There Are No Shortcuts to Becoming a Working Screenwriter, Three Tips for Success in Hollywood
All too often people seem to think that you can become successful “by accident” — that by simply starting a funny blog or Twitter account, Hollywood will come knocking and give you millions. Unless you’re the child of a studio head or a famous actor, success comes from unbelievable amounts of hard work and dedication (and if you are, you probably don’t really need to read NoFilmSchool). A recent Los Angeles Times article about “Twitter sensation” Kelly Oxford (who just sold a spec script and has a new book deal) seemed to suggest that her stardom is merely due to her Twitter account, and not her years of hard work. In a fairly inspiring post, she sets the record straight, and in the process gives some insight into what really leads to success.
Here’s a bit from that post (her emphasis):
Twitter has connected me to other writers. Twitter has given me a fan base that is almost 50 times as large as my original blog. Make no doubt that famous and powerful fans have bolstered my ‘star-meter.’ BUT- There are plenty of other people on Twitter with all of the above and no career in writing. Why? Because none of these things matter if you can’t or don’t produce. No connections can get you a pilot sale, or sell your feature screenplay if you don’t fucking WRITE IT AND THEN SELL IT.
Her advice to aspiring writers out there?:
- Be a good writer. You don’t have to be amazing, but be a very good writer and above all have a point of view. Be honest when you write, because when you try to be something you are not, it shows (and when it shows it stinks)
- Write. Write a lot, all the time. Every day. Re-write. Never show people your first drafts, trust me, it’s crap. The beauty of writing is that you can take 4 days to write that one page and make that page so beautiful that people cry/laugh/shit themselves when they read it.
- Get your writing out there. Make videos, start a website. Self-publish and self-promote.
That last point is one of the great things about the advancement of technology and the internet. Anyone can be a screenwriter — you simply write a feature-length script and you’re there. By putting yourself out there, however, and making a website or series of videos — you increase your odds of getting noticed by proving your worth as a storyteller. These success stories are not shortcuts to Hollywood — these are people who are already prolific and are using social media and other outlets not only to make connections with peers, but as an outlet for their creativity.
That’s another important point that writers should consider. It’s not just about how good your work is. It’s no longer a necessity to live in Los Angeles or New York, but you’ve got to be prepared to get yourself out there. The connections you make on the internet will not only be a support structure, but they could potentially lead to a job some day. People like Kelly have used the internet to their advantage to make themselves heard, but if they didn’t already have the hard work to back it up, they would quickly fade away.
Social media might have become a buzz word in the last five or so years, but by using every single social media outlet to your advantage — Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and even Pinterest — you can put yourself ahead of all of those who despise even the mention of those words. Until now, there has never been a time in the history of our culture where you could have immediate access to some of the more successful people in your business, regardless of your current status or lack of success (in this case Hollywood). But that’s exactly what Twitter allows — we can communicate with not only our peers, but those at a level we aspire to reach. Of course, anyone can use social media in this way, so the playing field is far more level than it was even ten years ago.
Kelly is now successful not because of Twitter, but because she was a prolific writer that used social media to her advantage in getting her name out there. Either way, it’s got to start with the writing, so if you’re not already doing it: read scripts, watch movies, and write pages.