by Fin Wheeler
Unlike most social media platforms, where aggressive self-promotion is the accepted norm, Pinterest is all about the soft sell. It can also be utilized as a screenwriting craft tool.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are considered online storefronts. Our posts do give an indication of our personalities and interests, but mostly they reinforce the idea that we’re screenwriting professionals ready and willing to be hired for our next writing gig and/or pitch or latest spec project.
Pinterest isn’t so much a storefront as a virtual back room, or shed. It’s a no-buy zone in an era of constant consumerism and hard sell.
What It Is
If you’re not familiar with Pinterest, users create boards (virtual photo albums). You can look at, ‘like,’ and follow other users and pin photos from their boards onto one of yours.
Over 80% of Pinterest users are female, which creates a less predatory vibe than some online platforms. Users are more likely to take a leisurely look than they are to make snap judgments and never return.
What It Does for Creatives
Users can let their guard down and get to know you as a person without fear that you’ll try to sell/pitch to them (or hit on them). Designers, artists, and writers use Pinterest to impart their philosophy, outlook, and interests.
How Screenwriters are Different from Other Writers
There are dozens of articles online detailing how novelists can maximize their appeal to users. Screenwriters are in a slightly different boat. Our text is never published.
A novel is considered a success if a few thousand copies are sold, so having thousands of social media followers is something publishers take seriously. Not so for screenwriters.
First, if a TV show only had a thousand viewers it would be considered an abject failure. Second, actors and directors are primarily used to promote a film or TV series, not a writer.
Generally speaking, screenwriters aren’t required to be audience draw cards. We only have to make one sale per project (to the producer, who then has to sell us and our spec to the investors), so we need to market ourselves differently.
Personally, I use Pinterest more as a craft tool than a marketing one.
Back in Hitchcock’s day, attention spans and expectations were different. A screenwriter could take two minutes to show a plane dusting crops, before it zeroed in on the protagonist and attempted to mow him down. It’s easy to figure out how to use two pages to write that action.
These days we have phantom cameras, and the audience is attuned to accepting multiple streams of information each second. A second is 24 frames of film. A page is 60 seconds. That’s 1440 frames per page.
As screenwriters, how do we keep up with that break-neck pace? How do we fit descriptions of all that detail into each 60 second page?
We’re also constantly told that we need more action, more motion and less “talking heads” in our scripts. At the same time, we’re supposed to have a lot of white space on the page.
For me, still photography allows me to step away from the dialogue and the relentless need for movement and action. A photograph distills a moment, and when we write a script, that’s exactly what our description has to do.
Whether it’s taking your own photos or looking at still images online, photographs can bring a screenwriter back to basics. It can help clear away the visual white noise.
Another way I use Pinterest to work on my screenwriting craft is by curating images. I create a board, pick a visual theme/motif (a color or object) and riff on it for 5,000 images. In the same way your screenplay explores and expands its theme, so your board plays with its visual motif.
Pixar does essentially the same thing — they make mood reels to find the tone and visual feel of each project.
A feature film and/or a television series is very, very long. How are you going to keep your theme fresh and interesting? What complexities are you going to bring in? Are you going to weave multiple themes together? What sections are muddy and boring? Why?
As writers we often hide our weaknesses behind a wall of words. Working with pictures, rather than text, means that you can really focus on strengthening those thematic muscles and not let them atrophy beneath linguistic cleverness.
If producers and agents like your writing sample, the next two things they’ll want to know are: (1) are you professional and (2) could they work with you day in and day out?
Pinterest boards are always half-done, they’re a work in progress, so producers can see how neat or messy you are during the rewrite process. (Some producers prefer a writer who is comfortable with the open mess of a radical rewrite, some prefer constant order. Each to their own.)
Your range of boards, and their subject matter, can also show a producer what common interests you both share. Suddenly you’re not just another aspiring screenwriter pushing yet another spec; you’re a fellow fan of an obscure architectural movement.
Creating mood boards for each of your specs might help you, but it’s best if you keep these boards secret. Production designers and directors don’t appreciate it if you try to dictate exactly what everything should look like.
When you understand what Pinterest can do for screenwriters, and you use it effectively, it can be a great craft and business tool.
Happy pinning and writing.
Fin Wheeler is a member of the Australian Writers’ Guild and has a feature in development.