Your (Screenwriting) Brand
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of accompanying Final Draft’s Big Break top 3 winners to their industry meetings. When we left Benderspink following an informative and insightful meeting with Daniel Vang, I knew the time had come to commit my thoughts on the matter of screenwriting brand to (virtual) paper.
Some call it Your Brand. Your flavor. Others call you becoming an expert. But everyone refers to the same thing: Identifying the genre or cross genres you’re strongest in, and making a creative commitment for it. Call it a label if you have to. But the bottom line is that everyone coming into the entertainment industry hoping to establish themselves is sooner or later going to have to brand themselves if they are banking on success.
When you’re trying to break in, everyone looking your way is trying to figure out who you are as a writer and what it is that you do best. If they can understand it, they can be of help. They don’t want to see you writing many different genres and executing them okay. What inspires people to hire you, to take you on for representation, is to see you working within the same genre, and doing it great.
Later that same day, David Greenblatt, owner of Green Lit and founder of Endeavor, put it in the simplest of terms: You’re going to be branded one way or another. What’s up to you is whether you’re going to let your reps brand you, or whether you’re going to brand yourself.
Branding will not accompany you for the entirety of your career, or confine you to a single genre for the rest of your days. What it will do is deem you an expert in a certain area, instilling trust in your abilities, and proving that you are a writer to contend with. While there is no question that when we think creatively we do so without boundaries and in many different directions, when we carve out our screenwriting career it must be done with focus and something of a grand plan.
Back at Benderspink, Daniel talked about introducing his writers to other industry execs. He needs to know how to talk about his clients, how to compel industry execs to believe that by meeting this new writer, considering working with them or assigning them a book to adapt, they will be working with an expert. Consistency is key. And, as Daniel explained it, his job is to win his writers fans. If his writers continue to switch genres he has to win them fans over and over again, making his work that much more of a headache.
Writers who fail to brand themselves, who insist on writing across many genres and styles, not only illustrate their lack of understanding for their own strengths (because nobody does everything GREAT) they also put their novice station on display. Branding writers and building their screenwriting career is simply how this industry works. While some reps may not consider repping you until you have two screenplays in a similar genre, others simply look for clarity on the work that lies ahead.
Find a genre that excites you, that you excel in, and make a commitment to it for the first few years of your career. That way, reps won’t be confused as to who you are and what you do when your creative resume comes across their desk, and production execs will be assured of your expertise, that you will be able to execute for them based on your track record. Branding yourself will help you deliver the message about who you are, and inspire trust in others that you know your own strengths, are looking to truly develop a career based on what you do best.