Tag Archives: networking

What Writers Can Learn from 4Screenwriting by Xandria Horton

One of the things that I love about Script Angel is its focus on opportunities for new writers, so the blog seemed an obvious place to summarise my recent experience as a Shadow Script Editor on Channel 4’s talent initiative 4Screenwriting – with some thoughts other writers can take from it.

4sw logoWhat is 4Screenwriting and why is it brilliant?

4Screenwriting is a broadcaster-affiliated talent scheme run by highly experienced script editor Philip Shelley, currently in its 4th year. For each year’s twelve selected writers, they are given six months to take an idea through two drafts of a commercial hour (46’) script, creating the first episode of a series or serial (ideally with Channel 4 in mind). The course also has a script editor training element; allowing shadow script editors a chance to develop their skills by working to industry-proven script editors.

The writers get a “sandbox” version of a script commission, with a small amount of funding, set deadlines and opportunities for notes from their script editor team at each stage – as close as you can get to a real script commission, without the production element.

Once the course is completed, writers can use their spec script as a calling card in the industry, creating a buzz with literary agents and production companies who are keen to be across talent coming through and hopefully resulting in meetings that further their careers. Success stories are numerous, most recently with alumni Anna Symon and Cat Jones, who have both gone on to write for primetime TV series.

So, with insights from me and my excellent fellow shadow script editors Carissa Hope Lynch, Harriet Davis and Joe Williams, I’ve pooled some tips writers can take from our 4Screenwriting experience:

Working with the professionals

The scheme introduces writers to the process of working with a script editor, which can be strange for writers used to working alone. It also introduces to writers the concept of the dreaded deadline!

What can you learn from this?: whilst you may have in place trusted feedback-givers, there’s really nothing like the impartial and constructive notes you will get from a good script editor or industry-proven consultant. In terms of meeting deadlines, it’s important that you make all and any writing deadlines you agree to. However, if something happens that is beyond your control, the best way to handle it is:

1/ to flag this as soon as possible to the appropriate person;

2/ tell them realistically what you can deliver and when; if one element is more urgent than the others, can you prioritise this and deliver within the original time frame?;

3/ agree a new deadline and move heaven and Earth to make it!

Network a.k.a. ‘it’s good to talk’

The scheme provides opportunities for writers to talk to others at similar points in their career, which can be greatly useful, both personally and professionally.

What can you learn from this?: Meet with your writer peers! Find or start a writer’s group on Meetup (they are all around the country) or attend events such as The London Screenwriter’s Festival or BAFTA Rocliffe and seek out friendly faces in the opportunities to mingle.

What’s in a TV idea?

Unsurprisingly, some ideas will only really reveal whether they will work in a series or serial format – if at all – after some exploration, so some writers had to use backup ideas or go back to the drawing board to find the right idea to progress to script stage.

What can you learn from this?: If you want to work in the industry, it’s essential you’re across British output; it’s as simple as that. Whilst it won’t ensure that every idea you come up with is a bona fide TV idea, you’ll get industry knowledge as to who is making what, and watching TV widely (UK, US, internationally) will develop your instincts on which stories intrinsically work in a TV format and which may be more suited to film or theatre. Even if it’s just the opening episode of every new series, it’s really useful to watch TV as broadly as you can.

Also, if you’re ever in a pitching situation (e.g. pitching to a producer for an episode commission on an existing series or pitching to a production company your own series ideas), however married you are to your favourite idea, it’s always useful to have a couple you’ve worked up a little as well in your back pocket, just in case you need them!

Writing to act breaks – a punctuation metaphor

For 4Screenwriting the brief was a script that would fit within a Channel 4 schedule, rather than a BBC full hour slot, so it was a new experience for many writers to write to ‘act breaks’.

What can you learn from this?: how this works this will vary depending on your story (and your broadcaster). However, we came up with a useful way of thinking about the shape of the story with act breaks:

If your story is a paragraph and each scene is a sentence, how you utilise punctuation is a great metaphor of writing to act breaks; ending those sentences before a break to ensure that the viewers’ interest is piqued. What’s the screenwriting equivalent of scene ending with a ‘?’, an ‘!’ or a ‘…’?

Many thanks again to the input from my fellow shadow script editors on this article; to the very brilliant and experienced script editor I worked to, Jamie Hewitt; to the three brilliant writers I was lucky to work with; and of course to Philip, for tirelessly working to make the course go as smoothly as it does each year. If you ever see him at a 4Screenwriting networking event, he won’t miss a moment to connect a writer to agents and production companies that might be useful to them. 4Screenwriting is a brilliant experience for writers and script editors coming through – long may it continue!

