Make your own Cheerleader

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Everyone needs a cheerleader!

I’m sure many guys would agree with me though I don’t mean the all American cute’n’bendy girl kind.  I mean a friend who is always in your corner cheering you on in whatever mad enterprise you choose to take on next. They may be your partner, work colleague or friend.  I am lucky enough to have several close friends and a family who are tireless supporters of me and my hare-brained schemes.

So how do you find – and keep – your own personal cheerleader?

1)   Take chances. Fortune favours the brave. Risk taking creates its own energy and brings you unexpected allies and supporters.

2)   Admit you’re scared. Asking for moral support – as well as practical help – is the sign of a strong not a weak character.

3)   Offer help to others. Sounds obvious but supporting others is its own reward and builds friendships built on mutuality and shared interests.

4)   Join mentoring schemes and networking/support groups or create your own. Like attracts like and joining forces once a month to share successes and problems is immensely satisfying and fun.

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5)   Ask for advice and opinions. Read each other’s scripts and application forms. Involve others in your ideas, they can usually make them better!

6)   Be generous with your time. However busy you are, take a moment to listen and reply to a request for help. The favour will be repaid a hundred times.

7)   See friends not rivals. Create a community of artists just like you – they are absolutely your best support in a competitive world.

The best cheerleaders are smart, supportive, kind and often very unselfish. They’re also a little bit magic.

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I may not win the World Cup but I have the best cheerleaders a girl could wish for. Thank you. x

 

 

 

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FOUR GO TO CANNES


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Last year I wrote  Diary of a Cannes Virgin to share the experience of going to the most famous film festival in the world for the first time. But I didn’t go alone. I went with three new friends from the WFTV mentoring scheme.  ‘Four go to Cannes…’  It was a real Girl’s Own Adventure story, although we were less Enid Blyton and more a writers’ splinter group, a Gang of Four curious to see how the international system of buying and selling features worked on the inside.  Faced with long queues for badge collections and deciphering the arcane booking system to see films, our first day in Cannes felt less like ‘What dress shall I wear to the premiere?’ and more like hacking into a heavily encrypted national bank.

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It took us a good 24 hours – helped by Elizabeth’s insider knowledge of previous Cannes – to simply work out where everything was. We spotted the red carpet easily enough – the big one at least. The pavilions, the film market, the food stands and the loos took a while longer. But like all good Brits abroad, we splashed out on overpriced hot dogs and vino with cheerful humour and threw ourselves into the long Cannes days – from queueing in the rain for our bus in the morning to all jamming into a taxi together at midnight…

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Three days later, after countless industry panels, rained out screenings, a party and a case of food poisoning from a dodgy salad at the panini van where we took most of our meals, we took refuge in a proper French restaurant outside the enclosure and celebrated our first Cannes visit. Despite the crazy conference centre atmosphere we’d all had a really great time.

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I put this mostly down to our natural support of each other. From sharing beds on the first night in our hotel and giggling into the night, to sharing canapés at drinks dos, to arranging to touch base for lunch and dinner during the festival and compare notes on networking events, we had each other’s backs from day one.  Although Cannes is full of people you either know or think you want to know, it’s important to draw breath – and have a real conversation with someone you really like, who you’re not trying to sell anything to, and who knows your feet are aching and you’ve been on the go since 7, and, most importantly,  have a laugh with.

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Looking out for each other at Cannes created a real bond, and we’ve stayed in touch during the last year, reading each other’s scripts, supporting each other through  the ups and downs of development, and sharing our good and bad writing days.  Our faith in each other has been rewarded times ten.  One year on, it’s fantastic to see how well our Gang of Four has done.

Elizabeth closed a development deal on her feature script this year.  Wanda has enjoyed a stellar series of acting roles and is writing her first UK feature.  Our other friend has a feature length thriller in development.  As for me, I met a great producer during that first trip to Cannes, who is helping me develop the US feature I took there so hopefully a year ago.  As Sinatra would say, ‘It was a very good year.’

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So to Cannes 2014 – Wanda and I will be braving the Croisette once more, with the others there in spirit. This time we have a studio apartment thanks to another friend from last years’ trip. We are determined this year to hit the best parties, the most exciting premieres and sample the delights of proper French food.

That is until we get there – and the panini van beckons.

 

Share your Cannes stories (or plans) below – or you can find me on twitter @emlin32.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Miracle of Mentoring

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I am wearing waterproof mascara for the last day of our Women in Film and TV Mentoring Scheme.  Six months after we started, twenty talented women are now firm friends and, together, helped by our industry mentors, we have changed our lives from the inside out.

If this all seems a little sentimental, consider this.  In a recent survey by Directors UK, the average percentage of TV dramas directed by a woman was found to be 8%.  This means that in the already highly competitive field in which I work, I am in a distinct minority.  I have never been one for special pleading.  However a series of diverse and challenging jobs and the death of my mother had left me feeling low.  I wanted to move forward in my career but I needed someone to talk to.  In my interview for the scheme, when I was asked what the hardest thing about taking part would be, I said I had already done it – it was asking for help.

A questionnaire helped me identify my concrete goals.  Although I had enjoyed the last few years directing factual programming I wanted to move back to directing my first love, drama.  And after working in the States for some time I needed to re-introduce myself to the UK industry in that light.  I was lucky enough to be paired with the inspirational Emma Turner, Senior Executive Producer, Worldwide Drama at Fremantle Media.  Encouraged by our monthly meetings, my focus, energy and application to finding and creating new work tripled.

