Over 100,000 people worldwide identify as a screenwriter. No wonder it feels so difficult to stand out from the crowd. Unless you win a top ten screenwriting contest that is, which is only 0.1 percent of writers (yes that’s a real number.) So how do we get noticed? Luckily, there is more than one way to skin a cat (instead of saving it 😉!).
1) BRANDING – Build your online presence
This is so important in today’s society. Can you be Googled? As a screenwriter, if you can’t be googled or be the entire first page online then you don’t exist. That’s a problem. You’ll never stand out from the crowd if people can’t find you.
We’ll start with your basics. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You need to post on these at a regular pace that you can handle. For some people that’s 4 times a day per platform for others it’s far less. To avoid posting fatigue try using Buffer or Hootsuite. These will allow you to post to all your social media at once or even schedule them for a future date.
LinkedIn, Mandy, ISA, and IMDB are all a must. Creating complete bios will give you a huge boost to your online presence. After doing this myself, I became the entire first page on Google. To help you build your brand here are 8 Tips for growing your social media presence.
- ISA: use the “My Successes.” It allows you to enter any awards you’ve won which will show up when you are googled. It’s like guilt free bragging.
- LinkedIn: Write compelling blogs on your profile. They populate when you’re searched and give a great first impression.
- IMDB: An IMDB profile will be the first thing that pops up when you are searched. You will be right at the top. I mean come on, that’s just cool.
2) NETWORKING – Your greatest tool
Networking is your greatest asset to success as a screenwriter, bar none. It is what will provide you with more work and help get your name out there. Film Festivals are a great place to meet people at various stages of their careers. Some may be able to open doors where as others may be “lateral networking.” Lateral networking is great. It allows writers to band together, which can lead to future collaborations.
Stage 32, LinkedIn, Facebook, to some extent Reddit are also great places to network online. They allow users to interact with other writers, producers, and directors. You’d be surprised who you can meet at these sites.
- LinkedIn: Become an all-star status by making connections and writing blogs. This can lead to some great opportunities if you actively engage with people you connect with.
- Meetup.com: A great place to join a local writers group. Find talent at local film festivals for future collaboration.
- ISA: Has meetups on wine Wednesdays and every third Thursday at different venues around the world.
- Facebook: There are countless writer’s groups just waiting for you on this platform and they are free!! Here’s Bang2writers, the official B2W Facebook group. See you there!
3) WRITING that killer script – NOT what you think it is
You do need a great script, but you don’t need to win Nicholl’s with it. In fact, I wouldn’t even expect your killer script to ever get made. (Sad, I know.)
What happens is that it becomes your calling card. Producers, directors, and even other screenwriters will fall in love with it and want to work with you on one of their projects. That is how you start to get gigs. Paid gigs! Here is a great post to help you get a jump on How to write a killer script.
- Your subplots should reflect the main plot.
- Create interest in every scene via twists, surprise, misleads, etc.
- NO camera directions.
- Don’t have conflict just to have conflict. It must serve the story or the characters journey.
- Avoid cliché and tropes by taking them and creating something fresh.
4) AWARDS – NOT what you think they are
Like I said, you don’t have to win at the top ten film festivals to make it, but you do need to take that killer script you’ve written and get it out there. Make sure you enter contests within film festivals which have large attendance that will provide ample opportunity to network.
Being an award-winning writer at a festival gives you some street credibility when pitching your work to others. It gives you a bit of prominence and sets you apart because your work has been weighed, measured, and found worthy. Of course, the better known the festival, the more impressive your wins are.
Winning awards also allows you to see where you stand with your peers. Are you 1st place? 2nd place? A finalist? Why? Find out what is working and what is holding you back, so you can continue to succeed and improve your work.
- Many festivals and competitions offer feedback on submissions. These are a great way to improve your writing.
- Always look for similarities when you receive notes from multiple readers. This will cue you in on what’s wrong with your script.
- Try to attend film festivals that you’ve been nominated in because you will stand out from the crowd.
5) STUDY – become the ‘go to’ person!
You need to become an expert at screenwriting. It must be a part of you. The only way to make sure this happens is by studying. Read everything from random scripts to Aristotle. Learn this craft and become that sought out writer everyone wants to talk with at the festival. You’d be surprised how many producers like to chat with a screenwriter that really knows their stuff. It makes networking easier.
The next thing you know, you will be on a panel somewhere talking about our craft. Then you’ll be guest speaking at an event and eventually you’ll be hosting a seminar. Sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it?
It’s true though. There are over 100,000 screenwriters but most of them are casual. Rarely do you meet the writer who takes it to another level. That writer is special. Their knowledge and wisdom of the craft is sought out by others. Become that person. All it takes is a time and effort.
- Read Aristotle’s Poetics. The modern screenwriting masters all quote Aristotle. It’s for a reason. Study him and find out why.
- Read the scripts of those break-out indie movies. Discover what was special about these screenplays that caused them to succeed where others have failed.
- Don’t just watch movies; study them. Break them down until you can truly understand the core of the film.
There you have it. A clear path for you to stand out from the crowd. Nothing on this list seems as impossible or as improbable as winning a big ten contest. Every single one of these steps can be done and lead you towards the path of becoming a working writer. Even writing that killer script can be done.
Is it a lot of work? Yes, but anything worth doing always is.
BIO: Geoffrey D. Calhoun is a multi-award winning screenwriter and founder of wefixyourscript.com where they provide professional feedback with a personal touch. Check them out for a free 15 minute consultation.