 

 

Investing In Your Screenwriting Career

We’ve all heard that it takes 10,000 of practice to become a virtuoso piano player or tennis champ. While the hours might be debatable there is little doubt about the principle behind it; to get better at something you have to actually do it, a LOT! Are you really investing enough of your time in your screenwriting to make the progress you want?

notepad and paperHere are some of the best ways to invest in yourself as a screenwriter:

1) Join A Writing Group (locally or online)

Pros: It’s probably free, you can use it to make commitments about how much writing you’ll do in between get-togethers and get your group to hold you to it, great for peer review of each other’s scripts.

Cons: You might be in a group of writers with less experience than you so might feel you’re not learning very much.

Tips: Be open to meeting new people.

2) Take A Class or Course

Pros: You can find courses running a few weekends or a year or more, it encourages you to make a time and financial commitment so you’re more likely to put the work in, good courses set homework which further encourages you to get the writing done.

Cons: Although many courses offer some feedback on what you’ve written, the time pressures on course leaders means the feedback can be very limited, teaching can be a bit generalised.

Tips: Figure out what you want to get out of the course and then find one that best suits your needs.

3) Go On A Writing Retreat

Pros: It forces you to invest a chunk of uninterrupted time you might struggle to achieve any other way, being in a different environment encourages new ways of thinking so you don’t keep repeating thought patterns, improving your chances of producing something new and different, chance to meet other writers.

Cons: It is essentially a holiday so it’s a relatively pricey way of getting quite a short chunk of writing time.

Tips: Decide what’s most important to you (location, retreat leader, feedback opportunities) and then research what’s out there.

4) Attend A Screenwriting ConferenceLondon Screenwriters’ Festival, Screenwriters World Conference (L.A or New York), Great American Pitch Fest

Pros: Most have great pitching opportunities, committing to it gives you a deadline to polish work you can pitch there, intensive, immersive, chance to meet lots of other writers and hear from industry experts.

Cons: Might feel a bit pricey for a few days, though LSF has a payment plan to spread the cost.

Tips: Commit early then plan a schedule to get work ready, building in time to get feedback on your scripts / pitches and rewrite accordingly before you go.

5) Get Professional Feedback On Your Script

Pros: Notes should inspire a constructive rewrite, screenwriting advice is tailored to you and your writing strengths and weaknesses.

Cons: Can be pricey and quality of feedback ranges enormously.

Tips: Get recommendations from fellow writers and check out the credentials of those offering feedback.

6) Find A Mentor / Coach

Pros: A good mentor will give you personalised script feedback on a portfolio of work, set goals and deadlines with you, offer support and advice, they are interested in helping you develop as a screenwriter.

Cons: Pricey, you need to put the writing in to make it worth your time and money.

Tips: Make sure you give yourself enough time every week to do the writing so your mentor regularly has work to respond to.

 

 

 

Screenwriter Interview – Chris Lunt

preyHayley: Huge congratulations on the green-light from ITV for PREY. Can you tell me a bit about the project and its journey from idea to production?

Chris: Hello and thank-you. I’m afraid I can’t talk too much about the specifics of the drama beyond saying it’s the story of a copper, Marcus Farrow (played by John Simm), who stands accused of a crime he didn’t commit. He goes on the run, desperate to clear his name for the sake of his family. I’d spent a long time developing various drama ideas, being a massive nerd and sci fi nut they all tended to be high-concept. I was working closely with Red Productions and one day they called me in. I was told that, regardless of how good my ideas might be, they’d be difficult sells in the current market, so I should try to come up with something a bit more traditional. I went away, had a think, then suggested we do something like The Fugitive, one of my favourite movies. I was also very intrigued by acts of bravery, how far ordinary people could be pushed in extreme situations. Marcus Farrow is an absolutely ordinary bloke; he isn’t a superhero or Bruce Willis type. That was a lot of fun, creating these incredible, high-octane set pieces then dropping an ordinary bloke in to the middle of them. The road from concept to production was actually quite smooth. I’d been writing since about 2001 but only became a ‘professional writer’ through redundancy in April 2010, I pitched the idea for Prey in May and then developed the first episode via a treatment, scene x scene and script. It was pitched to Steve November in Spring of this year, I think. They asked me to write a second episode, which I did in less than a month and they greenlit it very quickly after that. It was tough not to talk about it until the official announcement in August. We’ve been shooting for almost three weeks now; it has a phenomenal cast and crew working on it, and is looking absolutely great so far.

