Networking

Bleeding with Mother

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There is good reason for the blog sileIMG_2881nce over the past few months. A real creative surge!

I can announce some fantastic news in that the upcoming production of my debut stage
play ‘Bleeding with Mother‘ will be playing in my hometown of Manchester during May 2016. Ticket details here.

This play has seen a very long, yet incredible journey from concept to the rehearsal room in just under three years. I am currently scribing a separate blog about the birth of this play. It holds very dear in my heart as I feel that ‘Bleeding with Mother‘ has grown in character as much as I’ve grown as a writer over the past three years. IMG_2901

The community radio soap which I co-write Station Road is also back on the airwaves this week after a long break. It is wonderful to hear it again, and reminds me of how much I have developed throughout that incredible experience of being part of a writing team for the past two years. You can listen live on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5.30pm on ALL FM 96.9

And finally I’ve been undertaking an intensive block of script development sessions with Scriptwriting North which resulted in a first draft of a brand new radio drama which was table-red by professional actors last week.

To say 2016 has been a productive year is an understatement. It’s been fuelled by coffee, a new laptop and a great deal of support.
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#TalentCampus a life changing experience

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London Screenwriters Festival – First EVER Talent Campus 2015

As I boarded the 6am train from Manchester to Stockport last weekend, I was still in shock after being selected to participate in the 2015 London Screenwriters Festival (LSF) ‘Talent Campus. Having received the phone call confirming my place on the Monday I only had a few days to find myself transport and accommodation for the ‘Ignition’ weekend.

On the train ride to London I was riddled with nerves, not only as it was going to be my first experience using AirBnB, my imagination being rife with serial killers, but also sharing the same space as the incredible talent that awaited me in the form of the other delegates.

Entering Ealing Studios increased the anticipation and nerves. Luckily through the fantastic LSF network that I was active in I recognised a couple of people and felt slightly more at ease. We were rounded up and taken to our base for the next couple of days and typical me headed straight to the back of the room. Chris Jones gave us a number of messages throughout the morning about the structure of the Talent Campus which involves ten days of intense screenwriting experiences plus writing weeks with a mentor.

Discussing fears was a common theme during day one and it was a clear indication of why so many of us writers feel stuck in our writing careers. Positivity and belief was something which Chris kept referring to and ended up with me walking on glass at the end of the day. Crazy I know, given that I was more scared about having to stand up and introduce myself in the afternoon than walking barefoot on glass. But strangely telling everyone that most of the time I feel like a fraud and that one day soon I will be found out was scarier than potentially slitting my feet open. Talent Campus has certainly ignited!

Stephen Follows gave a fascinating insight into the types of movies that receive investment and patterns which have emerged in recent years. The stats are not great for sports movies which is my current project, but for comedy is slightly better. Even so, my project will be more of a calling card. It’s a story I feel passionately about and that I want to write which is something that echoed throughout the weekend – write where your passion is.

12015069_10153497299290091_5261957336951402956_oJohn Yorke’s session on structure was like a breath of fresh air. He took the complicated structures that we read so much about in Robert McKee, Syd Field and Blake Snyder to an extent and explained in such simple terms that I felt like I had a lightbulb moment listening to him. It was also so valuable to hear about the structure of television which is something that is discussed less than the screenplay. I even spoke to him in the break and complimented his approach which is something I rarely climb out of my introvert self to do.

The session on social media was insightful – led by expert Lucy V Hay who holds no punches when delivering her talks. It certainly made me re-think how I use facebook as a tool. Lucy was joined by actress/writer and filmmaker Vanessa Bailey who opened up the world of Instagram to me. Now I thought I was quite an expert at social media without really appreciating how much Instagram is used today. Vanessa opened my eyes up to this visual medium and how I could use it to promote myself as a writer. Gone are the days of just taking photographs of my tea or my cats – thanks to Vanessa I see this area in a whole new light and something to work on in the future.

12052508_10153497621425091_8732243746859876171_oThe amazingly, super-talented and extremely patient Kate Leys delivered an inspiring day where she took us all back to basics with story. She dissected each of the twenty-eight campus members story ideas in front of everyone including the mentors. She treated each of us the same, and every comment or observation was thoroughly appreciated by us. When it came to my project Kate offered advice, research and told me that she would go and see the film if it was ever made which was the biggest compliment ever.

The Talent Campus was a lot of hard work, but we had time for some fun games which really brought out people’s personalities as we had to work as a team to get our hands on an Oscar winning script. Not for the faint-hearted and really did show us all that perhaps collaboration is a way forward when needed.12080249_10153497621415091_6478357696794230199_o

Going forward and with our mentors on board, there is now a three week writing period to put as much preparation into the LSF week as possible. I’ll be having weekly skype meetings with my mentor Karol Griffiths to get my project to the stage where I can pitch it comfortably at the festival. A lot of hard work will be endured between now and festival week but that is what the appeal of Talent Campus is – strict deadlines amongst a sea of supportive peers.

