As a Devon dweller, I can SO relate to Liam’s points here – but as I always say, you DON’T have to live in London to make a screenwriting career in the UK, so here’s his top 5 tips for the long distance screenwriter! Enjoy …
I live in a part of rural Ireland where life is less like The Quiet Man and more like Deliverance. Here, writing isn’t a particularly celebrated profession; tell locals you’re a writer and you’re apt to get cock-eyed looks before they resume advising you about how to slope your slurry floor.
Writers breaking in from outside the big centres isn’t unusual, but there’s a section of writers who are so far away from everything that getting breaks is ridiculously difficult: they run farms, hold down multiple jobs or are otherwise unable to get to those hives of writing activity.
Making inroads without actually using roads is tough, but these tips should make it that little bit easier.
1) ALL Technology Is Your Friend
Technology has connected everybody, but using that for your benefit is tricky.
The temptation is to rely solely on social media. It’s a powerful tool – a web-series I wrote is set to be produced off the back of a connection made via a Facebook appeal – but if it’s all you’re using, you’re missing out.
Never underestimate the value of phone calls and postage. Most places, unless stated otherwise, will respond to written queries purely because they’re tangible; and once someone answers the phone, you’ll have 30 seconds to craft an in with them that you didn’t have before you dialled.
LESSON 1: Working online’s easy, especially when submitting overseas, but networking is about personal connections. That extra effort for the right company could make all the difference. MORE: Using technology to connect and make relationships, plus Chris Jones with Talent Is Great, But It’s Relationships That Get You Hired
2) Combine Your Apps
If you’re living in the sticks, chances are your budget’s pretty tight. This tip is vital if you have to work on a shoestring.
Most people have both laptops and smartphones, and getting them working together is a lifesaver. On laptops, combining free screenwriting apps can replicate most of what mainstream software does – for example,Trelby exports multiple file types, while Celtx has better dialogue functions, and both are cross-compatible.
On phones, mobile screenwriting apps and note-taking software like Evernote allow you to construct scenes and even whole scripts on the go. Combine these with your email client and storage apps like Dropbox, and it’s possible to spot a writing job, apply for it, then write and send the script without ever being near your computer. Another handy app is your camera – I recently connected with a producer by snapping an advertisement they’d put up in my local post office.
LESSON 2: If you can’t afford the stuff the pros use, find another way around so you can concentrate on the writing first. MORE: 5 Essential Apps For Writers
3) Write Faster!
A busy home life in a remote area is always time-consuming, so snatch LITERALLY every minute you can to write.
A scene. A line of dialogue. Getting these down chips away at the overall time finishing your work takes. It’s also way less daunting than blocking five hours out of your day to write, which can descend into an unsatisfying procrastination session.
Think of them like mini-deadlines; you have that long to get your idea across, and no time for dawdling. It strips out all the padding most writers put in during long sessions, making the rewrite much simpler when the time to get to grips with it becomes available.
This goes hand-in-hand with Tip 1; the more people you connect with, the wider your presence.
On the downside, collaborating means working for free with someone who’s got a totally different style and personality to you, with no certainty of the outcome. On the upside, they’re similarly driven to you and do their thing in an area you otherwise wouldn’t reach. Also, should they gain traction in the industry down the line, then they’re more likely to help you out based on your past relationship.
It’s a crap shoot, but if it goes well, you’ll gain an ally who’s opinion you trust, which is like finding gold in a garden hose.
LESSON 4: Any obstacle is easier to get over with help from a friend. If there’s a gap in your skills or your plan, don’t be afraid to have someone else fill it for you. MORE: All about relationships and teamwork
5) Remember, You’re Unique
Most pundits on pitching will tell you that it’s not just your story that industry bods want to hear about; it’s YOUR story – who you are, why you’re interesting.
To mainstream industry workers, where you come from is not unlike being from another planet, and that’s an asset in every room you pitch in. Even if you don’t sell your script, selling yourself makes you more memorable should you ever come back.
Another advantage of living outside the mainstream is that it gives you a unique voice. An off-shoot of writing what you know is letting what you know influence you when writing what you don’t. Your situation and the style you’ve developed from it will set your work apart, which is essential for getting you where you need to go.
LESSON 5: Selling yourself is as important as selling your writing; if your backgrounds different, use that to your advantage during pitching. MORE: “Success is more perspiration than inspiration, but sometimes the inspiration fuels the perspiration” – a great video on the LondonSWF blog