Getting work AND getting paid for it is the Holy Grail for most writers – it’s fair to say most of us dream of giving up our day jobs. In terms of finding your first paid job as a writer, I’d recommend following these steps:
WHAT do I want to do? Think first of your mega dream job. Don’t worry if it’s working for continuing drama or writing for huge Hollywood action epics, this is YOUR dream. Work on the basis anything is possible – because it is. You can be anything you want to be and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, least of all YOURSELF.
WHERE am I? Okay, now you go for the reality check. Richard has two shorts screening at festivals – this is a good start, but maybe you have only your scripts on paper. Whatever the case, you need to start BUILDING – contacts and experience. Don’t let anything slide – but equally, don’t stretch yourself so thin you can’t do your best. Decide what you WILL and WON’T do, according to where you are on the “writing scale”.
WHEN do I send stuff out? Never send stuff out that’s not ready – so ensure you know a) when your script is worth showing to people and b) when the “usual” opportunities come around (ie. agents with open door policies, London Screenwriters’ Festival, Red Planet Prize, BBC Writers’ Academy, American script contest deadlines etc) and c) make opportunities for yourself (following leads, creating DIY filmmaking opportunities, making contacts with indie prodcos etc). Look to the year ahead and make a STRATEGY, don’t rely on a scattergun approach. If you’ve decided you want to write for television, find out who you should be approaching and when – and with what. Same for the Hollywood approach or anything else you want to do. Find out where the opportunities are. Plan accordingly. Make sure you have a great portfolio. Rinse and repeat.
Also – don’t forget that sometimes you will deviate from your original course and this is a GOOD THING. I never knew five years ago I would become a novelist, rather than a scriptwriter and end up concentrating on script editing instead.