By Karin Partin Wells
I thought when I won best comedy last year at ITVFest that managers and agents would
come crawling. I actually checked my emails when I got back to my seat, as a joke in my own head, but a joke I truly believed in, thinking the requests would come pouring in. That’s what we believe, right? That if we win a screenwriting contest, our career will be made, full access to Hollywood, we’ll have that perfect representation team and all our dreams will come true. Right then, at that moment, after the acceptance speech.
Well, nothing happened. No emails begging to read my winning script, no requests from
managers, agents or producers. Nothing random, that is. I still had to make use of my own contacts, use the contest win to sell myself and hope somebody cares. That’s the case with most contests. You win and you use the winning script to market yourself. You’re still on your own.
But ITVFest is different. They guarantee a meeting with HBO for the script contest
winners. And while I got hives waiting the three months for the meeting, it was then
rescheduled, and the second time I waited three months I, for once, followed my own
advice, which is, “don’t practice what you’re going to say, just have a conversation.” It’s
massively hard not to rehearse. You write the script, the one-sheet, the series bible, the pitch deck, you go over what you’re going to say again and again, but you must forget it all! You must do less! Or you’ll get tripped up trying to say what you meant to say, instead of just being yourself and talking about the project you know and love. The meeting went well, I made them laugh a bit, which is all anyone can hope for, and the beautiful thing is they’d already read my pilot going into the pitch meeting, so we were able to discuss my writing and my goals. They offered to put my script on an unnamed someone’s desk, a really funny comedy genius hero of mine making shows at HBO, for the next time he needs to hire someone for his writer’s room. And I can reach back out to them with my new projects! What a crazy open door that is. I can’t even wrap my head around the idea that I can ask HBO’s head of comedy development to read my next script.
That’s all thanks to ITVFest for producing an HBO meeting as the winning prize. The
secondary thing that’s guaranteed about ITVFest is the community that Philip and the team have created. The old adage of ‘it’s who you know’ is true but it is not as sinister as that sounds. Successfully getting projects made requires gathering people that want to make work together, who like each other and care about the same themes. The who you know
thing is really about friendship. I gained a multitude of really cool TV people into my
network just hanging out at the festival, going to panels, drinking, chatting, making
friends! I met some producers who were interested in reading my project, which is
animated, who are now on board to do the animation, voices and editing with me.
ITVFest is like camp, where you find your people, your team, your community. And it’s
pretty freaking cool that HBO is now part of the community of people in my life who root
for me and my writing.