Wednesday, 11 June 2014

5 things to do in prep for the Children's Media Conference in July

Last year I went to the Children's Media Conference for the very first time. You can read my blog about it here. It was a really great experience and I'm going again this year to build on the contacts I made and to hopefully make some more. Here's a few things I'll be doing to get myself prepared!

1. Do your homework
It's always worth spending a bit of time researching who you want to meet up with. The delegate list is very handy for finding out who will be at the conference. It can be found on the CMC website here. It's easy enough to do a quick Google and nosy around their company website to make sure that you're targeting someone who will be interested in you and you will be interested in too!

2. Do your homework part 2
Once you have your hit list, you're going to need to spend some time researching the shows they've worked on and thinking about why you're a good fit for these or if you just want to pick their brain for ten minutes, that's allowed too! It's always worth checking out the movers and shakers too, lots of things can happen since the last time you hit up some of your contacts. Some may have moved company, been promoted or even set up on their own. So it's worth checking all your contact emails are up to date!

3. Watch lots of content
Get your head around what's out there at the moment, so you can be nice and knowledgeable. This will help you no end when you're putting together your hit list. If you meet someone who worked on a series you've watched, heck, you can even chuck them a little compliment!

4. Polish your pitch
If you're hoping to pitch a new series idea you've been working or you're just there to promote yourself it's always a good idea to have an idea of what you want to say. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it's better to be prepared than rambling and unfocused! First impressions count people!

5. Get some business cards and update your CV
Goes without saying really! That CV is important! And there's lots of cheap places online where you can get business cards made up. I just used Overnight Prints. I heard that people like ones with one blank side so they can scribble some notes on it after they've met you... Hopefully they'll write nice things!

Sooo, that's it! My step by step guide to getting the most out of the Children's Media Conference. Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to watch some CBeebies. Heeey, it's research!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

5 Reasons Why Writers Should LOVE Their Day Jobs

After leaving Turner I've written a couple of scripts as a paid writer and luckily I've been able to top this up working as a freelance production coordinator. When my alarm goes off ridiculously early and I'm reading my hastily printed off scripts on the tube tucked under a stranger's armpit as I commute across town I try to remind myself of why the day job isn't so bad after all.

1 - Money
The first one is the most obvious! Unless you're lucky enough (or mad enough) to think living in a cardboard box is 'research' and eating is cheating then it's good to bring home some bacon. Worrying about money definitely hinders creativity. Money means I'm able to go out into the world and experience things so I can write about them. It also means I can buy a new outfit if I have a meeting with a producer or script editor (yes I am that shallow).

2 - Sanity
Chasing your dreams is all well and good, but if you're sat at home for weeks on end seeing no one but the postie, getting up at 12pm and shuffling around in your pjs, doing 'research' on the internet, then a day job will at least keep you tethered to reality and get you out of bed. Tony Gilroy recently said at his screenwriting masterclass at the BFI, 'You work a lot harder for someone else than you do for yourself.' Which unfortunately is true! If you have an endless amount of time to write, how will you ever stick to a self-imposed deadline? A day job gives you some structure and with a little self-discipline it's amazing what you can get done in your spare time.

3 - Material
If you're cooped up at home all day, counting the number of cats in the back garden, watching cars come and go in the street and chatting desperately to the man in the corner shop about the price of beans, then inspiration is going to be pretty thin on the ground. I'm not suggesting that you should write a script set in your office, or about your colleagues necessarily, but when you're out and about travelling to work, popping out to get your lunch, who knows what you might see or overhear? Just look at David Simon and The Wire! I love to think of him on the beat with two notebooks one for ideas and the other for official police work!

4 - Contacts
Working in the right industry for your writing, be it TV, film, games, digital or at a publishers, even if you're not in quite the role you want to be in, you might still get the chance to strike up a conversation with someone who might be able to open a door or two for you, or perhaps just give you some friendly advice. Working at Turner helped me do everything from find out about Kidscreen daily emails and the Children's Media Conference to getting my first paid writing gig. And even if you're not working in a company with obvious links to your writing career, you never know who you might meet and you never know what useful things you might pick up.

5 - Escape
Yup, escape. There's nothing better when I'm stuck on a script or waiting for feedback on a story outline to run away to the office, forget all about it and do something totally different with my brain.

There's also the added benefits of free tea and coffee and warmth (and printing if you're sneaky!), which aren't to be sniffed at!

