A resume is needed in every field. It’s also needed for nearly every position in the film industry, too. So why do screenwriters feel they are the exception? Could it be that a screenwriter thinks the “RESUME” is actually their “SCREENPLAY”?
I think so. But an employer looking to hire you for a project doesn’t have the time or the desire to read 120 pages from your script. The employer has an inbox of OVER 300 applicants all applying for the same writing position.
So how can a screenwriter stand out? Creating an economical “screenwriting resume”.
How a resume is written is and will be debated in every line of work – and screenwriting is not the exception. So what I’m going to do is list 12 “Overview Points” that will help you craft your next screenwriting resume. Think of this as what you would include in the body of the e-mail (not the actual PDF attachment). This is where you will give the employer a taste of your screenwriting experience, skills, and awards.
Please note: No single screenwriter should use ALL 12 of these “overview points”. It’s at the screenwriter’s discretion which ones they feel highlight and promote their skills the best.
Please also note: This list is based off of my own screenwriting experience in this industry, and most importantly, my role as the Founder at Screenwriting Staffing, where we help screenwriters find PAYING work on a daily basis.
- ONLINE PRESENCE. Let’s not be coy. If you can attach a link to your work/credits where an employer can immediately validate your authenticity, then that’s your ace in the hole. So if you have an IMDb, this is where you would list it. You would also want to list your website or Facebook “fan” page here. But don’t stop there. Attach any and all sites you operate or are highly involved in. List your Blog, Twitter, & Linkedin Profile. Companies want to know you “exist”, and that people actually care what you have to say. They also want to know you can be used as a marketing tool if and when the project gets made.
- CREDITS. Whether you have an IMDb or not, this is where you list your credits – but NOT all of them. List the most recognizable films (no more than 3) that were made. List the Production Company, year it was made, any “recognizable” actors/directors who were a part of it, and any awards/attention it garnered. (note: this section should be used for “spec” scripts you sold, not work-for-hire).
- If you have had a collection of scripts made (commercial, shorts, music videos) but none would be familiar to the average person, you can write: OVER 12 scripts produced to screen, including features, shorts, a web-series and an infomercial, for example.
- ONLY have 1 script produced to screen? No worries. Exploit the hell out of it. Attach the youtube or vimeo link to your resume.
- If you have NOT had any produced work, but have had scripts optioned and/or purchased, go ahead and list them here, following the same format.
- COMMISSIONED WORK. A producer always likes to know someone rolled the dice on you already and it paid off! This is where you will list your previous commissioned screenwriting jobs. Be sure to list your job title (Co-writer, Script Doctor, Story Ideas), the duration of the project, and the company/producer who commissioned you. You do NOT need to list how much you were paid. Just like the “CREDITS” section, ONLY list up to 3, and be sure to note any awards or celebrity attachments to the project.
- DEGREE. This section is hit or miss, but when it’s a HIT, it really is a HIT! Some employers absolutely demand their screenwriters have a degree. Some ONLY care about experience. Regardless, if you have a screenwriting-related degree (especially from a reputable film school) list it! List your major, any professor mentors you worked under while there, and graduation date. Film school students have different experiences, but if your’s was a success, where your student films garnered national attention, graduated top of your class, list it.
- NOT everyone goes to film school. So I wouldn’t turn down this section just because your degree was in something else, but be reasonable. So, if your degree had anything to do with writing, arts, film, etc., then I’d add this to the resume, otherwise, someone with a nursing degree should leave this section out – at least that’s my opinion.
- I also encourage newer writers (or writers with no formal education) to list screenwriting workshops, conferences, and online classes they have attended and/or participated in.
- SCREENPLAY CONTESTS. This is another hit and miss. But there is a community in the entertainment industry who considers winning or placing in screenplay contest a huge honor. I don’t care how big or small the contest was, if your script WON, promote it, list it! List the contest title, the genre you won in, and the year/month. Be sure to list the script’s title that won, too. You never know when a company might ask to take a peak.
- If your scripts have NEVER won in a contest, but placed, go ahead and still list them. I wouldn’t dwell on it, and make it the highlight of the resume, but it’s definitely enough of an accomplishment to do a little bragging.
- EXPERTISE IN SUBJECT MATTER. For example, if you see a job ad on Screenwriting Staffing’s Job Board looking for a screenwriter to write a sports movie about baseball in the Midwest, and you are from (or live) in the Midwest, and you grew up playing some serious baseball, this may be something to tell the employer. If you have a screenplay already (produced) that revolved around baseball, this may be your golden ticket to the job. So don’t be shy if you have actual real world (or writing) experience in the listed subject matter. But please, do NOT exaggerate your connection or relationship with the employer’s subject matter to get the job – it NEVER works.