H: Can I take you back and ask, what was the first script you finished and what did you do next with it (agents, producers, etc)?

C: The first script I wrote was called MOONSAILOR and was a science fiction movie. That spun its wheels for a long time going no-where, as I didn’t really know what to do with it or how the industry worked. In the end, MOONSAILOR worked well in opening doors, I suppose it acted as a spec script demonstrating what I could do. It was quite character driven, but with action and adventure. I think it’s where I first started developing a voice. I firmly believe that someone should recognise your work without actually seeing your name on front of the script.

H: What was your experience of trying to get the industry to read your script?

C: I’ve usually teamed up with production companies, and have spent a lot of time cultivating those relationships. I’ve very rarely sent something unsolicited. I find that sending an email with a brief overview of the idea – literally a paragraph – is enough to gauge an interest. If there is interest I’ll write a treatment, anywhere between three and seven pages. I’d then hoped to be commissioned to write a more detailed treatment or script.

H: How did you get an agent?

C: This was when I was an amateur writer, say 2006. During that time I met various production companies to pitch ideas and managed to get a script for QUATERMASS commissioned by the BBC via Red Productions. While I was writing that we learned that the BBC had actually lost the rights, so it fell through. I’d realised that an existing IP was easier to sell than an original idea, especially high-concept stuff, so I went after a couple of IP’s, one of which was BIGGLES. By a happy coincidence, the owners of the rights to BIGGLES were looking to develop it as a TV series. I sent MOONSAILOR to the agency that represented the estate, got the gig and ended up signing to the agency.

H: Many new writers who want to write original drama for television are told that you won’t get a commission unless you’ve got writing credits on other people’s shows. Did you ever feel under pressure to ‘work the ladder’ writing for continuing dramas in order to get your own projects made?

C: I entered the industry pretty pig ignorant of the rules and regulations. My ambition was always to produce authored work. I wasn’t really interested in writing continuing drama. Even when I had an agent and the opportunity to be put forward for that kind of work it didn’t really float my boat. In the end, I stuck to my guns and it paid off. I’ve no doubt it’s the hardest route, you certainly have to have plenty of irons in the fire to earn a living wage, but I think writing stuff I was really engaged and enthusiastic about kept me going.

H: How many projects are you actively working on at any one time?

C: I’ve just worked this out and it’s pretty terrifying – I’m a bit of a workaholic. I’ve three script commissions I’m working on, three optioned treatments, and three projects I’ve been commissioned to write but need to schedule this next year. And I’ve not stopped yet. As a rule I can handle two scripts at a time. I’m also working with one of the broadcasters to develop a new and quite exciting continuing drama that I’d advise any new writer to try to work on!

H: Are you focused on television drama or writing for other platforms, like feature films?

C: I’ve recently had a feature film called THE MARTIAN AMBASSADOR optioned, I’ve also written the script for GETTING EVEN, a heist movie for Simon West, but that’s in development hell at the moment. I’ve become involved in adaptations somehow, two of the gigs I have lined up for next year are book adaptations. That wasn’t by design, but it is quite exciting work. THE MARTIAN AMBASSADOR is also a book adaptation. I’ve just remembered I’ve another movie to write next year, a thriller set in China!

H: Do you always have to write a spec script to pitch a project to a producer or are you pitching with a two-line idea or a treatment?

C: I have a very specific process which works well for me. I’ll either meet a producer to brainstorm or I’ll send them a paragraph outlining the idea – I’ve actually had ideas optioned from just that, so it’s a skill that’s well worth developing. I’ll then write a treatment, which is an overview of the characters and a synopsis – none of which is wholly set in stone. I think of this as a sales document, so it’s snappy, and I try very hard to make it reflect the tone of the piece. It’s now that I’d expect a production company to commit in some form to the project. I either then write an extended treatment / bible, or if I’m lucky I’ll then write a scene by scene. This is where the real hard work takes place. I’ll write the sc x sc in final draft, and it’s literally what it says on the tin, a scene by scene outline of the entire episode or movie. This document runs to pages and pages and certainly takes up most of the development process.  Ultimately, once the producer has signed off on the sc x sc it’s just a case of adding the dialogue and that can take almost no time at all. The strength of this process to my mind is that no-one should ever be surprised by the script. If they’ve signed off on the sc x sc then they know what’s coming, so although there’s still the usual dozen or so drafts, they’re never massively structural as a rule! Touch wood!