Finally, I left the first campus weekend feeling confident, assertive and privileged to be going through such an incredible journey with my fellow campers. These people really are uber-talented, supportive and hopefully will remain friends at the end of the ten weeks.

22 July : Advice to aspiring writers #wpad

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Hardly think it’s appropriate for me to offer advice to aspiring writers given that I am one of those myself.

However, there are a few things that I have done which have assisted me with my writing.

• Register for a writing course. It wasn’t until I began on my masters degree that I realised that I knew nothing about structure, characterisation, plot, narrative, genre and a host of other essential ingredients that make a good story. Local colleges and theatre groups also run sessions on writing which are not as expensive as university. I have undertaken two sessions of a Writing for Stage course which I found extremely helpful. It’s also good to be mixing with other writers.

• Start a blog and write about anything.

• Join twitter. I follow dozens of writers and it’s a great way to communicate with one another. There is also a valuable twitter forum called #scriptchat where a different member of the industry is on hand on a Sunday evening to answer any questions that are tweeted (in 140 characters though).

• Write for e-zines. The more articles you have published, the more of a portfolio you create for yourself.

• Write every day. I cannot stress that enough, the more you write the better you will get at it.

• Read.

• Make contact with other writers, it can be a lonely time so being able to communicate with somebody who knows what you are going through makes it seem all the better.

• For any scriptwriters, go to the London Screenwriters Festival in October. I went for the first time last year and it was well worth the money. There are so many guest speakers and workshops and I felt so motivated after the weekend. I cannot wait for this year’s festival, and I may just be brave enough to pitch my current project to industry members.LSF2

This is a post for http://www.writesofluid.com blog writing challenge. One blog post a day for all of July.

11 July : Best non-fiction read (aka a social media rant) #wpad

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Social Media
twitter
Like it or love it, social media is going to be round for some time and if you don’t get on board with it then you’ll just get left behind.

Twitter is my favourite online social networking service and I enjoy reading text-based messages of up to 140 characters, known as “tweets” by some of my favourite writers, sports personalities and friends.

Quite rightly Twitter has gained worldwide popularity, with over 500 million registered users as of 2012, generating over 340 million tweets daily and handling over 1.6 billion search queries per day.

Why do I enjoy using twitter and it not annoy me as much as Facebook does?

a) It’s so simple to use. Type in the tweet box and send – the only restriction is trying to limit your thought into 140 characters, but you soon get used to chopping words down.

b) You start to feel special once those followers start flooding through. Twitter is the pinnacle of making a person feel popular, appreciated and thankful that people want to follow you. If anybody dares to deny that they check their number of followers on a weekly basis is lying. Follow me @sarahcassidy

c) You make new friends. I’ve made some great new virtual friends through twitter just by following fellow writers like myself. I am hoping to meet a couple of them this year at the London Screenwriters Festival.

d) Twitter gives you an audience and you feel like people are listening to you. People tweet whatever crosses their mind – opinions, comments, jokes, questions and other people respond to it. Katie Hopkins is currently riding an incredible wave following on her twitter as she continues to upset/empower people through her non political-correctness tweets.

Facebookache

I have conflicting relationships with FaceBook.

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Thank goodness that facebook wasn’t around when I was spawning out my kids as I am sure I would have become one of those really annoying parents who posts every single baby photograph onto it.

You know the ones – Dexter’s first tooth, Dexter’s first smile, Dexter’s first shitty nappy, Dexter at school, Dexter at sports day, Dexter and his certificate for having his first shitty nappy, Dexter smiling at receiving his first certificate for his first sports day, Dexter asleep, Dexter asleep while holding his certificate etc.

I am no angel and am known to post the odd photo or two if my kids do something amazing, but it will be just the odd photograph or two.

I will post photographs of scrumptious food that is about to consumed in my greedy belly though as that is way more exciting than Dexter’s shitty nappy.

I also will post my holiday photographs though, because firstly I only allow a few people to view them so I won’t annoy the rest of my faceache friends who I don’t know in real life to view them, and secondly given that I lost 7 years of photographs on a hard drive that was irretrievable earlier this year it is always good to have a back up.

I also take holiday photographs specifically for facebook. A photograph a day was last year’s holiday quest and I’ve no doubt I will continue to annoy my friends with it this year too.

And yes, if I am visiting somewhere amazing in the world I will check into it. I really am that annoying.

But, one thing you will never see from me are photos of drunken nights out, being half naked like some people do, bitching about people, feeling sorry for myself, bragging (unless I am checking into a place), bullying others or requesting friends that I don’t speak to in real life (unless they are distant relatives).

The politics around faceache are immense.

A person who ignores me in everyday life will then request me as a friend.

Secondly, the people who are your friends on FB you suddenly find really annoying but you can’t unfriend them because then it gets weird. What would happen if you unfriended a relative? Has anybody actually ever done that? Did they live to update their status the next day?

Thirdly, you end up remaining friends with absolute numpties so that when you are having a bad day a click on their wall makes you feel so much better about yourself. Come on we all have those friends. It’s like watching Jeremy Kyle, you hate it really but you need to watch it every now and again to make you feel glad that you are normal.

