I always believed that the work should speak for itself.
Whenever I heard about screenwriters going to parties or mixers specifically to meet people who could advance their careers, I automatically figured they sucked as writers. After all, who would do something as desperate as that? If they were any good, people would come to them.
This probably explains why many of those dudes are pulling down six figure quotes and I’m scraping by all these years later.
The truth is, I was afraid. Yes, if you write an amazing script, chances are you’ll eventually find vindication in the form of an option or sale or at least a couple of meetings that could lead to your big break. And yes, some of those writers hustling studio assistants at the bar are talentless windbags hoping to talk their way into a career. But if you have an amazing script AND you put yourself out there socially and you’re not a pushy asshole about it, you might save yourself months, maybe years, of waiting for your script to (hopefully) happen across the right desk at the right time.
When I first moved out to Los Angeles, I was 23; I had all the time in the world. I put my head down and concentrated on my craft, churning out script after script. That’s all well and good — that’s what you’re supposed to do. But if I had been smart, I would have also made a conscious effort to expand my social circle and try to get to know my fellow writers and the other industry professionals my age working their way up the ladder.
Sure, I got to know some of my peers, mostly by accident. A few of them became good friends. Many of them helped me with my work one way or the other – and I’ve tried to return the favor whenever I can, because that’s how it’s supposed to be – but as my 20s turned into my 30s I started to realize that I should have gotten to know more people. Not just because it would have benefited my career. It would have benefited me as a person.
This weekend I’m going to WonderCon in Anaheim. As a comic book fan, I’m looking forward to it; the last time I went to Comic-Con in San Diego it was crowded to the point of being decidedly not fun, and I’ve heard WonderCon is a much more relaxed atmosphere, which is fine by me. I like a little elbow room when I’m flipping through boxes of old Marvel Star Wars issues.
As an aspiring comic book writer, however, I’m really looking forward to it, particularly because I signed up for the Comic Creator Connection on Saturday — a networking session in which writers and artists can meet and pitch one another their ideas. (My wife likes to call it “nerd speed dating”, which probably isn’t far from the truth.) For the past week I’ve been working on a couple of new ideas. I typed up pitch sheets to leave behind. For the first time in my life, I had business cards printed. I’m not going to make the same mistake I originally made as a young screenwriter who expected people to magically find him. This time around, I’m ready to be proactive.
Who knows if anything will come of it. Worst case scenario, I’ll get to meet a whole bunch of new people I otherwise probably wouldn’t have talked with, and you know what? That in of itself is cool. After all, they love comics, *I* love comics – we’ll talk comics and it’ll be fun. In that light, anything else is gravy.
Sometimes networking doesn’t have to be Networking with a capital “N”, a grim obligation that you grind away at like you’re doing time in a rock quarry. It’s really about getting to know people, and any subsequent advancement in your career should be a happy byproduct. Just because you’re a writer doesn’t mean you should be afraid of people or think of them as professional goal posts. That’s a lesson I wish my younger self had figured out a long time ago.