Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Nice People

There are three key attributes that most people think they possess. One: a good taste in music. Two: a good sense of humour. And three: a good judge of character. Mind you, there’s an all-important fourth: good taste in the opposite sex.

We can’t all be right though, can we? Beethoven’s Fourth Movement of his Ninth Symphony will be majestic to some but dull and pointless to others. For those who cannot watch a Monty Python sketch without enduring physical howls of laughter will only watch in blank awe at the returning power of My Family. And the classification of someone being a ‘babe’ will always be hotly disputed by horny teens everywhere.

But what about being a good judge of character? We all possess this trait, don’t we? At least, we’re fairly sure we do. The thing is, the world is full of nice people. Despite the atrocities and avarice all around the globe, the population of normal and polite civilians far outweigh those of a political or nefarious attitude.

Within the small circle of our lives, we will come into contact with a wide host of these normal and polite civilians. Some will be normal, polite and dull, others will be normal, polite and work in the film industry. And to make it in the world of showbiz, and in particular screenwriting, these are the people we want as our friends.

This doesn’t make us selfish or rude, far from it. In an industry where a smile and a handshake will get you a gig above the quality of your work, it is positively encouraged. It is not disingenuous for screenwriters to try to be friendly to those who hold the power. Those who feel awkward about insincere attempts to impress people they wouldn’t normally be seen dead with shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. It’s part of the job. Network. Smile. Be normal, polite. And creative.

Still, there are times when you feel you connect with someone because they share your sense of passion and work ethic, and you admire their commitment and personality. Just look at what a blog can do. In my link sidebar, I’ve met friends, colleagues and mentors who are great people and inspirational scribes in equal measure.

It’s with this emotional connection that positive friendships and developments occur, and mainly because they mirror some facet of your own personality that you cherish and uphold. Perhaps this sounds a little trite but let me try to put it into context.

Last Friday, I had a meeting with a producer whom I very much like and we talked about my latest script (not the one I did in four days, the one I completed before Christmas). Of course, he has no money but I like his style and what he has to say, he has a genuine and honest passion for scripts, and this makes me feel more positive and energised about doing something together rather than being steamrollered by a bigger studio.

On the way home, I got thinking about a lovely script editor I worked with who’s now got a great job for the BBC and I thought: she was great, I hope she’s doing well, I hope we get to work together again. And I thought of another script editor I liked, also at the Beeb, and again the same notion: I felt I made a good connection with them, they’re probably very busy and doing very well.

When I got home, I pressed ‘play’ on my answerphone and would you believe it, there was a message from one of the script editors, wanting to have a chat! Talk about freaky! He didn’t say what he wanted to chat about but he got me all a jitter as my mind tried to fathom why he would be calling (I literally hadn’t spoken to him in a year).

All weekend my brain worked overtime as it went from “he wants to offer me work” to “he wants to have a go at me for something I’ve said on the blog” to “god jesus, what does he want?” Turns out he wanted to hook me up with a director who’s thinking of making a short film. Phew.

Today, I have a meeting about an animation pilot that me and Sam are going to write and that came about because I was on the Mesh judging panel last year, and I struck it off with one of the jurors, who just happened to have a project that he wanted to get off the ground with the help of a couple of writers…

Excellent stuff. All because of a positive contact and more importantly, a friendly connection.

So go well. And be nice.


Anonymous said...

An extremely good point. I've lost count of how many applications I've made and lost out on even though I was SO up to the job...Only to reply to a random email/go to a book launch/friend's wedding/blog/bar and get a gig that way instead. Like that old cliche...It can be not WHAT you know, but WHO you know as well. And being nice is completely underrated, especially if you're a lady in this business - people can expect you to be a bitch. Which I am, but shhhhhh.... Not when I'm writing ; )

Anonymous said...

What you've experienced there my friend is a "Hootkins Paradox", so coined after a friend and I were sitting in a thai restaurant in the west end discussing, apropos of nothing, the actor William Hootkins and the fine cameos he had in the films of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg (I make a fascinating dining companion). We finished our meal and left thinking nothing more of it, but then who should we see two minutes later leaning out of a theatre dressing room window talking to a friend? William Hootkins, in the flesh. Had no idea he was even in the country. There you have it, Hootkins Paradox. Use it and impress your friends.

Danny Stack said...

If you hadn't mentioned your anecdote, I would have believed Hootkins Paradox was real. Excellent!

Elspeth said...

You raise some interesting points here. What does 'nice' really mean? Our image of ourselves and others, positive thinking, and good ole synchronicity - some of my favourite themes. Got me thinking - thanks for that!

James Moran said...

Works the other way around, too - there are a couple of people I've met in my time in the business that I would probably choose not to work with, ever. One deal that fell apart was because of a dishonest, passive-aggressive bullshitter - even if the job came up again with an ironclad contract attached, I'd probably still turn it down, it just wouldn't be worth the grief.

Same as in all jobs, I guess - you want to work with talented people, but they have to be people you get on with, otherwise it just does your head in.

Respect to William Hootkins, by the way, who passed away recently. But I understand that top men are looking into the matter. Who? *Top* men...

Cunningham said...

Everyone is known, not only for their work, but for with whom they've worked. It's a fact of any business.

I had a meeting with a writer-producer and he seemed genuinely surprised that I knew his comics work, knew some of the people he had worked with and had some of his work on the shelves here at the Secret Mountain HQ.

It was also great that he had read a sample I had for him, got the story immediately, got all the references in the work.

Long story short, after that meeting, we are moving forward on a project. I understand him. I think he understands me.

Making connections with people helps - not only for the networking possibilities, but for workflow.

Danny Stack said...

A writer-friend of mine was in a meeting with a producer to talk about the possibility of writing a feature and the producer mentioned he was a die-hard Nottingham Forest supporter.

So the writer reeled off the events of the 1959 Cup Final: Reg Dwight had to go off with a broken leg and they came from a goal down to win 2-1.

The producer was astonished: how did you know that?? The writer explained that he wasn't a fan of Forest but his brother was and it had all rubbed off over the years.

The producer was delighted, they spoke about football, and at the end of the meeting, the writer got the gig without having to actually talk about the project.