by Fin Wheeler
Having a social media presence is essential to getting noticed, so how can an aspiring screenwriter get the best investment?
There are a million ways to network on the internet. The more time you spend creating and maintaining an online presence, the more time you take from your life, your family and your writing, so prioritizing is vital.
If a producer likes the tone of your query letter, but knows nothing about you, they may check out your online presence before they decide whether to ask you to submit a full script. If they do like your full script, they’re likely to further scrutinize your online profiles and presence before they decide whether to ask you in for a meeting.
Your online profiles need to give producers an accurate and full idea of the type of professional they are dealing with.
The most popular and influential social media platforms are where entertainment companies advertise, so it’s a good idea to focus on those, but there are still too many. Companies have social media teams to maintain their image and brand online, you just have a few hours a week at most. Look at all the social media networking sites, and focus your efforts on a few that best suit your brand and your goals.
Phone or Computer
While researching this article, I came across a startling fact; only 60% of Americans who use mobile phones have a smartphone.
You need a smartphone. Producers, directors and agents will check out your online profiles on their phones as well as their desktops. To create effective pages and feeds, you need to understand their viewing experience, so get a smartphone and download those apps.
Producers don’t want to wait hours or days for a writer to respond to a standard request. If you don’t respond right away, they’ll move on to the next submission and yours could go back to the bottom of the pile. Make sure you get your emails on your phone.
Skype or WhatsApp
Many meetings you have will be by phone or internet (Skype or similar).
WhatsApp has one billion monthly active users and is hugely popular outside America, particularly in Latin America with 42 billion messages sent daily. But in the US there is a strong preference for Skype, so make sure you have a Skype account if you are querying LA producers.
Social Media Networks
Facebook – 1.6 billion users, no growth
Even when you take out all the catfish, the trolls, the con artists, and the fake profiles created by parents trying to get friended by their kids, that’s still an awful lot of users. Even if you’re not a fan of Facebook, you need to have a presence there.
Remember that producers are looking for a mature professional; someone who is skilled, competent, and won’t disclose confidential information. (You will have to sign an NDA for every project you work on.) So don’t constantly overshare every last detail of your life with everyone.
Like most writers, my privacy is important to me. You don’t need to share personal information; you just need to let them get a glimpse of your work ethic and personality. Post links to interesting articles. Post each time you get shortlisted for an award or win one. Producers need to know that you’re a real person who has been developing and nurturing your writing for a few years. Your online profiles can help them form an opinion about you.
Producers don’t just consider the content of your page, but also how much time you spend on it. So, if you spend more time on Facebook than writing, you might want to wean yourself off it.
YouTube – 1 billion users, usage decreasing
YouTube and Vimeo are a great way for aspiring directors to showcase their clips and reels, and that includes writer/directors.
If your focus is solely on writing, a link to a director’s channel of the short film you wrote shows that you’re actively working toward getting your projects made. It also shows that the collaboration between you, the director, and the producer of that short film was a constructive one.
Google+ – 440 million users and growing
If you have a Gmail account, with just one click you can start setting up your Google+ page.
I personally don’t follow other people on Google+, but my page has had 19,000 views. So, it’s well worth creating a page that is easy to read and has just enough interesting content to get people clicking over onto your other sites.
Instagram – 430 million users and growing
I only started using Instagram late last year. Many industry professionals I would meet with early on in my career dismissed Instagram as a breeding ground for aspiring models, actors, and reality stars. The inference was that Instagram was only for those who want a career on camera. If you were serious about being a professional in scripted TV and features, then you didn’t throw up a dozen selfies a day.
I still agree that posting pictures of yourself anywhere on the internet isn’t a good idea for an aspiring screenwriter. The directors and the actors are the face of each project. A screenwriter’s focus is on creating and improving content, not looking for the next photo op. Producers need to see that you understand and respect the way the industry works. But I do think that having an Instagram account can be beneficial for an early career screenwriter.
Producers get to see what kind of audience is interested in you and your content. And because of the layout of the Instagram feed, producers and directors can click on your link, scroll down your page for a minute or two and learn an awful lot about you.
Are high production values important to you? What’s your aesthetic? Do you have a dark, quirky sense of humor, or are you mostly humorless? Whether you post regularly can help form their opinion of your work ethic. And the sort of comments you and your followers leave can help them get a feel for what working with you would be like.
I’ve been surprised by the number of people in the industry who use my Instagram to gain a better idea of me and my work. While it did take a lot of time, effort, and research to decide what type of content would best represent my brand and style of writing, I think it’s turned out to be well worth it.
Only about 20% of screenwriters have an Instagram account, so if you don’t know where to start, who to follow, or what you want to achieve with your feed and profile, I’d recommend you check out the account of Oscar-winning actor Lupita Nyong’o – @LupitaNyongo. You get an excellent idea of her projects, her interests, who she respects and who she wants to work with (the 73 people she follows). As a screenwriter, your focus will obviously be slightly different, but at least you’ll have an idea of where to start.
Another great thing about Instagram is that a lot of very, very rich people use it: investors, family members of people who invest in film, actors, directors, agents, managers, stylists, designers, and any number of people who work in the industry. If you post on a topic you’re passionate about (for me, high-end fashion), other people will find your passion infectious. You never know who will stumble across your feed and love it.
There are a huge number of writers who post about writing. Given that screenwriters aren’t supposed to disclose information about projects, I think it’s a lot less boring to just pick a non-writing topic and post on that.
Check back in for the second half of this article next week!
Fin Wheeler is a member of the Australian Writers’ Guild and has a feature in development.