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Mid-career is exactly when you need a mentor most.  Re-positioning to get what you really want takes a lot of time and effort and, as a freelancer, having a sounding board is a huge plus, while having someone you have to report to really makes you get on and do stuff!  Emma was warm, practical, straight down to business, which suited me perfectly.  She also got the range of my work and saw it as an asset, not a drawback.  This was not psychoanalysis or cosy chats about the industry, this was ‘What can you do to get where you’re going?’ and it suddenly all seemed possible.

Nadia and Kate.aspx copyForging a supportive network with the other twenty women on the scheme came easily.  The weekly seminars we each had to deliver on our specialist subject helped us realise what we already knew, and share it with others.  Although I have lectured professionally, I still found it quite nerve-wracking and that fear bound us together and made us look out for each other.  I also found it cathartic as it allowed me to articulate what I had been feeling and had noticed in the industry for a while now – that my role as a director was changing.  There was a point one evening when it all just came together, the group gelled, we had become more than colleagues, we were all friends.

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So what did I gain from all this camaraderie and support?

Not just a warm fuzzy feeling – real benefits.

  1. Contacts.  It’s a hard fact that this business is built on who you know and whether you are starting out or starting over you wonder how you’ll ever get to know all those fabulous people who are going to give you work. What you come to realise is that everyone is connected, so the industry meetings generously set up by my mentor led to many others.  The group also went out of their way to help each person make contacts and shared advice and support along the way.
  2. Soft Networking is a vastly underestimated skill.  Going to screenings and industry events, helping friends promote their work, sharing contacts and ideas all help build a community that you are part of, so important if you are a freelancer.  You get to hear about funding opportunities and it can lead to great work relationships.
  3. Confidence. Everyone always says this about mentoring but it’s true.  Having discussed approaches and solutions for six months with Emma, I now know what she would say in most work situations.  Her mantra is ‘Just do it’, and the more you do, the more confident you feel pushing out of your comfort zone.
  4. Emma directing Us series 'In Search of Food' download 092 New projects.  In the last six months I have written the first draft of a new feature script and am preparing for my first trip to Cannes.  I am directing a new short written by one of our group.  I have written a prize winning pitch for a TV drama series.  I started this blog which has now had almost 1,500 views and been reposted on industry websites; and I am delivering my  seminar on directing at Cardiff Digital Week.  I have also recut my showreel, reworked my C.V. and improved my interview technique, all using professional industry coaching and feedback on the scheme.
  5. Jobs. I am hearing about more jobs now through my new network, and I am much more focused about what kind of work I am looking for.  This might sound counter-intuitive in the recession hit world of ‘take what you can get’ but trying to please everyone and do everything wasn’t working for me.  Now I’m doing what I really want to do and so can be 100% dedicated to making it happen.  And although range is useful, everyone loves a specialist.
  6. Goodwill. You hear a lot about how difficult this industry is and how cut throat but not much about how people genuinely want to help you out. Experienced practitioners love passing on knowledge so asking for advice is much more profitable than gunning for a position in their company. Mentoring brings out the best in people and makes them feel they are giving back.  So believe in a benevolent universe.
  7. Passion.  No one does this job for the money. We do it because we love it, and we can’t imagine ourselves doing anything else.  Mentoring someone or being mentored reignites that passion and the desire to make someone proud.  I am extremely proud of everything we have achieved on this scheme.  We are a community who care so much about the stories we tell and our desire to tell them.  Why not offer that same care to each other along the way?

So, to sum up, to Women in Film and TV, especially our gifted scheme producer Nicola Lees, huge thanks.  My fellow mentees and new-found friends, I know we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other.  And, as my lovely mentor and namesake, Emma, said at our last meeting, ‘Shall we just keep going?’

Now that’s an offer I can’t refuse… Thank you.

Who has been your most memorable mentor, or are you still looking?  Have you enjoyed being a mentor yourself?

Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter @emlin32

WHO’S ON YOUR TEAM? – 23 JANUARY 2013

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WHO’S ON YOUR TEAM?

Who makes you feel alive and listened to?  Who are your support team when you’re writing – and when you’re not?

I am lucky to have a very creative family – film-makers, artists and songwriters to name a few, and we are all avid consumers of plays, films, art shows and (whisper it) books.  Our family dinners are hugely invigorating, a gathering of friends excitedly arguing about the merits of the latest release.

Not everyone has family like this. Yours might be supportive of your writing or not. Or you may feel they like but don’t really understand your work. Your family might in fact be refreshingly uninvolved in your creative life.

Family comes in other forms.  Maybe you teach?  My other community is at the Met Film School, Ealing Studios – a great place to meet other writers and directors and compare notes on how your script is going. My students keep me up to date by showing me what they’re watching and inspire me with their enthusiasm and can do attitude.

Maybe your friends outside work are the ones you have the best conversations with? They let you unwind, be yourself, forget your overactive brain – or stimulate you with fresh ideas, opinions, must-see movies.  My friends are extraordinary individuals who give me continuity in a freelance life that is one long series of new beginnings.

If you need more people on your team, join a professional society – or start your own writers’ group. Writers are not natural ‘joiners’ but, as Groucho Marx didn’t quite say, if you can bear to join a club that would have you as a member then the wins become clear.  I am hugely proud to be part of this year’s Women in Film and TV Mentoring Scheme. Not only do I have the advice of an excellent mentor, I have twenty new friends – my fellow mentees. Twenty talented and lovely women in my field whom I can call on when I need someone in my corner.

And it’s a two way street – the more people I am there for, the more my life has meaning.

You get my drift.  It comes down to this.  Don’t do it all alone.  I’ve said it before, we are alone when we write, and we need that space to think.  But we also need fuel for our engine. Energy. Heat. Argument. And love.

Who’s on your team?  Make a list of the top ten people in your corner.

You can share your list below or tweet them a shout out on Twitter @emlin32.

Happy writing!