24 March, 2007

Writers with phone phobia

By Adrian Mead

How many of you are phone phobic? Does the following describe you?

A successful working professional gave you their business card at an event. It is still sitting in a drawer at home. Even though you would love to pick their brains … you just can’t pick up the phone.

Or perhaps you have a list of agents and a guide that lays out EXACTLY how to approach them. Problem is it stipulates that you must follow EVERY step in order to make this approach successful. The first step involves calling them up. Instead you cut corners by not making the call and you send your stuff anyway. Result…you fail to secure an agent.

PHONE PHOBIA! It’s far more common amongst writers than you’d think. I’m amazed how often people tell me how they were encouraged by a professional to get in touch, yet they never called them! In most cases people tell me they are worried about being a nuisance, or, even worse, think “What would I say if they agreed to chat to me?”

Instead lots of people send E-mails, as it’s less scary. However, it’s also less effective. E-mails end up in the junk mail. They aren’t “human” and require greater effort to deal with than a phone call. This results in them being lost or ignored.

Time is a precious commodity in this industry, however I have found that people are incredibly generous, but only if you know EXACTLY how to approach them and have done your prep beforehand.

  1. Study people who are already where you want to be, who have achieved the goals you want to achieve and read up on EXACTLY how they did it. What was their career path? What was the attitude that got them through? How did they deal with rejection and set backs?

  2. Next seek out full time working professionals who are just a couple of steps ahead of you, or the ones who gave you a card or encouraged you to call.

If you are uncomfortable talking on the phone write up a PHONE SCRIPT. No it isn’t as stupid as it sounds. You are supposed to be a writer aren’t you? Write up what you want to say. Keep it VERY brief .

  • Introduce yourself.

  • Say how you got their contact details.

  • Explain why you are specifically calling them. “I read your script / saw your film / heard you talk at an event”. No, I’m not telling you to be disingenuous, make sure you do your research and be sincere.

  • Ask about the one and ONLY one specific thing you are seeking advice about. Do not waffle. Do your research first and be specific.
  • Rehearse it.

  • If they agree to talk with you LISTEN!!!!!!! I’m amazed how often people call and then start trying to tell you what they know. Duh! Don’t interrupt when they are speaking, especially if what they are saying is totally at odds with what you have heard or read. This is exactly what you want, the inside view, the off the record stuff.

  • Thank them and get off the phone.

That wasn’t hard was it? You have now established a contact. They know you are organised, polite and don’t take up much time. This means that the next time you call they will be happy to help you if they can. Of course some people will be too busy to speak. If that’s the case ask when it would be convenient to call again.

As a new writer building contacts with successful, working professionals is an essential part of your strategy for getting your break. Dig out those business cards and start planning some calls.

I know it's frustrating when you seem to be trying hard and going nowhere fast.

If you would like more practical tips about getting your break and exactly what kind of projects the broadcasters are looking for sign up for our next class, The Long Distance Screen Writer. You will meet a panel of four Scottish based writers with credits on Eastenders, Waking The Dead, River City, The Street, Holby City, Where The Heart Is, Taggart, The Bill, Monarch Of The Glen and numerous other film, TV and radio projects. They will discuss how they got started and how you too can build a career as a screenwriter outside London.

You will also hear how they deal with script editors, tight deadlines and the challenges and joys of working as a freelancer. This is also a unique opportunity for you to learn how professional writers manage the balance between family and career whilst working in such a highly competitive industry.

For more details contact us or visit our web site

The Long Distance Screen Writer
Sat 9th June St Columba's By The Castle, Johnston Terrace, Edinburgh
10.00 am - 4.30pm
COST £55 (inc VAT and light
CONTACT: info*AT*meadkerr.com or 0131 554 4539

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