiles. What are you waiting for?
There’s Shooting People as well: they don’t have a forum but they do have an e-bulletin which goes out daily and which you can post thoughts, opinions and questions on. It’s £30 a year. I was a member of this service for many years and found it invaluable. There are e-bulletins especially for screenwriters, filmmakers, casting, music video and more. Check it out if you haven’t already. They have a pitching bulletin too where you can send in synopses etc. I’ve had clients who’ve reported good results here, why not give it go?
When it comes to showing your face out in the real world, I don’t think you can beat an Adrian Mead class: they’re reasonably priced and the people are there for the same reason as you: to have a good time, to learn and to meet people. You can’t say fairer than that. If Adrian’s not running a class near you, check out his book – HOW TO MAKE IT AS A SCREENWRITER – in the meantime.
If Adrian’s not available or you’re stoney broke, check out the BBC Writersroom: they often have roadshows in major towns and cities like Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff etc as well as London. Even if you’re not sure you’re *that* interested in what they’re talking about, go anyway; the tickets are FREE. It’s getting out and about that counts. The Writers Guild of Great Britain often has talks too – free for members or a nominal charge for non-members (sometimes as little as £5).
Finally, if there is a writer or someone you admire, write and tell them. Why not? Lots of writers are online and have email addresses readily available for fanmail. If you have a question for them, ask them. What’s the worst that can happen? They won’t reply. The best? They reply!!! I wrote to the God Jimmy McGovern when I was thirteen, asking him how I could be a writer when I was “grown up”. He replied with the following:
Lucy, if you want to write? You will write. J
That was it. I doubt he’d even remember now, it was the best part of twenty years ago; but it left a lasting impression on me. I was amazed and inspired he had taken the trouble – and guard that (now grubby) bit of paper like the crown jewels!
PITCHES & FREELANCE WRITING JOBS
Lots of writers believe they have a “no go” if they pitch something and no one replies, so don’t bother again: always pitch projects A LOT!!!! You wouldn’t believe how quickly the situation changes. I had a project I thought was dead in the water; I must have pitched it to twenty producers all to be met with “meh.” I left it to one side for six months and whammo – I ended up with two companies interested in it at the same time. How mad is that? Recycle everything!!!
Get talking to directors & producers – but be realistic. If you’re someone starting out, chances are the bigwig prodcos aren’t going to be knocking your door down. But that’s cool; that’ll come with time. Instead, find people the same “level” as you: in other words, find directors and producers who want (and/or have done) the same type of things as you and want a way in. Collaborate with them, set yourself goals, get stuff made together; you need each other. It won’t be plain sailing; stuff will probably go wrong. You’ll end up with scripts massacred and films that look and/or sound like crap. Again: chill. You’re all learning and you’re doing it together. You can find directors and producers everywhere online – and at film festivals, courses, events, etc in “real life”.
Apply for any script/writer-for-hire calls you see, rule nothing out. But again: be realistic; if a script call asks for a writer who has won an award or placed in a script contest and you haven’t, you may have only a slim chance at getting through to the next stage. I’ve never let this stop me however and ONCE I got a job by blagging furiously. I never lied, but I didn’t strictly tell the truth either… Luckily by the time the director had realised my supposed “experience” was nowhere near as much he assumed, the script was written and paid for! Arf.
Paid-for services like Inktip & My Visual Pitch offer opportunities for writers to pitch their scripts. Write This Moment is a paid-for site which lists writing jobs; they have a free newsletter, as does Inktip which will offer in the region of 1-2 leads a week for nothing. Freelance Writing Tips is a blog and Facebook group which offer loads of opportunities and articles for FREE for writers. I’ve been a member of this group for a while now and think it’s brilliant. Most on there appear to be corporate writing jobs rather than actual screenwriting, but believe me, you’ll learn a lot doing these jobs: articles, CD Roms, games etc – and again, make plenty of contacts!!!
UPDATE: Thanks to Raving Dave Herman for drawing our attention to TWO other websites advertising writing gigs: Craig’s List and Online Writing Jobs.
In the early days of your career, you’ll be lucky to get paid – and even if you are, it will be peanuts. You have to weight up various elements to decide whether a job is worth doing or not. I decide by asking myself these 3 questions:
- What will it do for me, personally? (Monetary gain, experience at a particular type of writing, contacts?)
