Give a Damn: Entrepreneurial Tips To Help Screenwriters Build a Fan Base

By February 7, 2014 One Comment

Creating something people love takes passion, dedication and commitment. You might think you have a brilliant idea for a script, but what happens when it doesn’t resonate with people in the way you wished?

Tech education startup General Assembly hosts a course called “Make Something People Love,” in the form of a video class taught by Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian that details instructions on how to make a product people will actually use and share.

The video’s main points, however, are also valid in discussing entrepreneurship for screenwriters. A truly great screenwriter reaches readers in countless ways, on both surface levels and emotional ones.

Create something people love

In offering an overview, General Assembly notes that the product has to be good, because the world is competing with cat videos on the internet, which take away from that limited resource of user attention. The same applies for screenplays; if the script is no good, doing something else — literally, anything else — seems like a better option than reading it, watching it onscreen or engaging with it in any other way. Your script has to be good if you don’t want the reader to put it down in favor of a Law & Order marathon.

Impressions matter 

The video also suggests that the product and its creator should make a good first impression. For some people, this is where agents and managers come in. Your representation is there to offer validation, but just because you may not have representation doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t break through. The primary focus should be on making an impression with your appearance, your script and your CV. By looking the part, you can show producers and audience that you mean business. Keeping your script free of typos and small errors tells readers you’re a professional, and showing that you have practical experience through internships, work history or volunteer work is a great way to establish credibility.

Earn respect

On a related note, the General Assembly video points out that “No one wants to use your website.” The idea here is that you have to earn that desire to see what you’re reading. Thousands of scripts circulate Hollywood on a daily basis, but Quentin Tarantino’s leaked script is in demand because he has a unique voice and vision, and has already garnered the credibility to make it a desirable product.

Build your community

Community is an interesting facet of screenwriting. In this context, it means being good to all the people who support you, in an effort to drive attention to your project. Think about the emergence of Kickstarter, and specifically, about how millionaire Zach Braff was able to get people to contribute money to allow him to have full creative control on Wish I Was Here, his follow-up to Garden State. People were quick to say that Braff was taking advantage of his fan base, but I prefer to take a more optimistic stance. Through rewards comprised of constant updates from set, advanced copies of the film and offers to attend the film’s premiere, he effectively leveraged his community…and the community that Garden State created…in order to help finance the film.

Connect with your audience

In tandem with community, screenwriters should also make a sincere effort to make their followers and fans feel connected. In the age of social media, there are very few excuses for not connecting with people who matter – fans and friends who comprise your network. If your answer is that you don’t have time, then think of staying connected as a natural step in your artistic process. In doing so, you will also be better able to gauge your audience’s wants and desires. Remember, around the world, there are high-level executives paying thousands of dollars to take courses in what it means to be authentic toward their audiences. As a writer, you already have a distinct advantage in that you understand what it means to use your voice authentically.

Design your brand 

The business course also discusses design. In screenwriting, the business equivalent doesn’t necessarily mean package design, but instead, voice and vision. For example, Kevin Smith’s fans have a sense of what to expect when going to watch a Kevin Smith film. Same with Clint Eastwood or Martin Scorsese. They’ve been able to package their work into a type of brand, which is extremely important in order to guarantee success in the business world.

Create content people want to share

General Assembly then encourages its users to “Go on the Offensive” by creating content people love and will want to share. Obviously, this means writing good scripts. But, it also means keeping your community engaged through social media, in-person networking and real relationships. Using humor is a great way to capture peoples’ attention.

Do something awesome

Finally, the video suggests screenwriters should do something exceptional for their users. Ohanian implores you to “give a damn.” It’s not about you as much as it is about the people around you. Work with them, take their feedback, and reward them when they’ve been good to you.

These ideas can offer screenwriters the tools they need to help them engage in the business of screenwriting. It’s true that the best work will make its way into the hands of agents and managers, but creating something people love will help get it there much faster.

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