Many thanks to Matthew, who asked me this question via email recently:
“I’m an aspiring screenwriter and have written a number of short film scripts that could be made on a low budget or for free … I’ve been searching Google furiously for ideas, but I’ve yet to find a way of getting in contact with anyone who might be interested in using my scripts. As I don’t have any writing credits yet, it would be good to just get something made, and I enjoy the collaborative process of making films. I can do the writing part fine, but I have no idea about the rest of the filmmaking process.”
1) Get on social media.
This is non-negotiable. Lots of writers believe they’re “wasting” their time on Twitter and Facebook in particular, but in all honesty there is no quicker, easier or cheaper way of meeting people who do (or want to do!) the same things as you … What’s not to like?? Just watch out for flamers, weirdoes or stepping over the mark yourself and becoming that flamer or weirdo! More (plus links, hashtags & social media guides): How To Connect With Writers, Agents & Filmmakers Online.
2) Check your low budget screenplays are **actually** low budget.
If I had a £ for every time a screenwriter tells me their screenplay – feature OR short – is “low budget” and it ISN’T? I would have enough to make AVATAR 2, 3 & 4 MYSELF. I’m not even kidding. But how do you find out what’s possible for what money? Well, you can:
- Take classes like The Guerilla Filmmakers’ Masterclass
- Read articles and blogs like Bang2write!
- Read books (My book, Writing And Selling Thriller Screenplays touches on budgets; here’s more books recommended by Bang2writers)
- Ask your contacts! Here I am on Twitter, plus Ask.Fm for starters.
In other words, LEARN. Learn all you can! And for God’s sake don’t get up people’s noses by being a Keyboard Warrior.
3) Sharpen up those pitching skillz.
These are the facts: if you can’t write a decent logline and learn how to deliver it conversationally, then it’s hard for others to know what you’re going on about. The harder you make it for them to understand your idea, story and/or vision for it, the less likely it is you will end up making you want. That’s just the way it is. So find out what it takes to write a great logline and how to tell people about it, written or spoken, formal or informal!
4) Advertise on e-bulletins, newsletters and forums for collaborators.
Make sure you subscribe to, “Like” AND participate in all the chats, pages and groups online you can. It is NOT procrastination. Use every opportunity you can to share ideas or pitch, especially those bulletins with pitching sections. And don’t worry about others “stealing” your idea. No one will steal your idea.
5) Get on the phone.
I’m always reminded of an old boss of mine, who gave me her number, with this warning:
“This is my mobile … you can call me anytime you want. Except evenings or weekends, then I’ll gut you like a fish.”
Fact is, calling people unsolicited as if you’re their best buddy is NOT a great idea, unless they’ve invited you to BUT (and there’s always a but with me), in my experience many of those BIGSHOTS you’re desperate to talk to have assistants who do not mind being called. So if you call somewhere and ask “For the assistant of [Name]” then you may just get through and be able to ask *them* your question. But for God’s sake make it a good one, don’t call for the sake of it when Google will suffice.
What’s that … Can you call me? Sure. Here I am on Skype —-> “Bang2write”. Call me anytime you want. Except evenings or weekends, of course. You know why.
6) Meet people.
There are loads of events, paid-for and free, you can go to in “real life”. The biggest and most obvious is London Screenwriters Festival, but there are lots of others throughout the year too. If you follow all the groups and pages and are active on social media, you will always be in the loop. Try and aim for showing your face at say, 3 events, tweet ups, socials and/or courses a year.
7) Be generous.
The more you GIVE, the more you GET. So do favours. Answer research questions for pro writers, or help them out with publicising their projects. Read your peers’ work. Talk. Phone up your local college and university that does filmmaking courses, see if you can give them your screenplays or help out in some way. Write guest posts. Help the local brownie or scout troop make a film or stage a play or a Nativity. Whatever! Be creative and be generous with it, you will get back as much, or even more, as you put in.
8) Be adaptable.
Things will not work out the way you thought. That’s just the way it is. So instead of stressing about it, accept it and ask yourself, “What is the lesson here?” Because there will be one. Figure it out, pronto and move on to the next project. What else is there?