- Will it go against me? (eg. Sometimes working with someone who is very unpopular in a particular circle *can* be bad in a “guilt by association” fashion, though thankfully this has never been an issue for me or any of my contacts to my knowledge; other times, working with someone who is extremely difficult is simply not worth it, even for a lot of money: I walked from a well-paid gig once because the person in question had no understanding of social propriety: he would phone me at 1am, call in the middle of dinner and demand I’d come up to London for an hour’s meeting or even cancel the moment I got there. I thinketh not!)
- Am I safe? (For example, working without a contract is a BAD idea IMHO. Every party needs to know exactly where they stand in relation to the material as far as I’m concerned, otherwise what’s the point? Lots of writers are afraid of asking about contracts and payment even on a deferred basis, as they think it makes them seem pushy; but trust me, it’s not. It’s only fair. You’re WORKING. Ok sure, it’s for no money on a collaborative basis, but what happens if the producer can’t get your treatment or script optioned/made/funded? When do the rights come back to you? Ever? You need to know.)
One last thing here: if you’re asked to a meeting, think about what your daily rate is – and do some research into what is reasonable! There’s plenty online about this, particularly on the WGGB. They also offer a “contract checking” service.
We all know we should NEVER send out first drafts — but don’t get complacent and think you *know* about things like character and structure either. In theory, we all *know* about these things, but in reality, on the page, it can work out very differently to what we intend, whether we’re professionals, aspiring writers or even script readers. Keep your mind open to others’ feedback. Without an open mind, what have you got?
Similarly however, don’t try and please EVERY bit of feedback you get. Sometimes you will get great feedback, but you have to disregard it. You need to stay true to yourself and your story – and remembering what this is, through multiple feedback, can be really difficult. Just recently I was polishing GRACE and realised I’d done 32 drafts and had what I call, “feedback fatigue”: I just didn’t know what to do for the best! Some sage words from Danny Stack reminded me to look inside myself for HOW I wanted to tell the story – and concentrating on this, NOT fifteen or so lots of feedback, helped me do this.
Writers Circles are, I’m told, good ways of getting feedback (though the last one I was part of was at university and I think I only went three times or so ‘cos I couldn’t get a babysitter). If you have a similar problem or prefer remote communication, an online peer review group is a great idea I reckon: Robin Kelly has one over at his blog. Then of course there is my beloved Power of Three – though DO remember the principles behind this route!
SHORT FILMS & FEATURES: UNSOLICITED MATERIAL WELCOME
There is always going to be demand for well-written short films: hundreds, if not thousands of film students EVERY YEAR need short film scripts to film for their final projects. A lot of writers look down their noses at this as an opportunity, but it IS a good one: the student filmmaker has just spent months, if not years, of their life investing in their degree! They will go out of their way to try and make a good film and get a good mark – and thus give you an excellent starter for your CV. Yes you will earn no money from it. But a film made is better than a short stuck on your desktop, surely?
What’s more, shorts offer excellent practice for DIY Filmmakers. Schuman and I made SAFE because we’d wanted to do something together for ages – and in our books, only a nutter dives in head first into a DIY feature; we wanted to “work our way up” first (though nuff respec’ to those that DO dive in!). So: if you were offered the opportunity of a DIY film, do you have anything ready? Do you?!?
Features are often labours of love for the aspiring and professional writer alike: there’s a good chance they will never be made and we all have to accept that. HOWEVER these can really work as samples of what we can do – and we need to realise this more, sending them to the people who WANT to see what we can do! The BBC Writersroom is the obvious choice, as is the BBC Wales Writers’ Unit. The production companies listed here (thanks Danny) and here (thanks Chip) also welcome unsolicited submissions.
Literary agents are tough nuts to crack and it seems now is one of the hardest times EVER to get taken on. Personally, in times like these, I think a writer’s efforts are better spent NOT agent-chasing, but networking, collaborating & DIY filmmaking; chances are, a referral, award or option and/or commission down the line is far more likely to see you picked up in my opinion, but as with everything it’s up to the writer. Check out Robin’s excellent compilation of blog posts about agents here.
If there’s anything you think I’ve missed here or you have a specific question about something, let me know on bang2write”at”aol”dot”com or in the comments!