wannabetvwriter

I be a good righter.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Networking is your friend.

Okay, so staffing season is at a close. I feel like the leaves on the trees should be changing colors or some other physical evidence that the season's come to a bitter end. That there should be some sign indicating that the long nights ahead will leave us unstaffed writers huddled around the fire, ceremoniously burning our old scripts for warmth. Except it's summer and it's hot as hell. Thankfully our scripts will be spared!

So, apparently, what's happening now is that the big wig writers who have deals at studios are now prepping their pitches for next season. An exciting time, to say the least. From where, I believe, the more exciting pilots stem. Because these people aren't waiting for the season premieres of 2006. They're not chasing The Next Big Thing. They're not thinking of ABC's version of Heroes or NBC's version of Justice or... they're just digging deep into their genius brains and coming up with original material.

Recently, I've been privy to this process. It's really fucking cool. Well, to me, that is. See, a long time ago, I had the fortune to meet my writing idol. I've nurtured and cultivated this relationship. I've been patient. I've bestowed thoughtful gifts for the times she's helped me with various issues (how to break a story effectively, etc.) Thankfully, she's really fucking nice. After that first phone call -- yes, I called her out of the blue to ask her a question. She'd gotten her start in the same way I'd hoped to get my start: winning a contest. So, when I got a phone call from a contest, I called her up and asked (very politely) what her interview was like, and if she had any advice for me.

(Okay, I think this is going to be a long post -- apologies to my two readers out there!)

Idol chick gave me some advice, but it'd been a long time since she'd been in the contest world, so it was (understandably) hard to remember the exact details. Ultimately, I didn't get into the program. But, because she'd been as helpful as she could be, I wanted to send her a gift. I found out, in reading some random interview with her, that she had a favorite author from the 19th century. I immediately began a search for this author on eBay. I found an an auction for an extremely old copy of one of the author's books and checked the bidding. I was relieved to find that it was still in low double digits. I "bought it now." And sent it off to her. I recieved an email from her as soon as she got it, and we've exchanged emails ever since. When I finally won a contest (a few years later), I let her know. She had this to say: "Welcome to the seamy underbelly!" And, she invited me out to lunch! Since that invitation, we've been out to dinners and lunches and coffees. And, last week, we had dinner.

At this dinner, the most amazing thing happened. See, she's one of these big wigs with an overall deal. She's prepping her pitches for pilot season. And, get this: She asked for my advice! She let me give her notes. The next day she emailed me, as she was about to head off to vacation, and asked me more questions! I replied with my [uninformed] opinions. She replied with: "I'm printing this email out and bringing it with me so that I can work on the pitch on vacation!"

Oh. My. God. She printed out my notes on her pitch. Me. Little ole me. Sigh.

(Ugh, BooM get to the point).

So, I kind of do this a lot. Networking. When I got into that program, I called up a former winner, who coincidentally had written the script that inspired my winning script (she had a hateful character in her script that she completely redeemed by the end of the episode). I just didn't know it was her at the time. I told her about the coincidence. I told her I'd gotten into the program. I asked her if she had any advice for me (notice a theme here?). She and I have been exchanging emails for over two years now, she's helped some friends of mine out, she's generally a great person. Thing is, when I first called her, she was a producer on the show. Now she's an EP. And she's also my friend. Mainly because she knows I'm not going to ask her for anything other than advice. I'm not going to put her out. This is key when cultivating your network-y friendships. My Idol has never read anything of mine. She knows I have a blog, and I refuse to give her the URL. I literally don't want anything from these people other than stories about how they got to where they are and if I'm on the right path. So, guidance, if you will.

I also did this at a WGA event. I was incredibly moved by a panelist's story. He's been down on his luck for forever. And suddenly, he's at the top of his game. I guess this isn't an unusual story out here. But, after that panel, after a couple of glasses of champagne, I noticed that the crowd around him had thinned. So, I went up and said:

ME: "Hi. I'm BooM. You are an incredible inspiration to us aspirings -- and, I'm going to work for you one day.

