BUILDING YOUR NETWORK FROM THE BACKWOODS, NOT HOLLYWOOD
Updated: Jul 2, 2022
Guest blog by repped, optioned, and published screenwriter Cannon Rosenau. Be sure to submit to Season 4 of this year's Query Letter Contest.
I am writing this from Northern Idaho, near the Canadian border. While I live in the bustling city limits near the grocery store with decent internet and cell service, it’s far removed from Hollywood (yes, there are many areas without cell reception...can you hear me now? It’s glorious!). But, hey, we do have two “malls” nearby: one at the dump where people put yard sale quality items up for grabs and one that consists of a vape shop and the DMV. The first one has an excellent return policy. Is that backwoods enough for you?
So how does one gain a network of professionals in Hollywood when you’re not there?
START LOCAL: Look up local productions, groups, guilds….anything where you can meet people. If you’re in, say Waynesboro, Tennessee, look up the Tennessee Film Commission for resources. My town actually has a filmmakers network which I was able to join. Although, I have not attended one meeting in five years due to scheduling (I have a lot of kids), I added that membership to my signature, which has been attached to no less than a million query letters.
Nowadays, you don’t have to look far to find like-minded groups, being film lovers, writers, or filmmakers in your area. Back in the day, while I was still in film school, I answered a Craigslist ad to be a part of a writing team for a web show which was a relatively untapped market at the time (I believe Justin Bieber had JUST been discovered on YouTube). Even though the creator ended up shutting it down due to personal issues, it was a great experience to be in a group and learn how to collaborate on ideas. I barely had one full feature script under my belt at the time, so any experience helped. A skill I carried with me in the age of Zoom collaboration.
BRANCH OUT: As your experience expands, so does your personal and geographical network. Branching out, I found a quasi-local group based near where I grew up in Seattle. Also, because Seattle is closer to my own film commission down in Boise, I made some genuine connections there. It’s important to think of these connections as potential future collaborators. You just never know. It’s a big business with small circles. You need your people, and they may need you.
Under the assumption your writing is polished, you have the beyond basic knowledge of screenwriting and can stick to deadlines, and apply for gigs anywhere and everywhere.
Obviously, there are tons of postings here on Screenwriter Staffing www.screenwritingstaffing.com/screenwriting-jobs-script-searches. Make sure you pay attention to the listing and submit only what they are asking for (see “Maintain Professionalism at All Times” section). I’ve found SS to contain some of the industry's most accessible and polite creatives.
You can also find requests for specific scripts or job postings on IMDBpro, Coverfly, and Mandy. I’ve made career-long connections from professional gigs I’ve landed, which then connected me to actors that want to be a part of my projects. You can too!
There are contests and paid pitch opportunities galore. Be selective (or you may go broke!) by submitting what is in your wheelhouse or where you are willing and passionate enough to branch out in order to submit your work or apply for gigs anywhere you can. You will get replies and make contacts. Be genuine and professional (see below) at all times, and you will make connections.
SOCIALS: Disclaimer: I would be Amish if they allowed TV on their compounds (is it offensive to call it compounds? Doesn’t matter, they won’t see it). I’m not big on the Socials – my Facebook friends probably think I died about six years ago. But luckily, this brilliant writer has already covered the topic: www.screenwritingstaffing.com/post/social-media-for-today-s-screenwriter
Beyond that, make friends on the Filmmaker centric socials – connect with people at your level. Reply to their posts politely, check out their projects and genuinely connect and bond over your love of film and TV. Script Revolution is a great place for this.
MAINTAIN PROFESSIONALISM AT ALL TIMES: Let me say it again. MAINTAIN PROFESSIONALISM AT ALL TIMES. That means be courteous and gracious, especially when accepting any criticisms that come your way, even if they’re unwarranted. You’ll get some brutal replies or feedback, that’s the nature of the beast. As mentioned above, over the years, I’ve sent a million and three query letters, and in those, I’ve had some fun rejections. (If your query letter isn’t getting responses, check out www.screenwritingstaffing.com/post/weak-query-letters-make-for-weak-scripts).
The mean rejections only make me stronger. I’ll show my work: I had a manager interested in one of my scripts, only to turn it down after reading, citing that it was “too farcical,” which to me, a fan of Adam Sandler movies, was a compliment. Wouldn’t it have been fun to reply to the manager and say, “You clearly have no funny bone”? But why cut that olive branch? Remember, not every project is for everyone. FYI, the proper response is “I appreciate your time, and I understand.” Besides, the following week, I obtained an attachment to said project from a producer…who was working on a Mel Brooks project. Farcical indeed!
Or the time I queried a financier, letting him know we were holding out on making offers to bankable name actresses until we secured the proper funds. He replied and told us our budget was too big, and we needed a top-name actress to fill the role. I kind of wanted to ask, “Do you even know how to read?” But instead, my reply: “Great advice!” That way, if we do in fact get that attachment we’re looking for, I can follow up.
Again, you will get a lot of rejections, but I’m of the mindset that “No” stands for “Next Opportunity,” and many of my rejections come with a “this one’s not for me, but feel free to send me something else in the future.” An open door to add to your network.
“IT’S WHO YOU KNOW”: In the fast pace of Hollywood, people and the people’s people are always looking for the next project or a great writer. I had a request to write for a project but was finishing a contract and in no way was able to commit. A very talented writer I worked with only once, and having only read one of his scripts came to mind, and I referred him to the producer. His writing and professionalism spoke for itself and stuck in my mind.
Even though I went to high school (and overlapping friend groups) with a very big-name actor, his gatekeepers are very strong. So, instead of riding the coattails, I’ve had to meet people the good old-fashioned way – by email. I’ve made some phone calls, but I’m a disaster with the mouth (writers, amiright?), and reaching out remotely is the norm these days anyhow.
If you’re a nice person, talented, and a pleasure to work with, you will have no problem building your network of creatives. Sign up to read more screenwriting blogs like this: www.screenwritingstaffing.com/sign-up-free-membership
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Cannon Rosenau is a mother of four adorable teenagers and wife of one handsome dude, she earned her MFA in Script and Screenwriting from Regent University in 2015 and right away optioned her final project from the program. She's repped by Simpson Literary Agency and has also written scripted ads, collaborates on the Cuzzins team and has a published stage play. When she’s not writing smutless comedy for various projects (contracts and spec), you can find her slangin’ Girl Scout Cookies, Cheer Raffles and burning holes in the sidewalks walking her four dogs where she lives in North Idaho. www.imdb.com/name/nm11007680, https://simpsonliteraryagency.com/cannon-rosenau
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