By Lee Hamilton
The way people consume content is continually changing and for storytellers, that means more creativity! Busy lives, people being more on the go, and shorter attention spans have all led to a surge in short-form content being watched by hundreds of millions of people all around the world. As the ultimate goal of both screenwriters and filmmakers is to get as many people as possible to watch their stories, the popularity of this format begs the question: can the likes of TikTok, YouTube Shorts, and Instagram be a viable way to break in?
Traditionally, ‘breaking in’ meant selling a script to a Hollywood studio or pitching it to production companies in order to turn your pilot script into a tv series, but the boom in online content and streaming services has opened up many more doors to aspiring screenwriters. Yes, the old ways still very much exist, but not only are there now more places to pitch too, such as smaller independent studios and streaming platforms, the web has also enabled storytellers to write, produce, market, and distribute their own projects all by themselves, bypassing the big gate-keepers to the industry.
The internet has been populated by creators since its inception. Nothing new there. Web series, fiction podcasts, short film screenings, etc. They’ve all been around for a while now with varying degrees of success. Many successful careers have begun by uploading a viral YouTube video, by finding a niche audience that helped someone get noticed, or by people deciding to build their own brand online. In this business, there’s no single way to break into the industry, which is precisely why although it’s extremely tough, it’s also very exciting!
So, what makes short-form platforms like TikTok different, and more importantly, how can you use them to advance your screenwriting career?
Tiktok content usually comes in the form of pranks, dance, stunts, jokes, and entertainment lasting 15 seconds to 3-minutes (which has recently been boosted to a maximum of 10 minutes in order to compete with YouTube), all with the hope of going viral – which is the key here – getting many eyes on your work is the primary benefit of doing this.
Filmmaker, Madelaine Turner, is probably one of the best know examples of an aspiring filmmaker who’s used TikTok to promote herself. She took to creating mini-movies during the lockdown in 2020 as a means of staying creative. Using the props she had lying around, her own wardrobe, and her home as a location to come up with some “silly internet content”. Doing parodies and using her imagination, her content quickly went viral and she currently has 508.3k followers with her most popular upload sitting at 12.3M views!
With the ability to get 3 million views in a single day, as Madeline did with this collection of vignettes that accompanied audio from The Astrology Album by Gary Usher, maybe the question should be why wouldn’t an aspiring screenwriting/filmmaker jump on this platform and start creating!
It’s all about showcasing your talent. Promoting yourself. Building a portfolio of work. The attention garnered on TikTok has led to Madeline landing a manager, working with agents, and she currently has a TV pilot circulating in the industry, but filmmakers are also taking inspiration from influencers and advertisers by using the platform to promote projects still in development too.
Much in the same manner that crowdfunding can help you raise financial backing, a following, and support for a project, TikTok can be used for the same thing too, so you can utilize it to build interest in a larger project as well.