the old boys network
'My script would definitely get made, if only I knew the right people. It's all just who you know. I just need to break into the old boy's network, and then I can be a success.'
I used to believe some version of this. Used to think that I already had the talent and the only thing stopping me succeeding was the right contacts. Because the alternative was unthinkable. Namely, that I wasn't good enough yet. And might never be.
It takes strength to admit that. To take a deep breath and face the fact that what you are writing is not upto snuff. And I didn't have enough self confidence at the time to weather that storm. Because bits of my scripts were very good, which allowed me a certain level of convenient self-delusion. I could point at the good bits in indignation – 'Look, this is clearly genius!' - while conveniently ignoring the bits that I knew in my heart of hearts were sub-par.
All of which allowed me to inwardly fume at the real reason I wasn't an overnight success: The Old Boy's Network. The closed ranks of a snobby elite who had succeeded and then closed the door after them.
Well, I'm definitely behind that door now. And do you want to know a secret? That Old Boy's Network? Doesn't exist. At least not in TV and film scripting. I can't speak for other industries and areas of society. I mean I'm sure that boozy lunches and secret handshakes in smoke filled rooms may well keep the wheels turning in, say, Texan retail zoning (to put together three words at random that sound well shady). But I've found no sign of it in the corridors of London TV production.
Now there is perhaps an argument to be made that as I'm a white man I'm automatically in an elite. One that I just can't see. Maybe my scripts would still be languishing unread had they arrived signed, say, Anika Singh. Racism and sexism still exist in subtle and less subtle forms in every industry but being in the most traditionally favoured category within that sad little venn diagram ie) male and white, I can never really be sure what doors opened to me because of it.
But what I will say is that anyone who rejects an amazing script based purely upon their distaste for the gender or race of the writer is acting against their own self interest in a very pronounced way.
Because, put simply, everybody wants a good script.
Everyone wants to be involved with quality work. From actors, directors and producers all the way up to commissioners and channel heads. Producing a film or show based on a quality script makes them all look good. So to reject a script for any reason other than the quality of said script is basically self sabotage.
Oh sure, even without the closed door of the mythical Old Boys Network, there are still gatekeepers. They're called agents, and you'll need to persuade one to represent you before anyone of note will even look at what you've written. That's simply the system in place and you have to work within it. You impress the agents, then they pass on your work to a production company they think might be impressed enough to pay for it.
But the secret handshake in all of this is quality work. Honing your craft and polishing your scripts until they shine is your way in. Not who you know. And if you're trapped, as I was, in the comforting embrace of the false narrative of The Old Boys Network, take a deep breath and a long hard look at your scripts. Because the way in is hidden there, and it always has been.