A couple of years ago, Bafta used to hold regular schmoozing events where writers could meet and mingle with heads of drama and important TV execs. These were free events - you didn’t have to be a Bafta member - and it also had a free bar so naturally I was there on every occasion. At first, I had my doubts that anybody of note would actually show up but when you saw the Head of ITV drama wearing a big hand-written name tag on his suit, you realised that perhaps the Bafta pedigree is truly a cut above the rest.
However, what would invariably happen at these events is that writers would end up chatting to other writers, getting drunk at the free bar and moaning about the commissioning editor across the room who had rejected our scripts the week before. After attending a couple of the evenings with this kind of routine, I tried to summon up the courage to actually go talk to a producer/exec/anybody who wasn’t a writer. This was easier than I had expected - I’m not shy but I’ll happily leave people alone too - and most producers were willing to have a friendly chat and give you their cards before they were nagged on their suits by another writer waiting to chew his ear off.
And so, it became a bit like speed-dating where you’d get an allocated five minutes to talk to an exec, get his business card, maybe give him one of yours too, and head to the bar before it ran out. These schmoozing events haven’t been on for a couple of years now. I don’t know if they are planning to stage any more but I keep a regular look-out in the Events section of Bafta’s website just to make sure.
Funnily enough, most of my useful contacts and leads have come from other writers. Which is the purpose of this post really (finally). Everyone you meet who is involved or attached to the industry in any way is a contact. Someone you can go to for a query, advice or help regarding your script, career, or what you want to do. The ever expanding role of the Internet has even seen blogging creating an on-line community of writers who are willing to dispense their pearls (Ted & Terry being the Gods of this new religion) and although they are on-line strangers, they usually all have their contact details on display for you to get in touch.
And just when I was getting fed up of constantly meeting other writers (at seminars, bars, Bafta etc) instead of producers and execs, I realised that these writers have a wide and varied contact list separate to mine that they are usually willing to share. I think it’s important to share, we need all the help we can get, so if I find out a contact or a lead that would be useful for someone I know or someone I’ve just met, I’ll let them know. Recently, a few opportunities have come my way, two of which were from a couple of writers I know, an other from a producer I met last week when we were going through the Mesh applications and one from the BBC writersroom because I made the final shortlist of the BBC Writing Academy.
I was hoping to write this post with at least one of these possibilities confirmed, they’re still pending, but in terms of contacts and meeting people, it’s all about getting to know just about everyone who’s involved in the biz, from the post room upwards, and building that momentum of contacts to the time when your name is a regular reference in their mind, and some commissioned work may come your way…