And once you’ve done all of this, pitch your script.
I thought it would be tricky to cede into a workshop on Script Markets my belief that as a human being your primary goal is to improve the life of every person you come into contact with, and that whether the encounter lasts for 3 seconds or 30 minutes, and whether the other person is a stranger handing you a coffee or a colleague with a list of grievances, the goal remains the same, is easy to achieve and is a great way to improve the human condition and thus the World – but cede it in I did, after which we talked about Script Markets, where they can be found, and how a playwright can tap into them.
At the top of the list of Things To Do before you pitch your script to a theatre company, prize or funding body were:
- Write from the heart, always. What are you passionate about, and burning to tell an audience?
- Don’t talk about it – write about it. Instead of “I had this great idea for …” or “I’m thinking of writing …” just start writing.
- Be the writer who is pleasant to deal with, meets deadlines and provides a solution for the company you approach.
- Submit your third, fifth or tenth draft – never submit your first, as it will never be your best.
- To arrive at your best draft, let the Critics in. Seek opportunities to have your script read and workshopped by experienced theatre practitioners who will give you honest and helpful feedback – friends and family will not.
Once you’ve done the above, it’s valuable to do this:
Assuming that you are not in this to find a home for just one script but a career of scripts, you need to become involved in the industry. Get to know a theatre company. Apply for a job with this company – FOH, box office, usher, admin, Assistant Something. If there are no paid positions, or you are already employed elsewhere, offer your services as an unpaid intern, an occasional volunteer or a Festival assistant. It could be for a whole month, once a month or just once. Do your research, find out what the company needs more of, and offer them a Solution. Time spent helping out at a theatre company will open doors and opportunities for you. Companies, festivals and groups you could approach in Victoria include: MTC, Malthouse, Theatreworks, Gasworks, The Butterfly Club, Brunswick Mechanics’ Institute, Red Stitch, Fringe, Midsumma, Australian Writers’ Guild. (And MWT, of course. Come Season time, we love volunteers.)
Once you’ve done that, definitely do this:
Sign up for as many theatre company and arts e-newsletters as possible. This is how you will find out about submission callouts, playwriting competitions, mentoring opportunities, partnerships that will assist you in the mounting of your play, initiatives that will fund the mounting of your play, playwriting festivals, playwriting residencies and playwriting courses. Keep an eye out for Play Readings that will present new scripts – a script’s success at a play reading can open up all kinds of opportunities. Work carefully and patiently with your research. It can take a while to find out who is offering what, but it will be time well spent. Your research should take in the theatre companies of Melbourne, throughout Victoria and in the other states of Australia. A Google search of playwriting competitions in the US / UK / Europe and beyond will bring up more companies and opportunities that you need to know about, and further mailing lists you can sign up for. Look out for opportunities specifically created for writers who live in your municipality, and get to know the major municipal theatre companies in your local area – if you can walk there and work there, you may one day write there. And a piece of advice – avoid reading these e-newsletters on your phone. You will skim over or miss important details and whole opportunities.
And before you can pitch your script, it’s crucial that you do this:
See as many plays as you can in, as many theatres as you can. If you can’t get to the theatre, watch the plays when they are streamed online or search them up on YouTube. Read, read, read as many plays as you can. Scripts are available on Scribd.com, Stagemilk.com and through generalised searching, and you can also read plays at the Redmond Barry Reading Room (State Library of Victoria). If you feel you can’t afford the theatre, being a volunteer usher, eg. at Fringe or Midsumma, is a great way to say shows for free. It’s also a great way to meet theatre practitioners, cast and crew. If you see a good show, read the show program, find out about the company who created it, get in touch with them and offer to assist them with their next show. You will learn a great deal, and when the time comes for you to pitch your new play to this company, they will know who you are. This is likely to give you and your script an advantage over other, unknown writers and scripts.
Once you have done all of the above, you will be ready to contact the theatre company of your choice and start a conversation about the steps you can take to get your play programmed there. It’s a long journey, but it will be worth your while to go on this one.
Melbourne Writers’ Theatre