A writer writes! I recently had an unpleasant customer experience with the Organization of Black Screenwriters (OBS). In August 2013 I applied for an affiliate membership in OBS. An affiliate membership is for those writers who are not located in the state of California. The notice on the website that I applied through did caution potential members that it would take up to 4 weeks before membership information would be sent out. So, I patiently waited two months.
Early November came and I still had not received my membership information. I then contacted OBS by phone and left several voice mail messages. I then contacted OBS through the listed email contact address. Neither method resulted in someone responding to my inquiries on the status of my membership information. After about 6 emails and 4 phone calls without a response, I decided it was time for more action on my part. I first attempted to cancel the credit card charge by which I had paid for the membership. But, the credit card company explained that it was too late to do so citing 60 days had elapsed. I then decided to complain through consumer agencies.
I filed a complaint through the Better Business Bureau of Silicon Valley. They contacted OBS but did not get a response. I then contacted another BBB, sent another volley of emails to OBS to include adding the names of OBS Board members to the email request for a refund of my money. Finally I went to the OBS website and raised my issue through several posts on the website and by rating OBS one out of five stars on the website. After my third post on the website, someone finally sent me an email apologizing for my membership info not being sent to me. The explanation was that OBS was a volunteer organization, and that they sometimes don't get things right. My membership information apparently was sent to the wrong email address, even though they had the correct address in the body of the letter. Someone typed in the wrong email address before sending out the email. As consolation, I was offered an extended membership or a refund. I chose the refund as I felt an organization that couldn't handle a simple membership request probably, likely would not be much value to me with my being out of state.
Now I will see how long it takes to get my refund! The lesson learned is that OBS might be a great organization for those in California who can attend meetings and network in person. But, for those who are out of state, OBS may not be the best option for aspiring minority screenplay writers. What I have learned from this experience and others is that I should write for myself. I don't necessarily need the feedback of strangers on work that I passionately create. I can learn formats, and structure from a book on my own. But creativity in my writing must come from within me.
I now have no interest in entering screenplay contests or seeking validation from an "organized" writers group where you have to pay membership fees, etc. The simple act of writing doesn't require a formal network. If you are a writer, just write with passion. Write about topics that you care about and have a passion for. This customer service experience has helped me to just have faith in my writing skills. Because as we all know....a writer writes!