Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Things You Learn When You Network

I rather impulsively decided to attend a film networking night yesterday. It proved to be very instructive. These are just a few of the things I discovered:

People who aren’t writers are fascinated by Writer’s Block.

When the first question someone asks on introducing yourself as a screenwriter is, “how do you deal with writer’s block?” and when this happens on more than one occasion, your normal state of writer paranoia takes hold. Do I have something tattooed on my forehead? Can you tell I wrote 5 pages of absolute dreck before coming here? Did I leave my talent at the registration desk? Curiously, no one believed me when I said that writer’s block is simply code for being lazy. In most cases it really, really is... honest!

Actors must have their picture on their business card.

It was explained to me that this is because they are selling themselves as a product. [Insert straight face]. Whereas, you know, writers only have words and stuff. I’m pretty sure there’s a Writers’ Guild bylaw that prohibits writers using their photo, police sketch, stylised drawing or any other image, implicit or otherwise that could identify them. This is based on the premise that writers should not be seen, heard, or allowed in public places for more than an hour at a time (especially where sunshine is present). Actors one, writer nil.

When pitching your latest screenplay you’re actually inviting an actor to cast themselves.

Once we dispense with the writer’s block question next comes the inevitable, “what are you working on?” (presumably nothing due to that nasty block thing but let’s jump to the next scene shall we with a dubious transition). What a writer fails to realise is that when talking to an actor they are also using code. In this instance what they’re actually asking is, “is it within the realms of possibility you might have a good script with a role where surely I’m the only actress on the planet who could play it?” Writers are notoriously susceptible to such simple charms. (Yes, okay, it usually works much better when a vivacious actress is involved). Even when said actress bears no resemblance to the character as written. My Find and Replace gag worked a treat… before scurrying to the exit with fear in my heart. Actors two, writer nil.

Never, ever, under any circumstance leave your overpriced drink unattended.

Seriously, this is a biggie for a writer! Expensive, half empty stubby of cider left on a table behind you as you chat and sip from your ice-filled glass. Turn around for a refill – GONE! This is when you suffer TRUE writer’s block as your mind struggles to process the evident non-existence of your drink! Fracture in the space-time continuum? Wormhole? Time travel? Elaborate Ocean’s-style heist? Thankfully the ensuing negotiation did not require me to leap across the bar and demand justice as a full replacement was issued forthwith. The poor trainee wait-person, however, was jittery around me the rest of the night. Yes, a writer deprived of alcohol is a scary proposition.

Everybody in the local film industry is quote "lovely" close quote.

Even when they have the propensity to use the C word – as a noun, adjective, adverb, verb, punctuation mark, pet name. Everybody except for me apparently. However, I’m assured that with more appearances, etiquette lessons, and the purchase of a small puppy dog I could indeed be lovely as well. Actors three, writer nil.

Guardians for minors are only there to ensure their children make enough money from acting to buy them a palatial retirement home.

I was encouraged that anyone under the age of 18 was required to have a guardian with them on the night. This sounded eminently sensible - allowing minors unsupervised around screenwriters clearly could scar them for life. I learnt a new industry term – Mumager. I assumed this was a mother with only the best interests of their child’s career at heart. Little did I know it’s all a protection racket that would make various fictional criminal organisations blush! I was almost moved to hatch an escape plan Great Escape-style but I was too distracted by the missing cider, the writer’s block and various vivacious actresses to work out where to dig the tunnel. Actors three, writer one (by dint of an own goal).

Finally, I learnt that people actually read this blog.

People who I had never met before knew who I was because they read my humble misadventures. One person compared my posts to some of the finest writing they had read in recent memory… though that might have been me. Seriously though, I was quite heartened by this revelation with people saying they found the blog entertaining, funny and insightful. Entirely what it is designed to be as well as give you an idea of what sort of writer I am.

It is in that spirit that this post has been written (okay, well, except maybe for the insightful) with tongue firmly in cheek and certain events exaggerated for dramatic and satirical intent. Well, all of the events really.

I enjoyed the evening, made some new contacts, caught up with people who I have worked with before and talked projects, tall tales and something to do with Irish strippers that probably doesn’t bear repeating.

If you’re an aspiring filmmaker in Perth looking to make new contacts then check out the Perth Film Network website and facebook group.

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