H: Finally, what advice would you give to new writers?

C: Network as much as possible, it’s a very small industry and a good network is essential. Be prepared to listen to Producers, they know what the industry wants better than you do. No one criticises for the sake of it, never take criticism personally, they wouldn’t bother if you were crap. Try to be original, try to make your script stand out. Work on creating a voice, a good script should be like a piece of music, you should recognise the composer. Find yourself a good script editor. I can’t stress this enough. I’ve worked with some brilliant script editors such as Richard Fee at Red Productions and there is no way on gods earth that PREY would be being produced if it wasn’t for Richard Fee, Nicola Shindler and Caroline Hollick. The third idea is always, always, better then the first two. Be prepared to work a decade to become an overnight success. I did. There are absolutely no short cuts.

H: Thanks Chris and we can’t wait to see ‘Prey’!

Chris is represented by Rob Krait at Casarotto Ramsay

Developing Your Career – Guest Post by Teresa Crane

Finding any job is hard but progressing in the film and television industries requires a more pro-active approach than in almost any other field. This week Script Angel welcomes guest blogger Teresa Crane to talk about developing your career.

There are a number of skills important to being successful in the job market, but you won’t necessarily acquire them in school. These skills will not only help you to thrive as you make the initial transition from school to work, but also to manage your career for the long term. And they may be different from the skills that brought you success as a student. Your needs, the demands of the job market, and the nature of your field will all change over time. Developing career skills now, in the areas of planning, networking, conducting a job search, and persisting through the process, are critical to finding that next job, whether it’s your first experience or you are a seasoned professional seeking advancement. This guide will help you begin to navigate the job market and make the most of your online degree.

Planning Skills

Career planning efforts should take place before you send out your first employment applications. These activities will help you to identify employers hiring in your field, establish your professional presence online, and develop a strategy for how you will move forward with your search.

Identify Potential Employers

Create a list of specific companies and organizations that are currently seeking people with your job skills. You may already be working in your field and have an awareness of where hiring is taking place. If so, add these businesses to your list and continue to explore similar companies and those that provide related services. If you are planning to enter a new field after graduation, now is the time to find out more about the industry you are interested in and identify potential employers to add to your list.

Keep your list of potential employers up-to-date, adding and removing information to maintain a current roster of contacts. Find a format that works for you and is easy to edit. This may be a simple handwritten ledger or a more complex spreadsheet. Create entries that include details such as: company name, websites, location, human resources contact, any vacancy announcement information, and how you found out about them (e.g. through a friend, social media, news article, alumni). Remember to focus on the skills required, not just the type of company. You may find potential opportunities that require your skills in a variety of organizations, ranging from non-profits and private businesses to government agencies and educational settings.

While you will continuously find leads and ideas about potential employers, there are a few ways you can begin your research now. Explore the following resources and get your list started.

  • Venues and special events. Check with your college’s career center to find out where you can meet employers in your local area and online through career and employment events, such as career fairs (virtual and traditional) and employer information sessions. If you don’t have access to a college career center, you can find out about career fairs through news outlets in your local area, as well as through national career fair planners and directories such as National Career Fairs. Job-Hunt.org also provides links to some of the larger events and reminds us to consider both privacy policies and the lists of employers participating in each fair before deciding to join in.
  • Online services.  So much information is available via the Internet today. Look for job databases, online application, and resume referral systems. There are general sites, such as Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com, which include searchable information on a wide variety of jobs and industries. And there are more specific sites that feature jobs related do a particular industry, such as Dice.com for information technology careers.
  • Alumni directories. Work with your school to locate lists of alumni from your program. This information may be available online in a searchable directory or available from an alumni services office or career center. Find out where graduates from your program are working and if their organization is hiring.
  • Recruiters.  Many companies use either in-house human resource recruiters or contracted recruiting and staffing firms to identify potential applicants. Locate recruiters making placements in your career field and find out how you can work with them to identify potential job opportunities. EmploymentDigest.net provides guidance on working with recruiters that includes researching the companies to find out where they make placements and being truthful in presenting your experience and job interests.

Get in touch with your career center advisors to find out more about how your school is working directly with employers. Keep in mind that employers that are already recruiting at your school are likely aware of your program and the fact that it is online, and find some benefit in actively recruiting there.

But don’t just compile a list of employers and leave it at that. Use it to maintain your focus on employers that are interested in hiring in your field, and to help you document future networking and application efforts. It’s important to stay organized as you make multiple contacts and send out resumes.

