Can a tech geek become cool enough to work in tv and film?



April 16th, 2011 by Kat Kingsley-Hughes

Can a borderline aspie tech geek transform themselves into a sociable screenwriter?

Can it be done? I ask myself this a lot. Whilst I can say that I'm trying to do this, I have no idea if I can actually achieve it. Writing this is the first step of trying to change what most people would consider very fundemental aspects of personality and character.

Most people like me tend to find a 'spot' in life where they can stay safe and secure. I found mine along with my husband in writing tech books, designing and programming multimedia sites and developing and teaching technology courses. It was awesome. We achieved it all together. We were a great team. He then got a job elsewhere - who can blame him for taking a great opportunity when it came along? Eventually it was taking up all of his time leaving no time for our projects. I carried on alone but gradually felt more and more sidelined as his half of our last name became more known than mine. We still worked together of course, that has never changed, but I was more and more like his assistant. And yes, this grated a little, or more truthfully, a lot. Striking out on my own was frankly terrifying. But I had seen so many wives in my position just give up and become a permanent fixture in their husband's shadow. I remembered my own mother telling me that I had to do things differently to her and to the previous generations of women in my family. And I had to teach my daughters the same.

Out of the blue in 2009 I signed up to do a Masters degree in Screenwriting. I can honestly say that I do not know from where the impotus to do that came. It was something that was not on my radar. I have written articles outside of tech of course and I consider myself, like most geeks, to be a full-blown story junkie (which I've written under a pseudonym until quite recently). But I really had no idea where the idea to embark on a screenwriting course came from. That I was accepted onto the course was an even bigger surprise. But apparently working in one area of the media easily translates - at least on the surface - into other areas of the media. According to one staff member at the university I seemed like the right fit as screenwriting is a combination of technical writing and story. From my point of view of course it did not look nearly so cut and dried. Starting out I realised I had a vast chasm to cross. Two years later, I still do.

The first residential course in 2009 for me was a real trial and I baulked at the first fence. I didn't have enough personal understanding of why I was there, my social skills were rubbish and being in a foreign environment for long days was just too much for someone like me - I was suffering the social consequences of working via the internet and writing within a partnership for over a decade. I resolved to spend the next year working on my social skills, improving my fitness and learning more about the world of the arts - which felt like a vast chasm in its own right from my safe perch in the world of science and technology. I joined a gym, went out to undergraduate classes in literature and screenwriting run by my local university's extra mural studies department and I took Open University courses in Creative Writing.

I made it through my second run at the residential course (mostly by being blatently honest about the difficulties I'd had the year before and by explaining where I'd come from in the world of shut-in geekery). In the first year of my course I have worked on understanding the nature of writing for the screen, and I'm at the stage now of realising just how very much more there is to learn. During the year I've continued to work on my people skills to some degree, but again it seems like the more I learn the more I realise I need to know. I've taken courses through Raindance and attended the London Screenwriter's and Comedy Writer's Festivals. And now as I near the end of the year, I sense that I am that much closer to venturing into the world with a qualification in screenwriting and with some aspiration to use it.

Of course any form of writing is largely a solitary activity and I am comforted that nothing really changes in that aspect of my life. But working as a screenwriter means sitting at large conference tables in crowded rooms thrashing out ideas and storylines. Screenwriting is also in large part about networking, which means meeting and socialising with all kinds of cool, artistic people. These people have Macs (and not because they want to use them to compare operating systems or for testing; these people ONLY have Macs!) They eat at exotic restaurants, wear designer labels and name-drop furiously (how DO they remember SO many people, let alone their work and connections?) I'm not a social person. I find social occasions very stressful and, like most people with the same problem, I try to avoid them.

I ask myself often why the hell my brain is betraying me by choosing to go into a field that is in direct violation of the number one rule of socially inadequate geeks: avoid going into social situations, unless it's with other socially inadequate geeks.

I will be honest, at this stage I cannot imagine that I will ever be able to cope, let alone that this could ever come naturally enough to be a normal part of my life. But I also believe that I can change this. I am intelligent, great at analysing and very capable of learning new things. I have a lot of personal development skills that I've put to good use in getting to where I am already. So it should be possible!

Which brings me to my purpose for writing this. To ask the question of my fellow nerd-kind: can a tech geek become cool enough to work in tv and film?

This entry was posted on Saturday, April 16th, 2011 at 3:41 pm and is filed under Writing. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

6 Responses to “Can a tech geek become cool enough to work in tv and film?”

  1. Lucy Says:

    Every screenwriter needs to look at Kal Bashir's excellent 510 stage hero's journey material at http://www.clickok.co.uk/index4.html

  2. David K Says:

    Yeah! You can do it. Not sure about 'these people' though. :/

    I use a mac.. :p

  3. Thom Says:

    Social difficulty is an increasingly problem for IT workers who get isolated but overcoming it is possible. Get out often. You may need to force yrself. But its worth it. There's lots of resources online if you search.

  4. Kathie Says:

    Thanks Lucy. I am familiar with the Hero's Journey - a book I read several years ago. Very inspirational. Thanks for the link. It's interesting to see the synopses switched about like that.

  5. Kathie Says:

    @David Haha yeah sorry got carried away with the geekness there. Ooops!

  6. Kathie Says:

    @Thom Yup I'm beginning to formulate a plan. The 'crash and burn' method seems to be favorite. Just going out and introducing myself to people regardless of whether I succeed or not. No matter how ghastly that actually sounds to me - ugh! Eventually it should get easier. Theoretically. Have you noticed how most of the geeks who have this problem are guys though? Am I the only geek girl who suffers from this???

%d bloggers like this: