I did my Screenwriting Masters at London College of Communication (formerly Printing.) Twice a year, the current intake run an event called Masterclub, for all students, past and present. Industry guests are invited to a round table event, where advice is dispatched and contacts are made. Just off the top of my head, over the last few years personnel who've attended have come from Working Title, Qwery Films, Red Productions, Red Planet, Tiger Aspect, Greenlit, Leftbank, BBC, Channel 4, ITV, World Productions, Company Pictures, Capitol Films and Kudos. That's just off the top of my head. Top quality people give up their time to come down and meet writers - most of whom are new writers.
I don't know if other Masters or degree programmes do this, not just have guest lecturers, but actually specific networking events. If not, they should. It's absolutely invaluable. Almost every industry contact I have at the moment, most of whom have read my work, has been made through my LCC connection. And whereas you might think you have an entry point into one company, people move around in this industry quite a lot. Someone at Touchpaper one minute can be at Tiger Aspect the next. As long as you keep in touch with them, they can take you with them. Maybe you didn't have anything that company wanted, but the next one might. When they read your work, you also get free feedback, from people who have more experience than you and have read a lot of scripts. It all adds up.
But the best thing by far is that it's so important not to write in a vacuum. That's for the hobbyists. Which is fine. Good luck to them. But professional writers need an outlet for their work. Otherwise what's the point - it's all an act in futility.
The flip is this. Why do the industry guests bother coming to events like Masterclub? They are all very busy and have many constraints on their time. Quite a few years ago I did a couple of work experience stints at two very well known, very well established Production Companies. And they are busy. To frenetic proportions. Especially the people writers most want to meet and talk to. The ones who work in development. Because they always have a never ending script pile to read, there is always more work to do, there are always projects already in development. And the only answer I can see (apart from the free booze and nibbles) is that they want to meet new writers. They are always on the lookout for new talent. This sometimes get lost in the scheme of things. Sometimes, it can be seen as a battle, to get your stuff read and to get it out there. But whilst it's certainly hard, and you have to be tough enough to be persistent, it's not a case of us versus them. No one is deliberately standing in your way, hindering your career and devaluing your talent.
So remember. Networking is important. Only very marginally less important than the actual writing. Because after all the work has to go somewhere. Make contacts, and do everything you can to keep in touch with them. Always, always be courteous, polite and thank people for giving their time when they don't have to. Be grateful for feedback and take the comments on board. Don't fight it. Some people won't like your work or won't 'get' it. Cest la vie. Someone told me recently that whilst my structure and development was excellent, my stories weren't that original and therefore predictable! You have to resist the temptation to reply "what the .... have you ever written!?" Because not everyone will agree! (Hopefully) There's a certain vulnerability to making a contact and then sending them your work. You are exposing something that means a lot to you. But that's what we have to do. That's behaving like a professional. And it's the only way to becoming a professional.
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