Establish Your Online Presence

What will potential employers find out if they search for information about you online? A positive and professional online presence is gaining importance in today’s job market. Having an online presence allows you to not only participate in social networking activities related to your career field, but also present your experience, interests, and skills to potential employers in an arena where they are already active – the Internet.

A recent article in Forbes provides a sneak peak of the future of job search and placement activities, a future in which your online presence may replace your traditional resume and provide a way for employers to find you based on a match of their job needs with your skills and interests. Taking the time to thoughtfully establish your online profiles, with a job search in mind, is a key part of the preparation you need to complete before applying for positions.

Develop a Job Search Strategy

How much time will you invest every week, every day, in looking for a job? How will you make contact with potential employers? Where will you look for position announcements? Developing a job search strategy to answer these questions helps you to focus your efforts so that the time you spend looking for a job is as efficient and effective as possible. Consider your other commitments, such as school, family, and current employment and plan wisely.

Block time on your schedule to conduct your search and create a list of specific activities you’ll engage in to complete your search. Organize a list of contacts and decide how you will follow-up with each one and what search techniques you will use. If you are interested in career fairs for example, find local events and virtual ones that are scheduled to take place and register. Keep a record of your efforts and review this periodically. Figure out which activities are working well, and which ones aren’t, and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Networking Skills

Active professional networking means reaching out to and maintaining contact with those individuals who can provide you with information about your career field and potential opportunities. These efforts may open up leads to positions you weren’t aware of, jobs that are filled through referrals, and opportunities that are so new they haven’t been advertised. The Riley Guide cites a recent report that found over a quarter of external hires where placed as a result of referrals.

Networking can take place in a variety of ways and result in both helpful information and assistance.

  • Contact your previous employers, internship supervisors, and other individuals who may be aware of your skills and experience. Let them know that you are in school, or a recent graduate, and what type of employment you are seeking.
  • Join and participate in relevant professional groups, both formal and informal, that are made up of people working in your field, and that involve discussions about trends and employment. Keep in mind that joining is just the first step in networking with groups — you’ve also got to take the initiative and actively participate in the events and conversations.
  • Ask for help. Let your network know you are looking for a job and what you are looking for in the way of information and assistance. Be as specific as possible with your requests. Ask for an introduction to a valuable contact, for example.
  • Thank those who are helpful to you. Express your appreciation for their efforts and consider how you might offer similar assistance to others in the future.

Hopefully you’ve already begun to engage in these kinds of activities, but if not, now’s the time to do get started. Not every networking contact will result in helpful information, but you will continue to build skills through active participation in the process. Select several ways in which you are comfortable interacting and add these networking activities to your schedule and job search strategy.

As an online student, you may have different opportunities to network during your program. Traditional students may benefit from on-campus events that feature alumni and employers. Similar opportunities may be available for you, via online interaction and communication. Take the initiative to seek out these opportunities through your school advisors, as well as those sponsored by organizations in your local area. Remember that networking is an ongoing process beneficial in the job search and throughout your career as you face work-related challenges and seek continued advancement in your field.

Job Search Skills

“The job search process” is a commonly used term that may include a wide range of steps and tasks related to securing employment. There are other requirements you will need to address as you submit your application for the opportunities you discover from the professional networking tasks listed above.

Resumes

There is a wealth of advice on how to write resumes and cover letters available online, at your career center, and through private resume writing services. The function of the resume is to attract an employer’s attention to your qualifications, show how you fit their needs, and hopefully prompt them to invite you an interview so they can find out more about you. There are several key considerations before moving forward. Take a look at these guidelines and plan for how you will proceed with your own resume.