Then comes the irritating birthday saga.

The only day you feel popular now is your birthday when everyone will write on your wall. Woah betide that person who didn’t post Happy Birthday on your wall. It’s been noted and don’t think I will be posting a greeting on their wall when it is their birthday.

Then comes the torment you go through on the actual day because the few people who used to telephone you on your birthday don’t anymore.

Back to the rant on how annoying Faceache is. Well it brings out the attention seekers too. You know the ones with the cryptic status’s such as “I am so unhappy” in a desperate bid for people to comment and ask you all about it. Yawn! Then there are those that will write controversial status’s to engage a long conversation on their newsfeed – again maybe they need to feel special?

Facebook seems to attract the racists, sexists, baby bores, stalkers and moany arses. How I would love to go back in time and never sign up for it. I’m no better than most, the only reason I keep it is to play scrabble, candy crush and read the groups that I follow – and of course keep tabs of those status updates for possible characters in any future writing.

The list could go on. On the plus side though it is a great tool for keeping in touch with friends and family overseas. I’ll be staying with in-law relatives soon in USA and Canada and being able to form a relationship prior to meeting them has been beneficial to me. I know a little bit about them before I meet them for the first time which will help with the nerves as I’m not the most talkative person with people that I don’t know.

Rant over folks, I need to update my status and tweet where I will be sunbathing this lunchtime.

This is a post for http://www.writesofluid.com blog writing challenge. One blog post a day for all of July.

Networking : Challenge 22

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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.

Sounds so simple when it is dissected like that. But, when you are as introvert as me, it is a horrible prospect. networking

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.

Knowledge is power

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And so comes the next challenge……..

A few things I learnt from my recent weekend at the London Screenwriters Festival

  • It is okay to be on facebook and twitter
  • I know more about the structure and the theory of screenwriting than I thought I did
  • If you travel on the 6am train from Manchester, you will be too exhausted for the last session so next time arrive the night before
  • My writing so far has lacked really interesting characters
  • Don’t stand on the left side of the underground escalators or you will get pushed over
  • I won’t get attacked just because I am sleeping alone in a hotel room
  • Life on Mars took nine years to be commissioned
  • Don’t be embarrassed about sharing my blog with people
  • If a writer wants to write crime stories then spend time with the real life cops and criminals
  • There is a snobbery among writers if you are a writer on a soap opera
  • When in London it is expected that you walk around quickly and push into people – you don’t need to apologise to dogs when you bump into them
  • The snobbery hasn’t put me off wanting to write for Hollyoaks
  • Writing Mad Men is the best gig a female writer can have
  • Get to Madame Tussaud’s early if you want to pay on the day – those queues go on for miles
  • I am piss poor at networking

The last point was detrimental to my weekend. I should have spoken to more delegates than I did. Yes, piss poor at networking is the sad conclusion to a somewhat inspiring weekend for me. I anticipated that I would find it problematic, and had I have stayed for the bar session on the Friday night it may have helped the nerves, and got me a few contacts. However, there is no hiding from the fact that I seriously suck at networking. And, if I want to get anything commissioned on the radio or TV in the future then I am going to have to expose my inner soul and show these people who I am. 

I was always shy as a child, would never approach any of the cool kids in the playground. I always waited to be invited into friendships and can recall standing at the side of the playground on my own many times. I’m not the sort of person who hung around in large groups, it would always be myself and one or two other friends. This has pretty much carried on into adulthood.

Don’t get me wrong I am not completely mute. I can hold my own at work, have managed staff, chaired big meetings and sung (badly) in karaoke. The problem arises when I am in a situation which I haven’t been in before, such as this big weekend of gathering with other like-minded individuals. I find it alien to start a conversation with a complete stranger and have no idea how to go about it. 

So, I have set a goal for myself. Learn how to network and try to get at least five business cards at the LSF next year. As I write that, I can feel the fear already. I like to write – there’s a reason for that right? I do it because I prefer to communicate by the written language instead of the verbal, that’s just me. I also thought every other writer would be like me, so was not ready to witness during break times how friendly and talkative the other delegates actually were. This is what knocked my confidence at the LSF and why I retreated to the park bench in the Regents Park.

People who know me are always surprised by that revelation. The truth is that I am shy, it takes me ages to make friends but once I do then they are friends for life.

Okay, so I have admitted that I have a fear that I need to overcome. Now onto how I go about changing that?

I have looked at courses online, but unless I can blag work to pay for it then I am not going to be able to afford the kind of prices that they charge (I have next years LSF ticket to fund and that ain’t cheap).

So, instead I have purchased Brilliant Networking – What the best networkers know, do and say by Steven D’Souza. It got a five star rating on Amazon so I am hoping it will be a useful tool in helping me overcome my social sickness.

 

It only arrived the other day so I will be reading it very carefully over the next couple of weeks and making notes in the margin.

If anybody has any tips they wish to share with me – they will be most gratefully received.