A common saying is that ‘It’s not what you know it’s who you know’, which in my experience is largely true. However, for the aspiring writer this might seem like a rather daunting challenge. You may be thinking ‘But I don’t really know anyone’, and if you are then worry not, because I have another cliche to throw at you: ‘It’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you do with it’. You’ve gotta get involved, my friend.
The first phrase is not to say its-who-you-already-know, but actually, you-never-know who-you-might-know. Make sense? Probably not. Okay so, an acquaintance you met at your ex-boyfriend’s younger sister’s house party back in 2010 may indeed turn out to be a writer, a director or a producer. A friend of a friend might win an award for new writing. Wonderful. Ask them how they went about it, what do they do now etc. Don’t be shy, it could be the reverse situation, in which they might pop-up out of the blue and ask you for advice. Recognise the opportunity and be thankful if they help you. Then turn that information into action.
The second gem of a cliche I have offered up to you is simply going to increase the chances of this happening. Get involved. There are, of course, many ways in which to do this, but I have found getting involved with my local theatre to be a great help for me as a writer.
When I was studying my long distance degree in Drama, one of the assignments was to ‘attach’ myself to a theatre and write a report on how a theatre works. I emailed the theatre’s secretary and asked if i could conduct and interview with him and find out more about the theatre. I visited the theatre several times throughout my assignment period and finished the report. I became a member of the theatre and was invited to audition for a play that coincidently, the theatre’s secretary was directing. I got the part and did the full run of the play. I am still involved in the theatre to this day, four years later.
This is a great example of how things can work in the professional world. I admit that my need to complete my assignment gave me a kick in the right direction, but this could easily happen by getting in touch with a theatre and asking to shadow a director, interview some of the staff, working in the box office etc. It is about understanding the world you will be writing for and getting some experience.
Acting in a play may not be for everyone, and I happened to have a passion for acting at the time before I knew that I wanted to be a writer. But experiences like those have informed my writing, acting has helped me to write dialogue, knowing how a live audience reacts has influenced what I write for stage and knowing how a theatre works has taught me to respect plays as a craft.
This advice can be applied to any of the mediums you wish to write for, if you want to write for films then go and work on a film set or interview a Producer/Director. If you want to write for TV then ask an actor what is different about acting for TV, compared to theatre. Get out there, get involved and you’ll meet some wonderful people who will teach a lot about your craft, and if you’re lucky enough they might help you in the future, or vice versa.
My role as ‘Izzy’- That Face by Polly Stenham.