How Stage 32 Got My Work In Front Of The Right People & Connected Me With My New Manager!

How Stage 32 Got My Work In Front Of The Right People & Connected Me With My New Manager!

How Stage 32 Got My Work In Front Of The Right People & Connected Me With My New Manager!

Helen Watts
Helen Watts
a month ago

In The Beginning…

Five years ago, I made the bold decision to try my hand at writing for the screen. I had just had two musicals (written with the brilliant composer/lyricist Eamonn O’Dwyer) published and licensed by Samuel French at Concord Theatricals and until that point, my experience was mainly in period adaptations for the stage - it was time for something new. Making the decision was the easy part – trying to execute it was almost impossible! I live in the UK, in the predominately rural west-country, and the TV and film industry, to me, was an enigma. As far as I could tell, you couldn’t get anywhere unless you knew someone – and I knew no one. So how would I break in and get noticed? I tried to get an agent, but no one would read an adaptation of Austen or Hardy, and rather resentfully I knew what I had to do – come up with something original.

How Stage 32 Got My Work In Front Of The Right People  Connected Me With My New Manager

Write What You Love

You hear it all the time – What do you want to write about? Write something you’re passionate about… What do you love to watch? Well, I have always been a huge fan of drama set in the early 19th century… and gin. Was there a drama in that? Definitely! So that’s what I did. I called it ‘London Dry’ and it’s about a female bounty hunter who goes rogue, stealing the identity of a Countess, and due to the failing nature of her new estate has the bright idea to restore the family gin distillery. I had seen about every period film and show out there – many I’d watched more than once! Plus, with two Austen adaptations and a show about Mary Shelley under my theatre belt, I had studied the period well and it took no time to write a sixty-page pilot. The feeling was great. We should never undervalue a first draft. It proves to us that, no matter how good it is, we have done what we set out to do and we are a writer.

Feedback is such an important part when you’re starting and I have used all kinds of feedback services. I justified the expense by treating it like a tutor guiding me to become a writer. At first, it was great, shaping my pilots, and formatting my scripts but then there came a point where I would change my script according to the consultants’ notes, only for the next consultant to want what I had originally written. Sound familiar? It was hugely frustrating, but my conclusion was to get two packages at the same time to factor in personal opinion. It is subjective after all… one person’s love is another’s hate, and I accept that period drama isn’t everyone’s cup of tea! With determination I gradually got to the point where my script ‘London Dry’ was in the top 10% of historical drama on Coverfly - and one reviewer put it in the top 2% of scripts they’d read.

With praise you start to gain confidence, and you start to know what you like and what feedback you agree with. There will always be edits and things to tighten but my advice, for what it’s worth, is once you’ve honed your craft and love what you write then that is the point you need to find people who also love what you write. It’s like in the film Bridget Jones Dairy where, even though Bridget is a bit rough around the edges, Mark Darcy can see the perfection in her and gives her that needed praise to propel her to the end of the film by saying, ‘I like you very much. Just as you are.’

How Stage 32 Got My Work In Front Of The Right People  Connected Me With My New Manager

Stage 32 Pitch Sessions

So, I now had a script I liked, and affirmation from a reader (a writer on five Netflix shows) saying my pilot was ‘ready to pitch’. But where do you do that? As pointed out in the beginning I knew no one in the world of TV or Film, let alone have the means to pitch to a platform. Here is where Stage 32 became the most valuable source I have found to date. I had watched all kinds of webinars on Stage 32, from ‘Television Pilot Story Structure’ to ‘How to Nail the End of Your Horror Screenplay’ but never felt brave enough to have a go at their pitch sessions. Now was the time. I only did the written pitches (due to time differences and possibly fear) and let’s face it, at $35 a go it was an absolute bargain! This was my key to connecting with people. From the beginning, my scores were pretty good, and then I started to get script requests and meetings, and this is how I met my now manager, the phenomenal Alexia Melocchi.

Alexia is a producer, consultant, podcaster, and entrepreneur extraordinaire known well among the Stage 32 community. She consults internationally and it would be fair to say is a mega connector. Luckily for me after reading my pitch and script she wanted to read my other work and was genuinely interested in me as a person as well as a writer. Her book ‘An Insiders Secrets: Mastering the Hollywood Path’ really resonated with me, especially the part about authentic networking and genuine relationships. People like to work with talented people who are nice, and I really liked her.

During our first Zoom back in October 2023, Alexia mentioned another project that her company Little Studio Films was working on. A fascinating story by Alexandra Yacovlef set in London during the swinging 1960s about an elite finishing school called ‘The Monkey Club’. Period and set in London was right up my street! And you guessed it, one thing led to another and not only is Alexia pitching my projects across the world, but I am now the writer on her project ‘The Monkey Club’.

And What Now?

Obviously, I would love for all these projects to be made and to make Alexia proud, but I know that the path to production can be a rocky one, especially in these times. At the moment, through the development company Pendragon Works in the UK, I also work as a story consultant and script editor working with writers to develop their novels for the screen. I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for adaptation and existing IP and there are several exciting projects of various genres I’m working on. And as to my own projects? There’s a romantic comedy/action feature and a period detective series rattling around my brain…

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About the Author

Helen Watts

Helen Watts

Screenwriter, Playwright, Acting Teacher, Script Consultant

Helen is managed by Alexia Melocchi, published by Samuel French (Concord Theatricals) and has a particular interest in historical/period drama.

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