How To Get Ahead
Someone emailed asking for advice on how to get ahead, so am sharing here in case of use!
Best bit of advice I got was 'laser beam' it. Put 100% focus on what you want to achieve. Don't just write some scripts, send them out, and hope for the best. That's too generic. You might get some luck, great, but you can push beyond it, take control, make things happen.
So, how do you laser focus & make things happen? It's a combo of strategic and practical planning. Let's break it down:
- what do you want to achieve? what genre of TV or film do you want to write? is there a specific TV show you'd love to write for? Quite often, for a new writer to get their own TV show, it would mean showing their bones on an established show first, like Doctors or EastEnders for example. That demonstrates you can handle the process, and have gone through the system, a big plus.
- let's say you'd love to write for EastEnders, or see it as an important part of getting an industry profile or getting your TV career going. OK, what do you have to do? At the moment, you have to get on the BBC Writers Academy. That's the no.1 point of entry for EastEnders and their other drama shows: Doctors, Holby, Casualty. How do you get into the Writers Academy? You apply with your best spec script. How do you make your spec script the best it can be? You read a lot of scripts, you watch a lot of stuff, you put in the effort to improve your storytelling craft etc. A lot of this will come instinctively anyway, if you're any good, but be bold, be original, be you when writing your spec scripts. That's what gets people's attention.
- say you really want to write kids' TV, great. Lots of opportunities here, but no less competition or ways to get ahead. Good news is that producers & everyone involved in kids' TV are a lot more approachable than the industry bouncers who push you away with NO UNSOLICITED MATERIAL. So, watch a lot of stuff, make a note of what you really like, and who makes it. Approach them. Email, letter. Don't send them anything, just make contact or pitch them your spec logline. See where correspondence develops.
- what are other ways to push beyond the norm, take control, make things happen? Make your own stuff. Short film, a play, an audio play, a sketch, anything you like. Short films and plays can win awards (sketches can go viral), and that gets you industry attention, and opens up opportunities as described above.
- get an agent. How do you get an agent? You approach them with your best spec script. But you don't just have ONE script in your portfolio. You've got a few. And maybe something about your profile that says; 'this writer is interesting'. Like, you might have won an award from a short film you made. Agents get too many people contacting them with generic work/profile: 'I've just graduated and written 2 feature scripts which my tutor says were the best student scripts ever'. SO WHAT. 'I'm a new writer where my short film just won Best Script at the Amazing Script Festival, and I've been mentored by Screen Skills, and I've just written a new spec, here's the amazing logline, and I'm interested in representation, would you like to take a look?' YES I WOULD.
- NETWORKING. Apart from actual writing, networking is the no. 1 important thing to do as a new writer AND as you build your career. You can do a lot of networking via social media, which is cool, but contacting people directly with specific purpose/praise etc is always a good move. Attend industry events/conferences (film festivals, screenings etc) and network with anyone there, you never know who's a good contact. Even with Covid-restrictions, a lot of networking/events/screenings occur, so get involved, get to know names, get inspired by what others are creating, ask them questions, make friends, be nice, BE NORMAL, don't be pushy or ingratiating or annoying.
- PATIENCE. All of this takes time. A lot more time than people think. A bit of good news, some will melt away, get disheartened and give up. Some will get ahead quicker than you. Doesn't matter. You're going to do you and you're going to last the course. You can set yourself a goal (I'm going to get an agent by 2022), and pour your efforts into that, and see what happens. You might not hit your goal but you'll probably have made some progress, and you can reset your goals/expectations from there. Keep writing, keep hustling, keep improving.