Every creative executive, agent, manager, and producer is looking for that elusive screenplay that will catapult the careers of screenwriters they work with. They’re looking for the next best thing?
What makes your storytelling lit? This relates to your brand. The essence of your stories is based on your brand. Your brand is your definable style and voice as well as your less definable personal qualities. It is how you present yourself and your work to the film and television industry.
Your brand is what the industry remembers about you, sometimes more than your screenplay itself
Your brand could be something as specific as “the hopeless romantic who loves Latino teen romcoms,” to something as broad as the “the complex, layered character,” or “the quirky comedy” writer. Another way to think about your brand is how you might be pitched to producers when an open writing assignment becomes available. Why do you come to mind?
Eric Fineman from Pascal Pictures is looking for “audacious, bold, urgent, and under-served voices. Passionate writers who find new ways into old mythologies.” He defines his role as identifying new screenwriters and helping them get out of their way to let their stories flourish.
Apart from the usual routes of referrals, contests, and direct queries to get noticed, screenwriters can do more to boost their brand. They can create websites that include posts on their favorite films and screenwriters, their scripts, and any associated artwork or audio compositions. YouTube videos with screenwriting tips and industry updates, readings, testimonials, and interviews also help. Consider your website a dating profile so people can decide if they’re interested in your work.
It’s A Process
The process of creative discovery is often one of trial and error before narrowing it down to one or two genres. This is important, especially when you’re starting out. You can expand your brand when you become more established.
Readers respond more to stories told from the heart than commerciality for newer writers. That doesn’t negate the fact that this is a business and your produced script requires an audience.
Sometimes a screenwriter’s brand could transcend genre, character, and theme. It can be defined by your less tangible qualities such as your attitude to writing. Are you a writer who plays by the rules, faithfully adhering to established screenwriting protocols, or are you more of a freeform writing maverick? Do you primarily want to entertain your audience or is your writing a call to action or a cautionary tale?
Your brand may lie in a specific aspect of the craft. Do you write snappy banter or nail-biting action scenes where no words are spoken? This is important for rewriting assignments. Many studios hire writers specifically to punch up jokes or add those memorable one-liners that become memes.
Consider how the tone of your writing might be described. Is it dark or light? Serious or flippant? Happy or sad? Deep or shallow? None of these are inherently good or bad. It simply a process to better define where you might fit into the industry via the process of elimination.
Your brand might also be defined by your preferred format. Do you lean towards feature film or television? Do you have a penchant for limited series or documentaries? You may even prefer web series, interactive shows, or even video games. Your brand doesn’t mean you have to pigeon-hole yourself into one format forever, but you have to pick a lane at the start of your career.
There is no single or easy way to discover your brand other than by writing. There may not even be an “Aha” moment when everything falls into place. Your brand today may evolve into something else as you progress in your career. Some writers find their niche and stick with it for their entire careers. Are you the next mystery thriller guy, or kooky comedy gal?
Your brand could also be discovered during your writing process. Do you start with a character, a key scene, or a plot? Most often, it’s a combination of all these elements, but the way you lean can help define your brand. Do you have a unique way of researching? Do you prefer live interviews, phone calls, or internet research?
Don’t force it. The process must be organic
Reading also helps you define the parameters of your brand. David Rambo, a writer on CSI said, “As you’re reading, you’re being fed.”
Your brand also refers to your work style and what sort of screenwriting career you want. Do you want to generate your own material or be a writer for hire on? Do you want to work in a TV writers’ room, or do rewrites of feature scripts?
Still stuck? Don’t panic. Take a pause.
Think about your favorite films and television shows. What attracts you to them? How do they inspire your creative process? How do they affect you on an emotional level? Where do they intersect with your life and personal experience? Be honest and vulnerable to opening up. This is the source of the best stories.
Look for ways to stand out from the crowd. Are you a comic book artist, a musician, or an actor. Broadcast these qualities to make you more of a 360-degree artist.
Some screenwriters create lists to help define themselves. These are not always their favorite films and TV series. They could be your favorite soundtracks, fashion retailers, food and drinks, sports, vacation destinations, museums, or hobbies. Many of these lists should stay in your personal diary because they are more designed to solidify your thoughts than being made public. However, a list of what’s in your Amazon Prime queue provides some insight into who you are.
Look at your social media accounts. Do you Tik Tok or Tweet? Are you an influencer or a follower? Are your posts facts, opinions, or mantras. It’s a useful exercise to look at who follows you too. Your connections reveal something about you.
The main point of establishing your brand is to create an underlying pattern of your work and to influence how you want to be perceived in the industry.
Your brand creates an expectation for the world, so build it wisely and update it regularly.