I got told off last week, twice in twenty-four hours for trying to make professional moves without doing the proper groundwork first.
Recently, I’ve been feeling my age and the implications of where I’m up to on my career timeline. I’m over 40 and haven’t really started on my path properly, doing the thing I feel I’m designed for.
I really, quite desperately, want to work as a professional screenwriter, primarily writing movies, but I know I could bring a lot to “TV”. I presume my movie focus is because it’s a single serving, boxed concept that can be finished and sealed up ready to move on to the next thing. Continuing series are more daunting because, if you make a mess of it, the mess needs to be cleared up before things can move forward.
The other week I met with the Development Head from **The Production Company** that ever so nearly bought Queensferry Rules. I had been thinking about making contact for a while, but as is my lack of confidence that anyone would ever WANT to spend time with me outside of an obligation, I had not. In the end, various podcasts, lectures and success stories had convinced me that I should start making some moves, and start buying some coffees.
I, along with most of the right-minded neurotically mind world, HATE networking. This very likely surprising to most people who’ve met me as I’m pretty outgoing and gregarious but put me with some strangers and I really struggle to start a conversation. Oddly this is actually a persona I recall aspiring to in my teens.
It was the 90s, I was the singer in a band, being awkward and mysterious was the new Rock and Roll! (It definitely wasn’t), and I’d not long discovered the Smiths and being an enigma seemed pretty exotic. My band would have a gig and I would stalk the shadows like a beaten animal wary of its Master’s gaze, all to establish a paradigm and persona that is obliterated as soon as I’m on stage tearing my sweat-soaked top off mid song.
That was great for “rockstar” me, but it does translate AT ALL to a colleague’s retirement do in your mid-30s. I was still sweaty, but that was more to do with keeping my coat on so I wouldn’t have to find it should my anxiety get the better of me and I have to leave, sharpish.
I was quite surprised how open to meeting up and drinking coffee the Development Head was, which doesn’t make sense because they’d obviously liked my work enough to send it up the food chain for the bosses to read. We arranged to meet and I got there early to get a good spot. When they arrived, we ordered our drinks and settled into a very relaxed conversation and I was completely blown away by how equal it felt! I was expecting to be doing my worst Oliver, begging to touch the hem of their garment, but it was absolutely lovely. They even said it was nice “to talk to someone else in the industry outside of London”. I should have taken that, I should have nodded and agreed, but predictably went a bit Golem correcting that I was NOT IN the industry, merely hanging around the bins hoping of scraps.
They expressed a very diplomatic element of regret that Queensferry Rules hadn’t been for them, but I should be confident that I had their attention and my future submissions are guaranteed to be read as they know I can write. I was buoyed by the fact that of the 200+ scripts they receive in a year only about two make it through all of the readers and right to the top. Any industry or work chat ultimately dissolved into talk about our Cats before I thanked them for their generosity of time and we resolved to “do it again”.
it was nice.
It was proof that inside every “suit” is a person, and I’m actually not the worst company in the world…
In order try and keep the ball rolling I then started scouring my contacts for any tenuous links to folks that I could potentially trouble for help/advice/charity.
I have a VERY successful friend that I am INCREDIBLY proud of and trumpet about as often as the opportunity arises. We’ve known each other since the days of me skulking in corners and taking my top off. We met during n a youth theatre performance of A Midsummer Nights Dream. I think you’d probably call it a “camp” but there was minimal sleeping over and everyone had had breakfast before turning up. It was during the rehearsal for the production that I was approached about starting a band by one of the other lads who played Bass, and would I fancy having a jam sometime. This lead to the most meaningful creative collectives of my life, under the banner of our band ‘Kerb Louie’, but maybe I’ll get to that at another point.
SO, we were all a pretty tight-knit group and the cast and crew of the play transposed directly into the burgeoning fanbase of our band, and most of the group have sustained a close relationship over the ensuing 20+ years. I moved out of the city and lost touch with most of the group, because I genetically suck at friendships, but had managed to maintain a trace level of contact with some, including the friend I’m super proud of.
I was glancing through their Twitter Follow lists for any crossover and was surprised to find very few. I did see one person (writer/manager/angel) that quite intrigued me and started considering how I might make contact to try and pitch Me but wanted some encouragement/guidance. I made contact with my friend exposing my intention to pursue but didn’t anticipate a response as my friend is SO busy, thus I presumed to carry on. One of my big problems is my impatience, but I only recognise it as a problem after it’s got me into trouble.
I followed, I was followed, I sent a “thanks” and received a “ditto”, I responded with an ‘ I saw you in my friend’s list’ with some other waffle, and left it to sit. Then the itchy feet started.
I comprised a two-part communique, part 1 was a succinctly lyrical prologue stating that I had a more detailed intro ready to go. I it sent and received a positive prompt encouragement to go on. I followed up with a part 2 that ‘shop windowed’ the recognition I got with Queensferry Rules, explaining my need for a Manager/Mentor/Champion to help my breach the restrictive atmosphere of my current orbit. He said he’d get back to me by the end of the day, and lo’, my breath was baited…
I enjoyed the rest of the day, skipping through the clouds, finally, I’d got the wherewithal to bloody DO something about my situation. I went to bed and slept great!
5.20 next morning I skipped (quietly) into the bathroom for my shower, switching my phone from Airline Mode, and it chirruped.
I was in trouble.
After following my crumb trail to Grandma’s house, Dude had checked in with my friend to see how she knew me. Unfortunately what I’d meant as just a means of explaining my existence was read as a sneaky bit of name dropping. I felt terrible, my friend assured me it was not the end of the word, but it was most definitely NOT COOL. I’d made a faux pas, I should have waited for a nod to approach the guy, especially as it felt like I’d used my friend as social lube, which was honestly not my intention, although I can totally see how it seemed to be. I apologised but haven’t had much back, so I’m letting things sit, in the hope they can heal.
It was now becoming pretty clear that “by the end of the day” had slipped into tomorrow, so I casually questioned the time difference in an attempt at “charm”, which I sometimes fail at SPECTACULARLY, but it seemed to land OK.
Then my phone started to ring.
He was very polite and warm, he sounded a little nervous, which was confusing because I class EVERYONE as winning more than me. He asked me what I wanted, I pitched him that I needed a bit of a push and a presence in my corner. He told me that I’d basically fallen for the trick that he was trying to pull, by engaging friends as clients, he looked a bit more “proper”. He showed some interest in my work and asked me to send him some bits. I horribly undervalued what I have to send, and he took a deep breath.
He started by commending me for having the tenacity to reach out, which then gave way to a slightly more agitated suggestion that I’d essentially advertised a spectacle only to offer up a work-in-progress magic trick… If I’m going to try and get professional attention I need to be locked and loaded and ready to go.
It was pretty clear I’m none of that, BUT I’M NOT FAR OFF, I JUST NEED SOMEONE TO TELL ME!!!!
He’s told me to send him a polished treatment for Queensferry Rules, which I’ve been working on, and sent today. I’ve also included a cheeky bonus short script.
Some people are lovely and generous, and I’m super fortunate to bump into them from time to time.
The interaction and the task to get something done and sent is EXACTLY what I wanted.
It just goes to show, it doesn’t hurt to ask, but you have to be ready to accept the answer, and you should never, EVER, bring a sandwich to a gunfight!