  • Organize. There are two primary ways in which traditional resumes are organized: chronological (listing your experiences in a time sequence) and functional (listing your experiences by skill set). There’s no right or wrong here. It’s about presenting your information in the best possible way, which may even be a combination of approaches.
  • Summarize. Your resume should be a summary of your qualifications and may include sections such as Education, Work History, Skills, Activities, Awards, etc. The list of possible categories is endless, but they should all work together to highlight your most relevant experience.
  • Focus. Present your achievements in past positions instead of basic job descriptions. Use action verbs and quantification to describe what you have done in the past. Be as specific as possible. For example, “Managed an annual marketing budget of $50,000″ is more informative than “Responsible for managing finances.”
  • Format. Will you be mailing, emailing, or uploading your resume? Or all of the above? It will probably be necessary for you to have different versions available in terms of file format. A PDF may be helpful when sending as an email attachment, a word processing document for printing hard copies, and a text file for cutting and pasting. Readability is critical and document formatting such as bolding, and italicizing may not convert well when uploaded or cut/paste into an online system, so have several options available and look for specific instructions from employers. You may also want to consider setting up a virtual resume through an online system like VisualCV or as part of a personal website.
  • Review examples. Find examples of resumes and explore the variety of possible styles and approaches that are being used. Resume writing experiences trends that come and go, so it is beneficial to look at current practices, especially in your field. Your career center may be able to share sample resumes from previous students in your program, and there are many, many examples (good and bad) available online. The National Association of Colleges and Employers and Susan Ireland’s Resume Site are just two of the available sources to explore.
  • Get a critique. Have at least one person, but preferably more than just one person, review your resume and offer a critique. You should definitely include a career center advisor in the process, as well as others who have experience in your field. Is there someone in your network who could provide a review and make suggestions?

Your resume will be unique to you. While it may adhere to accepted practice in terms of organization and format, you should ensure that it is accurately reflecting your qualifications.

Cover Letters

Cover letters, also known as letters of intent, letters of interest, and job search letters, work with your resume to help you get an interview. Your cover letter should be your introduction to hiring managers and persuade them to read further.

  • Be brief. These letters are just part of the screening process and should ideally be kept to one page in length. Don’t repeat information in your resume. Instead, highlight the most relevant parts of it and address your interest and qualifications in the position.
  • Tailor the information. Each cover letter should be written for the specific employer to whom it will be sent. It’s tempting to create one letter than can be sent to everyone, but that approach will result in a letter that is not as relevant or focused on each position and company, and therefore not as effective.
  • Review examples. Looking at sample cover letters can be helpful to get a better idea of what is expected. There are different formats to consider as well. Quintcareers.com and Minnesota’s iSeek.org both provide cover letter tips and samples. Don’t forget to check with your career center as well.
  • Get a critique. Just as with your resume, having others review your cover letter and provide suggestions will ensure it is professional in nature and helps you say what you need to say.

Job Interviews

Once you’ve received an invitation to interview, you should begin preparing for the meeting in multiple ways. Again, you’ll find a lot of advice and guidance through your career center professionals, but here are a few of the basics to get you started.

  • Consider location. Will the interview take place in person or at a distance, either online or over the phone? An in-person meeting involves dress for success considerations. Phone interviews and video conference meetings will require you to set up a quiet location.
  • Research the company. This is basic advice, and luckily, you may have already done some preliminary work to write your resume and cover letter. However, take additional time now to further explore the company you will be interviewing with – be ready to answer questions that will test this knowledge. Use company websites, as well as resources such as Vault.com to find out more.  Does the company also have a profile on LinkedIn?
  • Gather your documentation. Prepare extra copies of your resume, a list of references with contact information, a presentation of relevant work samples, and all academic transcripts. These are all items that may be helpful to you as you answer questions in an interview and may be requested by the employer during or immediately following the interview. You may also want to consider building a career portfolio for use in your job search and interviews.
  • Practice possible interview questions. There are lists of general questions that can help you practice how you will respond in the interview itself. Consider having a “mock interview” with someone in your network or through your career center that will give you a more realistic opportunity to practice. Practice makes perfect as you gain experience fielding interview questions, and your skills in being interviewed will increase, as will your comfort level with the experience.
  • Prepare your own questions. You may be given the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the session. What additional information do you need to know about the organization and the available position? Prepare questions that help to move the conversation forward and improve your understanding of the needs of the company. Be sure to avoid discussing salary at this point.
  • Follow-up. Sending a note of thanks to each of your interviewers is both professional and courteous. Write individual letters and send them within 24 hours after your interview. It is acceptable to send these either by regular mail or email. Review several samples online to get a better idea of typical format for expressing your interest, fit, and appreciation.

As an online student, you should prepare to answer questions about your online learning experience.  A 2009 review of  research conducted to identify employer perceptions of online academic degrees found that employers often cite the following reasons for their reluctance to accept online degrees in the same way that they accept traditional degrees: perception of a lack of rigor and more limited face-to-face interaction, potential for cheating and plagiarism, perception of online programs as diploma mills, and a questioning of the overall commitment of online students to their education as compared to students that attend on-campus programs.

