London Screenwriters' Festival

Work it, Baby: Networking at the LSWF

Posted on: September 18th, 2010 by Lucy V Hay 20 Comments

The lovely Rosie asks:

“What type of things/stuff/ideas to people take to the LSF? I’m sure people won’t want to leave with armfuls of scripts, so how prepared should I be? Treatments? Loglines? Synopsis? Or just talking about my scripts/stories with conviction and passion? I have business cards.”

As we all know, writing is not just about the actual writing; it’s about getting “out there” and selling not only your scripts, but YOU, the writer. You need to create a great first impression, make *that* producer or director WANT to work with you. It’s as hard as it sounds – but the things you need to remember are deceptively simple:

1) DO: remember your business cards. If you don’t have any, shame on you. This is the VERY LEAST you need in “working” the room. Try and ensure your business card is not the same as everyone else’s though; the number of times I’ve been given business cards which use the same template must run into the 100s. Yours needs to stand out, yet look professional. FYI, some people say quirky cards are “bad”, though I’ve never had a problem with them and have even admired some as a talking point, which can only be a good thing… I’ve certainly remembered the card holders afterwards. Check out Tim’s post below about some cards he collected and what he thought of them.

2) DON’T: push other stuff on people. Over the years at events I’ve had people attempt to give me paper copies of their scripts and synopses, CDs, discs and dongles when they’ve heard I’m a script reader. DON’T DO THIS. I can’t say I get *annoyed* about it, but I WILL only end up leaving your script, CD, dongle or whatever somewhere – probably the ladies toilets – and then freak out about it… I don’t need the stress. And anyway, I am NOT going to put other people’s hardware in my precious Macbook, it could be crawling with viruses or whatever. If I feel like this then, what the chances other people higher up the food chain feel the same? Pretty high, I’d wager (and in fact I’ve heard the same complaint from agents, producers, etc in the past). Of course, if someone ASKS for a one pager *right there and then*, then have a couple handy – why not? But in my experience this is unlikely (I can think of perhaps two times ever I’ve been asked for a paper pitch doc at an event) and they’ll most likely want you to email them.

3) DO: be active. Work the room, don’t hang out at the back. It’s okay to walk up to people and introduce yourself. If for any reason that person is unresponsive or busy, move on to the next person. Yes, you might feel a little embarrassed but it’s not personal; there could be any number of reasons why that just happened. It’s fine to ask for people’s cards if they don’t offer them up right away, too. If this person is particularly recognisable/popular and has run out (or says they have ‘cos they don’t want you to have their mobile number!), a polite query about adding them on Facebook, Linkedin etc is usually fine.

4: DON’T: be afraid to move on. Sometimes you meet people who are really great to chat to and before you know it, it’s twenty minutes later. But try and avoid this if you can, circulate as much as possible. I find going to the bar creates natural breaks in conversation, so then is a good time to “slip away”. Other times I just say stuff like, “It’s been fab to meet you/see you again – let’s talk again later, I just want to see (so and so).”

5) DO: listen and ask questions. I recall one event years ago when a guy kept saying his name over and over to me, insisting I should remember it. I have to admit, it worked – I remember his name to this day – but it was a bit tedious. Asking what other people are working on, what stage they’re at, mentioning you saw their last project, etc is far preferable.

6) DON’T: whinge or slag other delegates off. I find it extraordinary how many people seem to WANT to represent themselves in a poor light by doing these things. No one wants to hear how difficult it is to get into the industry; how you can’t get your scripts read or how depressed you are  that so many bad films and TV programmes get made. No one wants to hear your conspiracy theories either about how others are out to get you; how it’s  apparently easier in the US than it is here or how this one time someone said your script was awful and now it’s being made so THAT SHOWS THEM. A couple of times people have come up to me at events and crowed over the fact I’d given their script a PASS at funding places, but now the movie or DVD was coming out, **hahaha in my face***… Really? What’s the point… Am I going to say to that writer, “OMG, you’ve just made realise you’re a fab writer after all”? Of course not – I’m still going to think the script is crap and now I’m going to think they’re arses as well.

