You're Not A Screenwriter Until Your Work Has Been On A Screen is quite an obvious statement. In fact I'm sure many reading this will simply click away from it because... well, duh, nobody makes that mistake and it's self explanatory...
Sadly, the reason I've felt compelled to make this my first ever blog on here, is because people do make that mistake and it's such an easy one to fix! Especially in 2018, where film technology has never been more accessible to us!
In fact, the issue really started to niggle at me around August 2016 when I was invited to speak and host panels at a well attended event in London for writers. The talks I attended were informative, the advice being given out was fantastic and overall the event was wonderful... and yet the more people I spoke to at the event itself who were attending as writers who had actually yet to have their work transition into a produced film of any kind.
The longer these conversations went on, the more I realised that there is a disconnect in the training of writers with the reality of writing and making it into a business. The sheer amount of these people who told me the same story, that they were mailing their work to agents and waiting to hear back and then that an actor had asked them to write for them and this actor was the fourth cousin of a Hollywood executive so they were doing it for free... I could go on but I think you get the idea.
Has nobody told any of these people that there's more than one way to skin a cat? That you can be pro-active as a writer and, if you can find like minded creatives when you're starting out, that you can make films together in your different roles?
It's similar to the James Cameron quote about directing, that if you want to be a director grab a camcorder and make a movie. Now you're a director and you're just negotiating on your price and terms! Writers, why not find a friend who wants to be a director, work on a little piece together and then upload the thing to Vimeo or Youtube? Your audience is there waiting for you!
Is that not more pro-active than sending a script, on spec to people you barely know? Than leaving your hopes and dreams of being a writer in the hands of an agent who may be reading your submission as number 35 today...
I'm not saying don't do that but why not do that alongside clips of films you've produced? Why not utilise the wonderful film festival platforms and see if any festivals around the world might screen your film? Build a portfolio of produced work!
And in so doing, you've solved the central problem I'm arguing... you can actually call yourself a screenwriter because your work has been on a screen. It's an insurmountable fact, people can watch it, like it, hate it or even share it.
It's a proof of concept trailer for your abilities and it's establishing that you're not a dreamer, you are a do-er. I feel like writers can sometimes shy away from self promotion but really it's about putting yourself out there with your ideas in whatever way you can. In the same way as a start up business pursues leads and generates enquiries, your writing is your product and you must become a business.
The best place to start, is by investing in yourself and making short films for online. Get your ideas in front of an audience. Look where the Sci-Fi London 48 Hour Challenge got Gareth Edwards... and he only won it 8 years ago...
Where will you be in eight years?
Get on amazing community sites like Shooting People, or there's plenty of writers groups on facebook, enrol in a short course with Raindance maybe. Start thinking about making it happen for yourself!