You may have heard the advice that a writer needs to develop a “body of work” before pitching to Agents, Managers and Studio Execs etc. Even though I do agree with that piece of wisdom, having 2-3 completed scripts is only half of the equation.
The other part of this equation is a BRAND.
And by “a product” I mean YOU THE WRITER.
When a writer pitches a script or a project they are also pitching themselves. We have all heard this piece of advice in some form. But what does that mean exactly? How do you pitch yourself as well as your project?
Remember the industry is first and foremost a BUSINESS. So when a writer pitches themselves to the industry, they need to consider how/where they fit in this business. To thrive in any business, a product (A SCREENPLAY) needs a brand (A WRITER) that can sell. Why?
PRODUCT + BRAND = SELL
Just look at your own shopping habits. Do you buy all your food shopping from a particular supermarket? Do you buy economy size or luxury? Do you wear a particular brand of clothing? If so, why? Your shopping habits are a product of marketing, you are its target audience and the same thinking can be applied to your writing and yourself as a writer.
Imagine you’re on the other side of the table. You are the Exec, Producer, Manager, Agent etc – what will you be looking for? The project being pitched just scratches the surface. They’ll be just as interested to learn what you can offer as a writer as in what’s actually being pitched.
The vast majority of attendees at pitching events, hear pitches for a day or two and already have a slate of projects in development. So the chances of a writer getting their project sold or greenlit are slim. What they are really looking for are new voices and upcoming writers who they can work on the projects they already have.
That being the context, the question often arises: “What else do you have/What else are you working on?” and by thinking of your writing as a brand places this question in a whole new perspective. That’s why it’s essential to have a “body of work” but more importantly, a “body of work” that shapes a BRAND.
Shows like Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice, despite being for entrepreneurs, share the same goal as you do as a writer. The next time you watch either show (or for just for this exercise) dissect the structure of a business proposal being pitched. What can you take away from that? Why were they successful or not? Are they convincing? Do they know their subject matter? Do they know their market? And consider how can you apply these qualities to your pitch as a writer.
You probably may be thinking why should I – THE WRITER – do this? That’s what Agents and Managers do surely? Well, if a writer who has 1 or 2 well-revised scripts and a further 2 in development that creates a BRAND are easier to “sell” than those who don’t.
Now imagine you are consulting with your Agent or Manager. To have a writer with a clear niche or brand can help them find buyers for your work. It’s a win-win situation as it demonstrates, you understand the business side of this creative industry.
An agent’s job is to find work for their clients. And how do they do this? Keeping the business analogy alive, they are the supermarket or retail store that promotes a writer (a BRAND) to potential buyers (Directors, Producers, Execs.) Can you see the difference this makes?
Your brand doesn’t have to be complicated – it could be that you write a particular genre and hence have mastery over a hybrid that we haven’t seen before. Or it could be something deeper and your stories have a recurring theme or told from a unique POV that hasn’t been seen before. As a writer, you have the potential to create a “body of work” that reflects this. And this can become something that can work in your favor.
If you are unsure what you can use to create your BRAND, take some time to examine your scripts and see what they have in common. Do you receive the same positive note within your feedback from various sources? What life experience do you have that influences you as a writer and makes your voice unique?
For those who may struggle with the “business side” consider it like online dating. The dating site will be an Agent/Manager and it’s their job to pair you up with a potential match. How do they do this? It’s all based on your profile and what you add. The site will then present you with their findings and the rest is left to the individuals.
Always remember: SELL YOURSELF AS A WRITER, not just the script.
Scott Baker is a screenwriter and script reader who loves horror. Having co-written and produced several short films, he is currently writing and producing his first feature-length film. Scott also works for the London Screenwriters Festival.