A few questions that kind of tie into the same answer: Without an agent and a production credit, what would you say is the best chance that I have to break into scritpwriting? I've been working on some spec script but mostly in splendid isolation. I want to get out there. Where should I be going? Who should I be seeing? What should I be doing next? And how?
Well, first the obvious cliché: keep on writing, keep on sending your stuff out to production companies, agents and producers. Something might break and eventually, if you're any good, it probably will.
Now, to get ahead: have you considered writing a short film and getting it made? Or, even better, writing & directing the short film yourself. You can make a film for very cheap nowadays, and you could do it over a weekend. I made a no-budget short this way. It didn't cost any money at all and it turned out well (I think. See for yourself here).
Radio is a good way to get a credit and raise your profile. Research/be aware of when the commissioning rounds come up, and get your proposal in on time. Even better, try to get your script attached to a radio producer first. Have them submit it on your behalf, and that gives it a better chance. Jane Purcell, a playwright, has some tips on the process, here.
Alternatively, write a stage play. Send it around London or wherever you live, and all the theatre groups, local or otherwise. Stage it yourself. Hire a venue (a room above a pub, that kind of thing), get some actors, invite your friends and you have your first staged production. A modern or comedic spin on a familiar idea/story (that isn't copyright) is a good way to get the punters in. Even better, write to the original author and get their permission to adapt their script/book/film into your play. They might say ‘yes’, they probably will say ‘no’. When I was a researcher/assistant in TV, the golden rule was: always ask, otherwise you’ll never know. Invite a local journalist to your play/performance: get a review. Now you’re official!
Or, instead of a short film or a stage play, you could film a comedy sketch (all the rave on the net) or get a group of comedy writers together to write a sketch show, and perform it above the pub (very common, and TV peeps always keep an eye on these). The film/play/sketch route involves spending a bit of money but probably not as much as you think, so it's worth exploring.
If you can't film or perform something, then organise a private read-through of your script. All you need is a room with a table and actors to read your script. Actors are everywhere and keen to do stuff like this. You won't have to pay them. Just be nice and give them some drinks/snacks as they regale you with valuable feedback on what works, and what doesn't, in your script. This is proactive development rather than sitting at your computer, wondering what to do.
Network. Network like a crazy wild cat. Festivals, screenings, courses, talks. Attend. Chat to other writers. Say hello to the guest speaker. Be nice. Be proactive, always be doing something. Don't get stuck in a rut. It's nice to get out of the house every once in a while. Blogging has become a useful way to network with fellow writers and like-minded individuals. Sure, they may be people who won’t advance your career (hey, y’never know!) but it’s nice to make some friends and not feel so isolated.
Use your common sense. Think laterally. Read the trade magazines (Broadcast and Screen International). Swot up on who the movers and the shakers really are. Keep an eye on upcoming events/courses/talks etc. Someone from Working Title may be doing a Q&A or attending a pitching event, so mark it down on your calendar, go along and network. Try to introduce yourself to the main person but be just as nice and interested in everyone else, including the coatroom guy. Someone from the Film Council could be at a Bafta talk or screening. Go up and say hello. Get them to agree to read your stuff (solicited script) or, if not, they might remember your name when your unsolicited script comes across their desk.
Basically, use your noggin’. Common sense, a practical approach and an easy going manner will get you a long way and probably make you some friends, too.
And finally… the seven songs thingy, as memed by Sheiky.
1. Burns Inside - Puressence (no-one talks, or indeed, seems to know about this band, which is why I probably like them. They won't change the world but good quality indie pop).
2. After Hours - We Are Scientists (catchy tune, like it).
3. Serpent Sky - JJ72 (fairly sparse and raw but energetic and grabbing riff).
4. Jigsaw Falling Into Place - Radiohead (really like the video too, which was directed by Adam Buxton, I believe).
5. America - Razorlight (classy song).
6. Trophy - Bat For Lashes (listen once, try to hum it out of your head for days).
7. Boys of Summer - Don Henley (a classic favourite which I finally found to download t'other day).
I tag anyone on the list who hasn't been tagged yet.