Build it and they will come, right? In other words: just write an amazing screenplay, and producers will start hassling you. Well, not really. And I’m not the only one to disagree with Kevin Costner’s character in Field Of Dreams.
We live in the age of noise. Everyone is trying to get your attention. TV commercials, banners on your favourite website, YouTube ads, in-app advertising on your phone.
The same is happening in the writersphere. Screenwriters are spamming producers; service companies are spamming writers.
Getting someone’s genuine attention has become a tremendous challenge. My default mode is to keep the noise outside, and I suspect the same from you. In order to get access, you will need to come through a door of trust.
Back To Common Sense
If you’re desperate, and you want money from your writing now, you will be susceptible to scammers. They will promise you an agent, to get your script in front of this or that producer, etc. The sobering news is that nobody is going to open the gate of screenwriting heaven for you tomorrow, for money. Why not? Because there is no gate to screenwriting heaven. And if you still believe in it, you’ll have to die first.
To die, in this context means: doing the hard work.
Before answering the calls to adventure from unreliable mentors, think about it critically yourself, first. There are gatekeepers, alright, and you need to know who they are. Once you have identified them, you need to network your way through to them. You may do this in the real world, or online.
Online And Offline
Most will agree that the best networking is still done offline. Unfortunately, you may not have many opportunities to meet your target gatekeepers in the real world. If you don’t live in a metropolitan area – let alone Los Angeles – you are not going to casually bump into the Hollywood decision makers.
The great thing is that online, you can.
Years ago, when Toy Story 3 was about to be released, a friend texted me: “Do you know Lee Unkrich just tweeted you?”. Indeed, the director of the most highly anticipated movie at that time had responded to one of my tweets. It could have been the beginning of a conversation… (After all, if I had been an animator, I would have had a link to my portfolio website right on my twitter page.)
So let’s see what else is possible online.
The Google Truth
Say so-and-so has read your work, and they like it. Before they enter into a collaborative arrangement with you, They’ll want to know more. What do people do when they want to know more about you? They google you. Depending on how many others share the same name, they will find a LinkedIn profile, YouTube video, or Amazon book. In the worst case scenario, the search may lead to some unflattering Facebook photos a friend tagged you in.
Not if you have a portfolio website.
In that case, almost certainly your site will be the first result (unless of course Justin Bieber is their namesake). Your website is the only place online where you fully control how you want to be seen. And if you are the right person to work with for people googling you, this will be clear from your site.
Your website is the first, and most important place to market yourself.
My two most exciting jobs of the past decade both came to me through the website (and it wasn’t even a portfolio website). One was the offer to work on a high-profile feature film. The other, to travel and lecture in Europe. How cool is that?? Both opportunities have opened up subsequent business that continues to this day.
Where Is Your Portfolio Website?
Today, when I google ‘screenwriter website’, on the first page I find the names of Caitlin McCarthy and William Nicholson. Neither I must admit I have ever heard of (although Nicholson co-wrote Gladiator).
But now I have.
If you look for a writer by googling “[their name] screenwriter website”, in 99% of the cases, the right person will be listed first.
Try “Emily Blake Screenwriter website”, and the first listing will be Bambookillers. That’s Emily’s blog. In fact, it’s also her portfolio website, as it lists the screenplays she completed, and those in development. Her last post dates back from 2014, but the website strategy is so powerful that it still lists her site first in Google.
Build Your Portfolio Website, And …
If you build it, they may not come.
If you don’t build it, they most certainly will not come, no matter how loud you scream.
For me, setting up WordPress sites is a hobby that got out of control. Out of the 55+ domain names I own, a few dozen are hosting sites that I built. It all started with this site, followed by Logline It, and The Story Series, (which is moving from an offline course now online).
Leon is a lawyer retiree, who committed himself to screenwriting only a few years back. His site now lists eight screenplays, both original and adapted. If anything, it shows Leon is dedicated, and he works fast. If I were looking for a screenwriter today, these are critical qualities.
The other writer is Lachlan, who is an internationally celebrated playwright. He doesn’t really need the site, because right now he is busy enough as it is. But Lachlan knows that in our industry, things can change at the drop of a hat. At that point, he will have an impressive portfolio online, and Google will honour the seniority of his website, as well as his frequent blog updates, by giving him a prominent ranking.
A good quality website is a potential honeypot for writing gigs right now, while you are saving marketing collateral for the future. It is a no-brainer.
If you don’t already have that portfolio website, consider building it this week. It doesn’t require rocket science, and you can afford it.
In truth, you can’t afford not to have it.
I am hosting a free webinar for writers who would like
to set up their own professional WordPress portfolio website:
Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in acquisition, development and production. He has trained students worldwide, and worked with half a dozen Academy Award nominees. Karel speaks more European languages than you have fingers on your left hand, which he is still trying to find a use for in his hometown of Sydney, Australia. The languages, not the fingers.