Sunday, 18 August 2013


I got to thinking, as we approach the first of our two Comedy Showcases at the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival, about how important networking has been to my career and driving it forward. BAFTA and Rocliffe recently held a master class with the shortlisted writers on networking and pitching with the wonderful Julian Friedman who advised the writers to sell the script and not to tell the script.  

For many networking sometimes can seem like a dirty word – but all it is about getting yourself out there and meeting people that may or may not be of value to you now! That said every person you meet carries with them the opportunity to learn something new you didn’t previously know.

At the end of the day, you are the only one who can sell yourself and to do that you need to find out who is buying. That means reaching out to hear who is looking for what and whether you’ve got it! It is about learning and listening intelligently to the hearts of what established people have to say and from an absolutely impersonal point of view, about what they are looking for, otherwise your outlook may be coloured.

It’s nice to presume that they are interested in meeting you to discuss you, your project, your profession etc. Always remember the meeting isn’t about you – it’s about what is the part you might be able to play in their lives. Don’t be disheartened if nothing comes of all your networking - look at it as gathering information, maybe not for today but perhaps for a future date. You may well have something to offer them, possibly in the future, so see how it plays out. Look at every encounter as another opportunity.

Think about who you know who know people – can they set you up with a meeting. Networking is about talking to people, seeing movies, interacting and acting on opportunities. It’s about forging relationships with people and increasing the ‘who you know factor’. All that said, no amount of networking and charm will make you successful. It still comes back to a good script. Every writer may have started out by getting a meeting with an exec, but they had to follow up with a script that sealed the deal. A script is what will get you work and noticed – if your work is genuinely good you will be discovered. Don’t ask about how do I get into this industry? Because the answer is at your finger tips: write a great, compelling script that a reader can’t put down. Ultimately what you should be asking is how can I make my work better? How can I hone my writing skills? What forms of networking can help me do this?

My Ten Rocliffe Tips

  1. The internet is your best friend. Get on the internet – you can network without even leaving your bed – write a blog, tweet, facebook - get your name about online, be witty, proffer answers to people’s questions. Get chatting - be plucky, get talking!
  2. Film events are also very handy in terms of meeting and networking with producers/directors who may be looking for a particular type of script and you may well be the one who has written it. Attend film or TV festivals or writers conferences – if you want an excuse to talk to the people sitting next to you ask them what they’ve seen or are looking forward to seeing or where did they hear of this event?
  3. Volunteer to work at a film festival or event or organization – great way to get inside track on what’s going on and meet other people.
  4. Ask people to meet you for some informal advice. When approaching people don’t bombard them, pitch at them. Sum up your script in less than a minute or one line. At the meeting tell them why you want to meet them and ask would they meet you for a coffee at a time and location convenient to them? When meeting people know your script and sum it up in one line not twenty. Don’t use this as an excuse to bombard the person with long rambling pitches. Give them enough to want to read the script, not spoil it.
  5. Be clear about what you want from a meeting – is it representation, feedback, advice, solicit someone to work with you or introductions to people. Have a clear objective. Before meeting do your homework. Watch some of the projects they’ve worked on. To every event or meeting you go to prepare yourself. Questions you can ask: How did you get into this business? Who helped you most when you started out? What would you do differently? What’s attracts you to a project? Most people are more comfortable talking about what they know so get them to talk about their experiences. And don't forget to breath as you ask questions. 
  6. Online Q&A sessions – you can ask questions sessions (BAFTA have a huge catalogue of lectures) and YouTube can be your best friend with screenwriting master-classes with established writers. Always research someone before you see them speak. Watch their body of work if you can.
  7. Be more than one screenplay. Have a body of work that you can sum up each one in a line with a clear hook to draw them in. Read Lucy V Hay’s blog about maximising your portfolio.
  8. Ensure you have business cards that give all the information they need to – email, mobile, twitter, skype and that you carry them with you. A chance encounter with an exec or producer can change your life. You give them your card, they may give you theirs.
  9. Follow up meeting someone in writing within a few days of the meeting so you can’t be forgotten. Who knows what can happen if you make sure that this opportunity doesn’t pass you by. Picking up a pen or dropping an email is not the sign of a stalker – well not unless you bombard them with enquiries and solicitations. If they gave you their card the invite is there and they must have been interested enough to begin with. If they haven’t look up their company and drop them a line. What’s the worst that can happen once you’ve contacted them – they don’t respond. How many incredible stories have we heard about chance encounters? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  10. Ask someone to mentor you – a good mentor can teach you so much just by sharing their experiences. They don’t necessarily give you script notes but can guide you. 
My quote of the week:

No man is your friend, no man is your enemy, every man is your teacher.
Keep writing