Hollywood screenwriters get agents, managers, personal assistants, chefs, masseuses, personal trainers, a battalion of guys named Dave to clear the way for them on busy streets, and a unicorn on their birthdays.
That’s right, isn’t it? I don’t work in Hollywood, but I read that somewhere.
So who does the indie writer have? Yes, writing is a solitary journey, but if you’re going to make it as a writer, you need someone to be there for you and help you along the way. Here are some of the people you’ll need on that team.
I don’t mean people who randomly go, “Yay you!”, although we all could use a few of those. I mean those people who believe in what you do and are willing to help make it possible. It may be a spouse who is willing to carry the financial load so you can focus on writing. It may be a sibling who will watch your kids for a Saturday so you can grind out that third act. It may be an employer who understands that you need to fly to L.A. on short notice. Whoever they are, we all need them. So appreciate them, and support them back however you can.
Other writers are awesome. Sometimes it’s a person to spitball ideas with, sometimes it’s someone who can point out flaws in what you think is an airtight concept, sometimes it’s just someone who can commiserate when you say “Five ‘pass’ emails. In a DAY!” They’ve been there; they get it. They can help with ideas, they can understand what you’re going through, and once in a very long while, they might have to turn down a gig for some reason and will suggest you as an alternate. (Don’t expect this; I mean, seriously, don’t. Most indie writers will skip breathing before turning down a gig. But it has happened.)
Yes, you probably hand your script to other writers to get notes. You and they trade back and forth in a barter system, and that’s good. But you should have a professional script reader in your team as well to give you professional notes. And I’m not just saying that because I offer them. I’m saying that for a few different reasons.
After all, your writing circle may or may not be good at giving notes. Writing, and even writing well, does not always translate to being able to give a good set of notes that can get to the heart of your story and what you need to make it better. And even if they can, it is important sometimes to get notes from a dispassionate source; your writing circle has probably heard about your concept, may have helped you hone it, but an outside reader will come to it cold, just like a potential producer will. And that’s useful.
Producers and Directors
Kind of goes without saying, but the more of these people you know, the better. These are your potential customers, whether they shoot your script or hire you to fix one of theirs. Don’t stalk, but do get to know. I’ve talked about this before.
The so-called “Below the Line”
I’m always amazed by “above-the-line” people (this refers to actors, directors, producers, and writers, all because of an arbitrary line on budgets) look down on “below-the-line” people (this means everyone ELSE who works on a movie, many of whom bust their ASS. And you can quote me on that.) Trust me; these people are a) critical b) not beneath anyone’s notice and, if you’re being all calculating and stuff, c) really important to you because they work on other films too. And often, they aren’t solely the role they’re filling.
At the same time I’ve been directing and producing my own material, I’ve been a boom op, a PA, a DP, a camera op, an editor, and a day-player actor. Those are just off the top of my head; I’ve filled other roles too because I’m part of a community of filmmakers, and we like to help each other out. I’ve heard about good people I should work with from lots of different sources: make up people, craft services people, the person pointing out where to park. So don’t just focus on those you think are important. Also, don’t just ram people into your contacts database; these are people, not stamps, and you aren’t collecting. But get to know them. They’re often very cool, and you never know where the next connection might come from.
Being a writer is tough. It’s lonely work when you’re pounding those keys, so make the rest not so lonely. Find your team.
And, while you’re at it, make sure you’re on other people’s teams too.
- More Indievelopment articles by Jeff Richards
- Indievelopement: Networking – Where’s the Work?
- Balls of Steel: Shifting Network to Relationships
- Write, Direct, Repeat: Film Festivals and the Short Film, Part 2
- Balls of Steel: The Social Media Stage
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