Screenwriting takes the ability to balance a lot of elements simultaneously. While you’re writing, you network, you learn about the industry, and you live your human life, which enables you to provide food, clothing, and shelter to yourself and any dependents. The writing and living by themselves are hard enough, so I understand the cringing feeling people get when they hear networking. That’s why we’re going to talk about how to make networking worth it for screenwriters.
I emphasize networking so much because it’s the most neglected part of the writing process. In novel writing, the final form is, in fact, the manuscript, but in screenwriting that isn’t the case. The end product of a script is a movie, television show, short film, web series or the like. Screenwriting so often depends on outside validation because that is the key to getting funding or attachments in order to make your script into a screen production.
Too often it happens like this: you go to an event or mixer, stand off to a corner, kind of feel awkward the entire time, and then go home. It does not have to be this painful.
Network with Purpose
Go into networking knowing what you want.
- Thinking about funding and making your own projects? You’re going to need to network with potential crew (producers to PAs).
- Need motivation and focus? Network with other writers. Collaborate with people on scripts. Join writing groups and workshop groups.
- Want to sell your screenplay? Getting your script in front of the right people is a process. Meet current assistants in the industry.
- Want to keep your career momentum alive? Once you have an agent or manager, you still have to hustle. You are just as responsible for making career moves as they are.
Building genuine relationships takes time. This means that the moment you decide you want to be a writer you should take it upon yourself to meet new people every month.
Focus #1 is always the writing. Focus #2 is building your network of people in your industry. Doing this will better your career. Think of yourself as a business. You make the product, you market the product, you represent the product, you research the consumer, and you sell your writing. You’re a one-person operation that eventually builds a team around you. That team is your network.
Give and Take
My attitude towards networking is that I try to help as many people as I can. I don’t expect anything from others. I go into new situations trying to make a connection: Is this a person I want in my network? Are they interesting, creative, ambitious, motivated, kind?
It’s hard networking when it feels like everyone wants something from you. Everyone feels that to a certain extent. Los Angeles is a town of “so what can you do for me?” It’s kind of gross. Still, we have to get used to it.
What really helps me are these 3 things:
- Clear boundaries. I’m not afraid to say no if someone does something that makes me uncomfortable. Examples are people being incredibly pushy or asking me to read their script within the first five minutes of meeting them. I politely say no and offer another option. My boundaries are specific to me, and it took time to develop them. You will have your own. If you have none, people will walk all over you. You can’t help everyone all the time.
- Paying attention. I pay full attention to the person I’m speaking with. I’m not looking at my phone or over my shoulder to see who else I could be talking to (at a mixer people do this). Don’t get so engrossed with where people work or who they know that you miss out on an opportunity to get to know a great person.
- Leave a conversation when it’s over. If your drinks are winding down or if your conversation at a mixer/event is petering out, exit the conversation gracefully and end the interaction. Don’t drag it out, which gets uncomfortable for everyone.
You have options
Remember, there are several different ways to network. You can do it in a group setting, one-on-one, formal or informal. You’re not going to be great at or comfortable with everything. Challenge yourself to try it all, and excel where you excel. It’s going to open up so many horizons.
Related Post: Networking for Newbies