The review also found that there are specific conditions that could make an employer view an applicant with an online degree more favorably. If the applicant received the online degree from a school with a positive reputation and the right accreditation, that could make a difference. Applicants with previous, related work experience, in addition to the online degree are also viewed more positively. While employer acceptance of online degrees is growing, there is still a general perception that online courses do not have the same educational value as traditional face-to-face courses. Anticipate how will you respond to interviewers who ask about the value and quality of your online degree.

Be prepared to discuss how you chose your online program and the value and quality you experienced as a student. Provide feedback about how the program was accredited and the qualifications of the faculty. Be prepared to describe the ways in which you interacted with your instructors, your classmates, and the course content. Explain to interviewers how the skills you gained through your online studies complement any related work or practical experience you have and qualify you to work in your field.

Job Offers

Many employers extend offers over the phone and follow-up with an official offer letter. It is important to thoroughly evaluate a job offer before making a decision, no matter how tempting it may be to accept or decline on the spot.

  • Timeframe. Ask when the employer will be giving you a decision. This will vary with each offer, but typically you’ll have a few days to respond. If you are not sure, ask if there is a timeframe.
  • Offer details. Job offers may or may not include a lot of detailed information. It is okay at this point to ask about salary, compensation, work location, and start date if these topics have not already been addressed in previous conversations. Create a personalized checklist of items you need to consider, and to compare if you are in a situation where you receive multiple options. A written list can help you sort through both the pros and cons of each offer.
  • Negotiation. If you are interested in possible negotiation of the terms of the offer, first ask if this is an option. Many employers do offer you the opportunity to negotiate different components of the offer, ranging from salary and relocation to vacation and professional development. Salary is a typical point of negotiation. Do your own research to find out more about expected salaries in your field, and for people with your level of education and experience, before entering salary negotiations.
  • Decision-making. The decision to accept or decline an offer is yours to make. Arriving at a decision can be a difficult process, but it can be aided by conducting research and asking questions, as well as seeking the advice and support of your network.
  • Accepting/declining. Once you have made your decision, communicate it clearly with the employer. You may want to contact them directly at first by phone or email and follow-up immediately with an official letter of acceptance or rejection. Be conscious of time and reply with your decision within the agreed upon timeframe.

There’s a lot you can do to put your best foot forward during the job search process. Maintain a focus on helping each employer realize the ways in which you are a good fit for their organization.

Persistence Skills

There’s no doubt that today’s job market is challenging. What if a job offer doesn’t come right away? According to the Career Services Center at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, you can expect your job search to take anywhere from 8 to 23 weeks. It could even take longer depending on your needs and the economic conditions surrounding your field during the time of your search. What can you do to survive a long search?

  • Find a support group. Rally your friends, family, and members of your network to help with brainstorming and making connections, as well as to provide encouragement along the way.
  • Monitor and track your industry. Set up organized news feeds of information that will keep you up-to-date with information and events.
  • Plan ahead. If you begin preparation early in your academic program, it may be helpful to budget for an extended job search, saving money for personal expenses if there is a gap between graduating and starting a new job.
  • Stay involved. Be an active participant in local and community organizations and professional groups. Find ways to keep your skills sharp and continue your networking through volunteer projects and short-term work assignments.
  • Consult with career professionals. Chances are these advisors are already available to you as part of the support services offered by your school. Don’t underestimate the value of working with a career services expert who can provide guidance in all areas of your career planning and job search.

The Future of Work

Today’s job market and its influences are dynamic. All sectors of employment are responding to global factors, economic uncertainty, and high-level industry changes. Remember that hiring trends change over time, so while some occupations become obsolete, others are emerging as new fields.

The nature of work itself is changing. Technology now plays a major role in both how work is accomplished and in how positions are being filled. Your experience as an online student may provide you with essential skills related to completing collaborative projects, working independently, and communicating efficiently in virtual work environments. Be ready to market that type of experience and education in multiple ways, and stay flexible to meet the evolving needs of employers.

Post by Teresa Crane. Created for and originally published by: BestCollegesOnline.com

Networking

I have to confess to having a love/hate relationship with ‘Networking’.  I hate the idea of it – the thought of walking into a room full of people I don’t know sends shivers down my spine. The reality is always, thankfully, a whole lot less anxiety-inducing and a LOT more fun! And it’s one of those things that is an important part of the film and television industry so it’s better to embrace it if you want to get on in this business.

Some networking gatherings are, admittedly, hard work, where you feel like there’s a gang and you’re just not in it. Others, and the London Screenwriters’ Festival is one of these, are warm, open and friendly. Whether you’re sitting in a session or standing in a queue for coffee the chances are that the person next to you will say ‘hello’ and introduce themselves. If they don’t and you do, you’ll almost certainly be met with a smile and the start of a conversation in return.