7) DO: be truthful and genuine. Don’t be afraid to use common ground, especially if it’s media-related – but even if it’s not, I find asking after people’s families for example a great opportunity for rapport, especially if you have children a similar age. Some of my long term Bang2writers have been very skillful with this, coming up to me and asking after Male Spawn and Wee Girl, saying they’ve read about them on my blog, Twitter and Facebook. If you haven’t seen someone’s work however and/or had never heard of them before that moment, there’s no reason to lie and say you have. Also, don’t say you know someone if you don’t – you will be found out, it’s a SMALL world. Last of all, saying you LOVED someone’s work when you’ve already written online you hated it is not going to wash – your reach can sometimes go further than you think. For example, I met a director recently whose film I had criticised in an old blog post; yes, it was embarrassing for a moment. But neither of us died and as I’m always quick to say, no film or TV programme is going to appeal to 100% of the audience. If this happens to you and the person in question happens to ask you WHY you wrote what you did (and it’s fair enough), my advice would be to NOT backtrack or make excuses. Instead, say yes, you did write that online and it was how you felt at the time… If you happen to have reflected on it and decided you were wrong, then say so. If however you stand by your post, simply say no personal offence was intended and you appreciate the difficulties of making films etc and think it’s great they got stuff made and distributed etc – but perhaps you weren’t part of the target market, after all.
8) Don’t leave it all at the LSWF. Loads of writers come back with business cards… and then do nothing with them. You MUST follow up on everyone you met. You don’t have to be “odd” about it… A politely worded email saying something along the lines of, “Hi, it was a pleasure to meet you at the weekend… Best of luck with your projects” etc is great. I like to add people on Facebook wherever possible to keep everyone “under one roof” so to speak, so I might do it this instead. If I was asked for a script or pitch material via email, I would send the first available opportunity; sending these emails when you’re still AT the festival is fine as long as you don’t bombard them with messages or expect them to confirm receipt. If people ask you to ring them after the festival, DO IT: do not send an email instead. Mondays are always a bust because people are following up reams of emails and messages and tasks from Friday and if they were at the LSWF all weekend, there’s a good chance they won’t even be in on the Monday, but working from home. But the Tuesday or Wednesday after the festival should work well. Everyone important has an assistant, so you call the switchboard, ask for “the assistant of (whoever)” and you will be put through. You explain so-and-so asked you to call and can they call you back or email you? It really as simple as that. Sometimes they will put you through right away, so be prepared for that; if you’re the nervous type, write a phone script.

Last of all:

9) DO: know your work inside out. And by this I mean, KNOW YOUR LOGLINE. There’s nothing worse than asking, “What are you working on at the moment?” and being met with a garbled mass of incoherent story (actually, there is: someone saying, “I can’t tell you, it’s a SECRET!” But we’re assuming by coming to the LSWF you’d never be amateur like this). Responding with something like the below however marks you out as a SERIOUS writer:

“I’m working on a [genre] feature/series/single… It’s about a [man/woman/kid/dog/etc] who [DOES SOMETHING] and [THIS HAPPENS].”

THAT’S what people want to hear… not a lengthy explanation of characters’ names, histories, what they had for breakfast, etc. Tell us the PLOT, pique our interest. What’s more, TELL EVERYONE WHO ASKS – whether they’re producers, agents, writers, LSWF volunteers, whatever. Why? Because it extends your “reach”: if I hear from Writer A they’re working on a horror about a monster in the woods and then I talk to Producer B who tells me they’re LOOKING for a horror script about a monster in the woods, what will I say?? “Oh you should talk to Writer A.” It’s a no-brainer. What’s in it for you, you ask? The more people YOU help, the MORE PEOPLE who will help you. End of.

Want more info on networking? Check out the links below.


How To Network Effectively

How To Network At an Event

How to Network (wikiHow)

Women Into The Network

8 Common Networking Mistakes

5 Networking Mistakes To Avoid

The Art of Being Pushy by Danny Stack

What Makes A Great Business Card? by Tim Clague

Marketing YOU

20 Responses

  1. Tim Clague says:

    Thanks for the link! I’ll be doing my ‘best business card’ unofficial competition at the festival again.

  2. [...] Work it, Baby: Networking at the LSWF « London Screenwriters’ Festival Blog‏ [...]

  3. Dom Carver says:

    Check out my free Twelvepoint article on the same thing.

  4. Sally Shaw says:

    Great article – very pleased to have found it. I’m fairly new to screenwriting so not ready to hit LSWF this year but advice like this will help me get myself in a stronger position for when 2011 comes around.

    I’d be pleased to hear from anyone who has a view on how much material a screenwriter should have prepared to get the most out of LSWF. And as well as pitching scripts you’ve actually completed, is it okay to pitch those for which you have only a treatment/outline, or even just a short synopsis?

  5. [...] For those already going here is a nice article about networking: click here [...]

  6. Lucy says:

    Hi Sally,

    “And as well as pitching scripts you’ve actually completed, is it okay to pitch those for which you have only a treatment/outline, or even just a short synopsis?”

    It’s absolutely fine to send out pitches that aren’t scripts yet – though ideally you should let the people know that! Some places will invite you to send one page pitches and actually PREFER to develop a script WITH the writer. It’s unlikely to get a pitch commissioned on its own, but not unheard of. Sometimes sending out pitches leads to other related paid work, too – I’ve been paid to write and rewrite pitches and treatments on producers’ other projects because of unrelated pitches I’ve sent and once got a gig writing for an online mag because of one.

  7. Sally Shaw says:

    Thanks Lucy – very good to know.

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  18. [...] to learn from some of my past mistakes and steal some of the excellent tips kicking around the web. But, yes, this is how serious I’m taking the festival – I’m actually going to [...]

  19. James D says:

    I agree with the majority of these tips, but 6 & 7 are somewhat contradictory. 6. Don’t slag off other delegates. 7. Be truthful and genuine.

  20. Lucy says:

    OK James, if you want me to rephrase:

    Pt 6 – don’t represent yourself as a whinger, it can only harm your career; negativity is not attractive

    Pt 7 – do use common ground to establish links between you and another delegate/ person if you have them, but don’t think whinging *is* (or can stand in for) that common ground

    Better?? ; )

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