2019 will go down in history as the year screenwriters fired their agents. But could it also go down in history as the year screenwriters finally got the respect they deserve?
As someone watching from the sidelines while the WGA standoff continues, I can’t help but be proud of all of you writers who worked so hard to get an agent, only to stand by your fellow creatives and fire those people who have been your supposed lifeline to paid work. But in what you’ve lost, you seem to have found so much more: you may not have needed those agents after all because you’re doing so much of the hard work yourself. You’re standing up for yourself, championing your work, and doing a dang good job at making connections and strengthening the bonds in the writing community. I, for one, am LOVING the confidence I’m seeing emerge from writers.
Of course, I know it’s not easy. It has never been. But is now a better time than ever to take control of your writing destiny?
Jeanne V. Bowerman thinks so. She’s a screenwriter and the Editor-in-Chief at Script Magazine, and she’ll be teaching a course on the topic of making connections in Hollywood at the upcoming Central Coast Writers Conference September 26-28, 2019 in San Luis Obispo. You can still register for the event here. More specifically, she’ll teach you how to “remote in” to the movie-making world, no matter where you are, no matter your representation. Because technology 😊.
During a preview webinar for her master class “Navigating Hollywood From Outside of L.A.,” she revealed some of her secrets.
“When I joined Twitter in 2009, everyone was really friendly and nice and happy,” she said. Twitter, of course, has become the epicenter of #WGAStaffingBoost, the viral hashtag that’s helping writers connect with shows and movies currently staffing writers, in lieu of agency representation. “It was a fun place to be because you used to be able to make a connection that you can carry on in real life. But how do you do that now without looking like a stalker or crazy person?” Now, she said, you must take your online network offline, and try to meet people in person.
“Every time I go to LA, I make sure I meet with the people who I met with last time and meet with someone else as well,” she said.
And more than ever, networking is not only about YOU making connections for yourself but about you making connections for others.
“Always pay it forward,” Bowerman said. “Say you’re going to be in LA or Chicago. Find people in your network who you think could use each other. If you know an actress, and you also know a casting director, invite them for drinks. If they feel like you’re doing something that comes out positive for them, it makes them feel warm and fuzzy about you, and they see you as someone who is collaborative and not just about me, me, me.”
You have to work harder, be more methodical, and prepared about your process, she added.
She also said writers should be careful about the way they engage on social media if that’s where they’re making connections. “One of the first things [producers] do is go to your social media to see if you’re a looney toon crazy bird,” she said. “It’s about how you present yourself and how you choose to engage in conversations online. How do you engage with other people? Are you somebody they want to deal with?”
Other tips? Build a website. Put up samples of your work, whether it’s a YouTube link to your film, a personal essay, a blog post, or anything else that shows you know how to tell a story.
“I had people approach me for jobs because they saw my blog. And then when [my writing] came out in Writer’s Digest, I had a screenwriting agent call me and say, ‘I love your work, I love your voice.’”
Bowerman also recommends building a one-sheet that features your story’s synopsis, your logline, and your contact info, because you may get an opportunity to pitch to lower-level people. “Write it down, so you don’t rely on them to remember your pitch when they go to their boss.” Adjust your one-sheets based on the stories producers are looking for.
She’ll offer up more tips during her 6-hour master class at the Central Coast Writers Conference, “because there are as many ways to break in as there are people who want to break in,” she said.
We’re in the golden era of content, and if you ask me, there has never been a better time to make your dreams come true if you have the will to do it. All it takes, in the words of Jeanne Bowerman?
“Just don’t suck.”
I’ll leave it at that,
Courtney Meznarich, Director of Community Outreach