I would approach any networking opportunity with a mixture of planning and open-mindedness. Make sure you do your homework about who else will be there and don’t be afraid to approach people you admire or want to work with. That said, I’ve seen people be so focused on meeting the ‘big cheeses’ that they’re rude and dismissive to anyone else that deigns to say ‘hello’.  New friends, champions and collaborators can come from the unlikeliest of places so keep an open-mind about meeting people you haven’t heard of and aren’t already targeting like a heat-seeking missile.

Dominic Carver has done a great blog post ‘Ultimate Guide’ to the London Screenwriters’ Festival and I’ll be doing a session there on Surviving Development.  If you haven’t bought a ticket yet you can get £22 off the ticket price by using Discount Code ‘SCRIPTANGEL2012’. Make sure you come and say ‘hi’ on the day.

The London Screenwriters’ Festival is a fantastic networking opportunity but there are plenty of others worth looking into. Check out my Events Diary covering the UK and USA events for screenwriters.

Happy networking!

Breaking Into Hollywood (from the UK)

Lots of UK writers have been asking me recently about breaking into Hollywood so here’s my advice.

Pretty much the same advice applies whether you’re breaking into your home market or a foreign market and my top tip for both is DO YOUR HOMEWORK!   Just as I’d expect a writer applying to write on ‘Holby City’ or ‘Coronation Street’ to watch the show and know it well, so you have to know the market you’re trying to crack, whatever and wherever it is.

If you’re a UK writer wanting to write UK films you’d be researching UK film production companies, right? So, do the same thing for Los Angeles. Learn which production companies and studios make what films. If you’re into the UK market you’d get Broadcast and Moviescope.  For the US market there are loads of great magazines and websites to help you keep track of who’s making what – try Deadline Hollywood, Variety and the Hollywood Reporter.   There are also subscription sites like TrackingBTracking Board, DoneDealPro, ItsOnTheGrid and Screen International.

If you want L.A representation, find out who represents the Hollywood writers whose films you love. The websites that track film script sales always mention who represents the writer so you can build up a picture of the L.A literary agent scene pretty quickly.

Although you can certainly make approaches to Hollywood from the UK, in her ScriptChat Q&A, Los Angeles literary manager Jenny Frankfurt also recommends getting out to L.A and networking in person.  One great way to do this is through the Hollywood Field Trip.  It’s a bit pricey but the feedback from those writers that have been is that it was money incredibly well invested in their careers. Right now the guys have got 2 spots remaining on their October trip and are offering £200 off the price. Do get in touch with them if you’re interested.

If Hollywood is the market you want to write for then you should GO FOR IT – good luck and I’ll see you there!

 

Practise Makes Perfect

Watching the extraordinary achievements of the Olympic and Paralympic athletes this summer made me appreciate more than ever that if you want to be successful at something, you’ve got to knuckle down and practise.

For screenwriters of course that means practising your writing by simply writing – LOTS! But it also means studying your craft; analysing successful screenplays, reading books on screenwriting or attending seminars and talks by others who’ve analysed thousands of movies and screenplays. It means identifying areas of your craft that you’re not as strong on (story structure or character or dialogue) and finding techniques to help you get better at those elements.

But great writing alone rarely enables you to succeed and there are other aspects to being a successful writer that you’ll need to master. Perhaps you’re lousy at networking or pitching. If you hate pitching (and I know a LOT of writers who do) then practising is vital if you’re to get good at it – at the very least you want to be comfortable enough doing it that you don’t turn into a blubbering wreck when an Executive asks you about your new movie idea.  And who knows, you might discover you’ve got a real knack for it and find yourself desperate to go to a huge pitch festival and get on that stage to pitch with the best of them.

In an industry built so heavily on personal recommendation, networking is another aspect of the job that lots of writers dread. As with pitching, it requires practice so my advice is to get out there and get doing it!

The forthcoming London Screenwriters’ Festival is a great place to learn tips on your craft, practise your pitching and your networking.  I’ll be speaking there and, of course, networking too so come and say hello.  Don’t forget that if you use Discount Code ‘SCRIPTANGEL2012’ you can save £22 off the ticket price.  Let me know if you’re going and I hope to see you there.

Be honest with yourself, identify those areas that you’re really not so great at, and put the work in to get better at them. With hard graft in the right areas you’ve got a great chance of making it as a successful screenwriter.  Good luck!

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