Ok so it might be a little hard to love the day job, but it's definitely good not to begrudge it!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

5 Reasons Why Networking is Important for Screenwriters (and why not to be scared of it!)

Last week I was at the Children's Media Conference in Sheffield. It was my first time going to such a huge networking event. 900 people and 3 days of events, talks and networking. I have to admit I was a little scared by the idea of it, but also very excited! It said on the website that everyone was super friendly and I have to admit I wasn't sure whether or not to believe it, but to my surprise everyone was super friendly. There were also lots of other newbies there, so I wasn't alone. People came up and talked to me and it was easy to approach people too. I also emailed some producers ahead of time, so it would easier to get hold of them and find them in the throng of people. As a result I now have lots of contacts. People who have seen my face and chatted to me, and now when I email them, they'll know who I am. Always a bonus. So here are my five reasons why networking is necessary for scriptwriters. 

1 - People like to work with people they know! 

You may think this is a little unfair, but let's face it, we all do it! Even something as simple as picking a restaurant to go to for dinner, most times you'll go to somewhere you know or get a recommendation from a friend or TripAdvisor. So getting your face out there, chatting with people and not being pushy, just saying 'hey this is what I do. What do you do?' means that they can see who you are and see that you're normal (hopefully!). 

2 - People will impart a lot more face to face than over email! 

In the digital world meeting face to face doesn't seem so important, but you can't beat a real life conversation. You'd be surprised, as I was, how much further you can get talking to someone. You get to build up a rapport, hey they might even laugh at one of your jokes! As you getting talking about what you do and what they do, they might realise that they could point you in the direction of someone looking for scriptwriters or impart some advice or share some contacts. You also might realise that you could help them out in some way too. So everyone feels good! I just don't think that would happen over email so readily. 

3 - From just a casual conversation you can learn so much! 

I spoke to lots of people at the Children's Media Conference from composers to students to producers to agents. Each person had a story to tell. Each person had a different view on the industry. I was most interested to hear how ideas go from page to pitch to screen. There's no one way of doing this, so it's great to get out there and speak to people who have been through the process so when you come to pitching your own show you know what you're doing and what approach might work best for your show and also fit your own personal style of communication. 

4 - Unfortunately no one is going to call you! 

Harsh I know, but waiting by that phone isn't going to help. Producers and script editors are busy people. It's very unlikely they'll see your name on the credits to a show and rush off to find your details to call you. So you need to get out there, meet them and make sure your name is on the top of the pile when they are looking for writers. 

5 - Once you've put yourself out there, it can only get easier! 

Once you start networking and you make some contacts, the next time you speak to someone your contacts may overlap. They might have worked with someone who's in your network, so suddenly it seems much easier and you have a point of reference. Also it shows that you're part of the industry and getting out there and meeting people which is so important! Then once you've done all your lovely networking, not forgetting to write some notes on their business cards about what you chatted about, then it's time to follow up with a nice little email. Some of your contacts might come to dead ends, but who knows some of them may lead to wonderful things! 

As a self confessed introvert who was definitely afraid of the 'n' work (networking!), I can wholeheartedly say I actually enjoyed myself at CMC. Yes I know! Not just got on with it, not just got by, but actually enjoyed! People can be really lovely when you give them a chance. You just have to be a little bit brave. 

Happy networking folks!

Friday, 24 May 2013

Children's Media Conference

I have just booked my ticket to the Children's Media Conference on 3rd-5th July. I've never been before, but a colleague recommended I go as it's a great place to network. The delegates list has lots of industry names I recognise and would like to meet in person for sure! They do a special rate for self-funded under 30s and as I won't be under 30 for too much longer, I thought I better make the most of it!

There's a programme of seminars, talks and networking sessions. It all sounds very exciting! If not a tiny bit scary. I will be brushing up on my networking skills in the run-up to it and reading lots of 'how to network without embarrassing oneself' articles online. I have to say it is not something I relish, but I have come to realise that it is very necessary and once the initial fear (and tiny voice in my head shouting 'hide in the toilets'!) has subsided it can actually be great fun. I'll also make sure to spend some time researching who I want to talk to, so I can speak to them knowing what they do and what projects they are working on, so we actually have something to talk about. 'Prepared and not scared' will be my motto.

The writing side of things has gone a little quiet, despite sending out my CV to a few production companies, and funnily enough I am back at Turner freelancing as a production coordinator until the end of June. I think the way forward will be juggling both, a kind of dual career, for the moment at least!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Change, and not the small kind

As some of you may know Turner Broadcasting is going through a huge restructure in Europe, up to 30% of the staff will be made redundant. I was working there as a production coordinator for the Cartoon Network Nordic feed and unfortunately my job moved to Stockholm. I didn't really fancy the move as I don't speak Swedish and I wilt in very cold weather, so I opted for redundancy. My last day in the office was 12th April.