He pauses. Contemplating whether I'm completely insane or not. See, everyone wants to get in his pants these days. I guess he figured I was harmless because he replied:

BIG WIG WRITER: Ha ha ha. You know... this is going to make a fantastic story one day when you're working for me and we're interviewed!

ME: YES! (ahem) Yes, it's going to be a fabulous story.

Later that night, he remembered my name as I was leaving,

BIG WIG WRITER: Great meeting you BooM -- I can't wait to tell our story!

Sigh.

The next day, I sent him flowers (trust me, it was big wig appropriate, though my friends all thought me insane). The note attached was: "I hope orchids are appropriate for our story?" That night, he called me to thank me for the flowers. Unfortunately, I missed the call. He left a message (apparently orchids WERE appropriate for the story). Cut to: nearly a year later: I get to go to his studio and meet with him. No, not for a job. Just a meet and greet. I asked him a bunch of advice. He gave me a bunch of advice. He also told me to call a few people, using his name -- to get through the gate -- to get advice from them... seriously. Oh, and apparently, I'll be working for him in four years.

Patience is the name of the networking game.

So, here's the thing: You have to seize the day. But, you also have to know your audience. Say Big Wig Writer were Dick Wolf, orchids would not have been appropriate. Say Idol was Tom Fontana, a 19th century book would probably not be appropriate. The point is, when you're networking (and you should be) know these people and make yourself memorable. Sometimes a gift might not be appropriate. Say, if you're not a gift-giving type. For me, it's totally within character to give grandiose gifts. It's just me. So, you have to figure out what your *thing* is, and do it.

Get thee out there to every panel, every networking opportunity, every anything! Go forth and network!

2 Comments:

  • At June 15, 2006 8:33 AM, Blogger Shawn said…

    Good advice, BooM. Sounds like it's a good thing to have a contest win or the like backing you so you don't sound like every other wanna-be jerkoff in this town (like me).

    But I wonder what good it is to have these high-level contacts if you don't hit them up for work? Wouldn't they, on some level, expect you to ask at some point? Of course, I don't know the nature of the relationships, so I can be totally off-base. But from my perspective, it seems fine to ask them for a read or a reference or something, no?

     
  • At June 15, 2006 3:15 PM, Blogger BooM said…

    Shawn, you're not a wannabe jerk-off. Well, as far as I know you're not. The point is, when I first started networking, I wasn't a contest winner. I was just a person trying to make it. I've cultivated those relationships that I made prior to the contest win and made more since.

    There's absolutely nothing holding you back from going to the WGA panels or MTR Paley festival and just using your cojones to talk to folks. It's really tough to do, and sometimes I have to psyche myself up beforehand.

    In terms of reads: These people know what I'm trying to do, they know I'm writing. I figure if they want to read me, they'll ask. I have a friend that I met in a chat room, she's the creator of a hit network show. I met her prior to placing in ANY contests, and she took a shine to me and asked if she could read something. She's now read a couple of my scripts.

    The pros of asking for a read: It could potentially get me a job. Maybe. If they like the script.

    The cons of me asking for a read: they could feel put out, they could hate it...

    I just think the cons are so potentially negative that I don't want to risk it. This is not to say that I haven't asked to use their names in reference in a given situation where they might know the people on that show (I've done that once-- and I hated myself afterward). The only other time I've *used* a contact is when my creator-of-hit-show friend called a contest on my behalf, because I didn't think I was going to get in. But SHE offered. I would have never asked, and I think she knows and appreciates this.

    With your contacts, you may feel comfortable enough to ask for a read, or whatever. I'm just not comfortable doing it. But, I can totally see why you'd think I should. It does seem the normal course. I just don't want to *use* my contacts. Especially since some of them are becoming friends...

     

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