One thing I didn't realize when breaking into Hollywood was that I had to brand myself. Sure, you have to write good scripts or direct good movies and be a generally good person. But we all know at the end of the day that those things don't matter enough.

Today, we're going to go over the importance of branding.

We'll learn why Hollywood wants you to signify what you're good at, how people get picked for jobs, and the importance of figuring out who you are, to market yourself.

Let's get started.

Isabel_sandoval_bts_of_under_the_banner_of_heavenBehind the scenes of 'Under the Banner of Heaven'Credit: Michelle Faye/FX

What's Your Filmmaking Brand? And How Can You Lean Into It 

I'm learning this lesson in real time. I wrote a post about whether or not Hollywood knows what to do with you, and I consider this a companion piece. In another article,  I wrote about how that journey has not panned out exactly the way I wanted.

So this year, I've been determined to start 2023 with a brand.

People need to associate your name with what you do if you want to have a long career. It doesn't only matter in your line of work, but in the genre and kinds of work that you do in that genre.

Think about your favorite writers and directors. Ari Aster makes inventive horror movies. M. Night Shyamalan makes twisty thrillers. Sarah Polley makes emotional dramas.

M. Night ShyamalanM. Night Shyamalan on 'Unbreakable'Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

So what's the reason for this?

Well, those auteurs have a specific look and feel for their work. But if you're breaking in, you need to take that mentality and apply it to yourself. Aside from Hollywood not recognizing that you may contain multitudes, part of the business is getting on lists.

The way an average person gets hired is that they make something that stands out. Then, they do general meetings all over Hollywood. In these generals, you talk to executives about what you're working on next and the type of projects you want to work on in the future.

After you leave, those executives jot down some notes about you. Then, when a project comes across their desk and they're looking for a fit. If they liked you, then you might make their shortlist.

A shortlist is a list of writers or directors who might be right for the project. You make those lists if you have a clear brand. Because what happens is those lists get pushed to the top of the company and circle their favorites from it. Then, someone will call for the availability of those top picks.

If they are busy, they work down the list until they get to the available people. And from those available people, meetings get set.

If you make that list and are available, then you might get a call.

But if no one knows what to do with you or thinks of you immediately when they're working within a genre, it's going to be very hard to get ahead in Hollywood. It will take a whole slew of possible jobs off your plate.

Stories-we-tell-sarah-polleyDirector Sarah Polley working on her film 'The Stories We Tell'

How do I brand myself? 

It is a little harder of a question. First, it's important to talk with your agent or manager and make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to how you're being portrayed in Hollywood. You don't want to go to meetings and talk about horror movies and hear they're pitching you as the next action person.

Discuss with them and ask them what you should be working on and how to present yourself. While you may not want to be pigeonholed, the time to break in practically requires it. Once you build a string of successes, you can pivot.

If you don't have representation, think about what you're best at and hyper-focus on creating projects that reflect that. Reps want people who know what they want to do, and it makes their job so much easier. 

All of this is subjective. If you have a different opinion, I'd love to know more. I can only pull from my journey. For me, branding is what's been opening doors. And it's what my new reps are focused on for 2023.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.