In a way I feel super lucky, as the extra money has meant I am now able to give the writing a punt full-time, rather than the old way of squeezing it in on weekends, evenings and even my commute on the tube! I'm in the very fortunate position where the redundancy can plug the gap while I'm not working for a little while at least. Then perhaps I might have to go back to office life, but we'll see what happens!

I have been asked by a friend from my screenwriting masters course to write a couple of episodes for a preschool series that he has had commissioned. All very exciting! I have signed an NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) so I have to keep stum I'm afraid.

I am also still waiting to write my second Wanda and the Alien episode. Things have gone a little quiet on that front, but I have got paid for my first episode - my first proper writer's paycheck. I am all grown-up! I also feel like I am learning a lot about the industry and the stop/start nature of it all! Which I am going to have to get used to if this is to be my life and not sit refreshing my emails all day - not healthy and I might even get repetitive strain injury.

Recently an extract from my radio play, Seventeen, was chosen to be read out at the Genesis New Writing Night at the Genesis Cinema. The actors were superb and the director was fantastic. I was really happy with it! I was terrified I was going to cringe, but I thought 'oh my gosh, this is actually quite good!' Not to blow my own trumpet of course! Interestingly it was directed as a stage play, which made total sense for the setting and also worked really well for the piece too. So my next task, as I wait for the commissions to roll in (hahaha!) is to rewrite it as a stage play. I'm thinking it may work in a similar vein to Dancing at Lughnasa, which I love! The stage play text arrived iin the post this morning, so I plan to devour it this afternoon. I'm going to see The Match Box at the Tricycle on Friday as well to get my theatre fix. I always felt hesitant about writing for theatre as I've been so screen-focused, but I'll give it my best shot! Always fun to try something new!

As usual I am sending out my CV to production companies in the hope of some more work. There's so many fabulous preschool shows out there I want to work on! I was lucky enough to work at Turner when Michael Carrington was still there, he was once the controller of CBeebies. I managed to get some top tips out of him in a meeting he kindly set up. It looks like the best way to get work is to get an agent, so I'm having a go at that too!

In other news I went for a swim today at lunch for the first time in years (I didn't sink - yay!), which I'd never have time to do during a normal working lunch hour with all the changing faff. The freelance life is for me... so far!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Launch parties and Aliens and podcasts

Last night was the launch party for series two of Cartoonito Tales! We watched five episodes, including A Christmas Carol, to get us in the festive spirit. Then there was wine, nibbles and chatting. Amazing to see the episodes all completed and looking absolutely fabulous! The Christmas episode is airing at the moment and the new episodes will air in the new year. And there is rumblings that they may be some merchandise in the pipeline too!

One of the contacts I got from a colleague at Turner, where I work as a production coordinator, came good! I was put in touch with Nick Wilson and he asked me to write a synopsis and couple of pages of script on spec (so no pay and no commitment) so they could see what I was capable of. I dutifully went off and watched ten episodes of the series, Toby’s Travelling Circus, and sent off two synopsis and pages of script, as I had a couple of ideas. Luckily he liked my work and my timing as good, and I was asked to come along to the script meeting for a new animated preschool series, Wanda and the Alien. Take a look at the video up on Komixx’s website. I cannot tell you how excited and, admittedly a little nervous, I was to go along. It was so much fun to sit around a table with the producers and other writers and talk about the show. At this point none of the writers were commissioned. We would only get a commission once we had written synopsis that the producers were happy with. As I’m a newbie I was asked to send in just two synopsis and amazingly I was then commissioned to write the scripts for both! At the moment I am at the ‘point-by-point’ stage. This means I am writing a simplified scene by scene breakdown. All very exciting! It is really fun to be writing for animation for the first time!

So it goes to show that persistence does pay off (I have sent my CV out to a LOT of people) and also timing is important and a little bit of luck, but then of course you also have to deliver!

And last but not least this brilliant Bafta podcast with Children’s TV Writers is well worth a listen.

Merry Christmas to you all and Happy New Year!



Sunday, 11 November 2012

Pearls of Wisdom

If you grit your teeth and show real determination you always have a chance. - Charlie Brown

Never a truer word spoken!

I have some news I want to post, but just waiting til things get finalised before I spill the beans!