To Network or Not To Network

OK, readers, I need your advice this time around. I went to LA to meet industry people. I need to meet industry people. I need to hand out business cards. I need to show these people my specs. But when is this appropriate and when is it stepping over the line?

The other day I had an amazing opportunity. My cousins invited me over for dinner, I accepted, of course, because my version of dinner usually involves the microwave and frozen pizza, and they are nice people. They mention that there will be other guests. Who do these turn out to be? A well-known director. I sat across from a well-known director at that dinner. What did I do? Pretty much kept my mouth shut. At the end of the meal, I said thanks to the hosts, waved goodbye to the guests and left. That was it. There was no exchange of business cards, no promise to send my spec script, nothing.

Here is why I didn’t pursue that lead: If ever I were invited over by my cousins again, and I run into those people, I did not want awkwardness to ensue. Let’s say they read my script and didn’t like it. That happens. Then what? You want to be successful as a screenwriter but you do not want to isolate everyone.

But that’s the confusing part! How else do you meet people? You go to networking events and it turns out ninety percent of the people are in the same struggling screenwriter bracket. The ten percent who are powerful probably are speakers at the event and came for the money, not your script. So you look for other opportunities and they come, like the guests at the dinner, and then you get second thoughts.

I think writer Billy Grundfest is not far off in this podcast from the Writing Show. He mentions that the way he got an agent in the first place is by going to any Hollywood event, talking to Hollywood people, and then only after they initiated handing a spec script from his pack. He did not hear back from the majority of spec prospects, but he didn’t need fifty agents, only one, and in good time he found representation. That is one way, but I am not sold. What is the best way to meet people, and then what is the better way to tell them you are interested. How do you schmooze and how is that different than networking? Is it advisable to assume the people waiting in line on the 405 are producers and throw scripts out the window of your car? Comments are welcome!

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2 responses to “To Network or Not To Network

  1. This would have been a great chance for you!

    You could have made some kind of deal with your cousins or if you’re lucky they simply ask you themselves how the screenwriting is doing at the moment.

    I wouldn’t say “Great! Couldn’t be any better.”. As a woman (ok, you’re not), we always underrate ourselves / our skills. I’d do it the same way on that occasion. Mention that you’d like to have somebody proofreading it etc. Maybe the director knows somebody who’d do or even do it himself. Spec scripts aren’t perfect – he should know it. Sometimes, if it’s a great storyline, the companies even want to sit together with the writer for a re-write.

    I know it’s awkward to become the center of a situation, but dinners are a good way to exchange; the meal itself is a good way to distract attention from the screenwriting again. Just say how good it tastes and ask about how it was made… you simply change the subject and you’re out of center. 😉 Good luck!

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