Networking is something that haunts me deeply. Having previously written about the subject after my poor networking performance at London Screenwriters Festival 2012 http://thenorthernscribbler.com/2012/11/14/knowledgeispower/
After writing that post back in November 2012, I made a commitment to do two things, the first is to try and collect five business cards at this year’s London Screenwriters Festival 2013. The second was that I bought a Networking book and was going to put some of the ideas into practice.
The first aim is still in my list of things to do this year. I can’t wait for the festival and this year I am going for longer so that I can attend the Save the Cat Wednesday event. So, that’ll be five days away in London, which means that I need to secure one business card, or email address per day.
I have been assessing my lack of networking skills since last years festival. It’s not so much that I am painstakingly shy, it’s just that I don’t feel comfortable starting conversations with strangers. If they start conversations with me, I am absolutely fine and can chat as good as most people.
Networking is an odd situation to be honest. A lot of the time it feels forced, and I am sure I wasn’t the only one at the festival last year who found it uncomfortable. Talking about yourself to a complete stranger feels alien to me. I struggle at the best of times, let alone people I have never met before.
But, I have been trying to improve on it this year. I read some of the book that I mentioned in the post that I wrote in November.
My first accomplishment was soon after starting to read the book. It suggested to find something visual that you could use to start a conversation.
So, I was warming my soup up in the communal kitchen at work. In my building, which is in MediaCity we are joined by so many different people, who are either attending conferences, masterclasses, hiring the facilities etc. Basically, you never know who you’ll meet.
Back to the story. I’m warming my soup up and the gentleman next to me is making cups of coffee. Right, my head is saying, be brave and make chit-chat with this man. See what happens – if it goes tits up, then get the soup, and run back to your office vowing never to engage in small talk again. But for now, I’m going to do this. Now, what I can talk about? Find something visual, find something visual…..
The gentleman then starts to dry a teenage mutant hero turtle cup. That’s my way in, just like the book says. So, I take a deep breath and say “retro cup? I preferred the ninja turtles myself”. I almost broke into a sweat as I realised that I haven’t a feckin clue about the turtles ,and if he starts to talk about them then I am screwed. The closest I can get to turtle talk is that I have “Turtle Power” on vinyl. Why start talking about something you have no idea about.
Thankfully, neither had he. It wasn’t his cup, it was the artistic director for the theatre group he belonged to. He was an actor, in rehearsals in our building before moving to The Lowry for four nights performances. See – I got all that information from warming my soup up.
Lucky for me my first encounter at networking was with a theatre actor who are generally larger than life. I tried making small talk the other night with another writer, and it was painful. She seemed even more introverted than me so there was a lot of looking around the room, checking mobiles and looking at the time.
I won’t give up though. Two affirmations I try to live by (among others).
1) Do something every day that scares you.
2) If something scares you keep doing it until it doesn’t.
On Friday night I attended the second year of the Salford Sitcom Showcase at the BBC Studios in MediaCity. A colleague from my masters course had managed to secure extra tickets, and even better the tickets belonged to the gold wristband brigade.
The gold wristband brigade are looked after, something that “cheap seats” moi was not used to. And of course made the most of the corporate hospitality (darling!).
I enjoy the thrill of being in the audience, whether it is at a concert, theatre or in television studios. As I write this, I will be attending the Celebrity Mastermind recording tomorrow night which reinforces my audience geekness.
The Salford Sitcom Showcase is an event for the BBC to platform six theatrical presentations of new potential sitcoms to local audiences and to the industry professionals. I do believe that Citizen Khan was picked up at one of these showcases last year.
The first sitcom was called Chain Gang and was written by Kevin Cecil and Andy Riley who wrote together on Little Britain and Spitting Image. More recently they wrote the international box office success Gnomeo and Juliet. The log-line for Chain Gang is “At Sunbeans every macchiato is served with a smile…apart from one branch in Bristol, where it’s more likely to be emptied over your head”. The premise for the show is that the execs at Sunbean send in the wimpy Alistair, fresh from management training to turn around the Sunbeans branch lazily run by the ruthless Natasha, who sleeps with musicians by telling them that she works for a record label.
I really enjoyed this pilot episode, especially Paolo, a camp, Brazilian who spends his working day at Sunbeans on his blackberry – and that’s not the flavour of muffins either. Paolo was played by Stefano Braschi and I could easily see him being the lead character in this show if it did get commissioned as he was far more likeable than Natasha. A gag about him cleaning his cock-ring in the milk steamer had tears of laughter rolling down my cheeks.
The second production was called Homeboys and was written by Pete Jackson, who had a stint of acting with Ant and Dec on Byker Grove. I found this show started off very strong, lots of laughter and characters were set up almost immediately in their first scenes.
David and Brian are Homeboys; 20 something brothers still living at home, despite their parents’ best efforts to get rid of them. David and Brian are total opposites, David is a cocky salesman, and Brian is a recluse who spends his time under the kitchen table in a homemade bar. The lovely Pauline McLynn from Father Ted and Shameless series starred as their quirky mother and for me she stole the show as she helped David to trick his boss into thinking that he was going to make a killer sale in damp-proofing.
Afterwards, myself and my peers were introduced to a few people who were involved in the production. I spent half an hour chatting to Pauline aka Mrs Doyle from Father Ted who was the most delightful and friendly person I could have met.
Afterwards, it got me thinking to my own goals that I have with the writing. Maybe one day it will be a script by me that has made it onto the shortlist for a live performance – who knows?
But, one things for sure, I definitely could get used to having priority seating, access to the actors, all you can drink wine and platefuls of fancy nibbles.