- OTHER PUBLICATIONS. If your resume is chock-full of amazing screenwriting skills, experience, and credits, I’d leave this part out. But if most of your writing success has come from other forms of writing, list it, and be damn proud of it. This is where you would list your most accomplished publications – books, articles, short stories, and poetry. Remember, this section is essentially here to add more credibility and diversity to your writing career – but it’s in no way a testament to your screenwriting ability, so don’t spend TOO long listing out your 25+ online articles.
- OTHER PUBLICATIONS, CONT.. If you have any published work that’s screenwriting-related, this is the section you would promote it. This would include any books you have written regarding screenwriting or the film industry, articles for a reputable digital screenwriting magazine, and/or a VERY popular blog you offer to the public in regards to writing and film-making. I’d also go a step further and say if you have ever been “interviewed” by a publication regarding your films or screenwriting services to go ahead and list it here.
- AGENT/MANAGER. First, let’s be clear: Agents help with selling your work, finding assignments, and negotiating contracts. Managers nurture and guide a screenwriter’s career. A lot of people think this section is pointless. Why? They think if you have an agent why would you need to be sending out your own resume? Well, just ask any “average Joe” screenwriter – with an agent – how often their agent finds them “paid” assignments. I digress. Point is, list your agent and/or manager here. If your agent has sold some work for you, share this with the employer. But at the end of the day, this section is only to give validation to your screenwriting career. Having a literary agent is quite an achievement. But do be careful about flaunting this. There are indie producers who do NOT want to work with agents and managers. So do your due research before advertising this accomplishment. (note: you can always negotiate it where the contract is done between you and the producer, not the agent).
- ENDORSEMENTS. Having the right entertainment professional endorse you can be a huge selling point in your career. So what kind of endorsements should you post here? If you wrote a screenplay (or did some sort of screenwriting work) for a producer and the producer LOVED your work, quote their endorsement. If a screenwriting professor sent you an outstanding recommendation letter via e-mail, share a brief piece of it. If some local newspaper wrote a positive review on your film, copy and paste some of the review in this section. These are just examples. Endorsements can come from all over. But endorsements are of NO use if the person endorsing you is not at least somewhat “well-known” in the industry. (note: NEVER put an endorsement on your resume (or website) without having asked the endorser first.)
- OTHER SCREENWRITING EXPERIENCE. Depending on your background, this part can be the MOST important part on your resume. This is where you would list any sort of experience that deals directly with screenwriting/development, but NOT as THE screenwriter. 2 simple examples would be: script reader for a screenplay contest, or a development assistant for some major studio. Depending on the employer, they may not be familiar with a certain “job” title. So be sure to describe your job role.
- If you have NEVER worked in the industry in a “development” role, but have worked on-set, post production, or distribution, you can list it here. Just like I mentioned in the “PUBLICATION” section, if you choose to list your non-screenwriting “film” work, make it short and sweet – this is ONLY to prove to the employer you have experience in the “industry”.
- SKILLS/SOFTWARE. It’s important the employer knows what software you are skilled in. So if you know how to use Final Draft, Adobe Story, Celtix, then list it. You should also list the software you OWN. Most times the employer will expect you to write on your own time, so it’s important you own at least one script software. This isn’t just limited to screenwriting software though. While it may already be implied, some employers want to know you can work with them via skype, google docs, and excel. So it’s not always pedestrian to list those basic skills.
- If you are highly known for writing “2 character” thrillers, in single locations, with budgets as low as 30G, you can list this here. But you must have a proven and successful track record in the genre or style you are promoting.
FINAL THOUGHTS, ADVICE, CAUTIONS:
- If you have NOT sold a screenplay before, be careful when boasting about your 20+ spec scripts that are gathering dust. I see this a lot on resumes and Linkedin profiles. The question I always hear producer’s asking is, “If you have so many scripts, why can’t you sell them?” Of course, selling a script is very hard, but do keep in mind anyone can write a screenplay, so unless you are just starting out with little to NO experience, it’s not important how many scripts (and the titles of your scripts) you have written if they are all still unproduced.
- Bragging about your network. This is another NO-NO in my mind. I have seen this more often than not on screenwriting resumes and profiles. Saying something like… “I boast a 25K network.” What does that even mean? And if it’s SO large, why have I NOT heard of you.
- Always tell the employer where you found them. This is something we encourage ALL of our Screenwriting Staffing writers, both FREE and PREMIUM, to do when applying through our site. We take great pride in our writers and success stories, and so do our clients. They want to know that you came through us. But that’s just an example. So no matter what, whether you found a job through an industry contact or craigslist, let them know from the start. This way they know it’s NOT spam.
- Avoid revealing your location. Unless the job demands you are located in a certain city, there really is no point in listing your location. Most writing gigs these days are done remotely.
- Writer groups are really popular in larger cities. So if your resume lacks any real screenwriting substance, don’t be afraid to throw your writer’s group on your resume. This does NOT include your screenwriting Facebook group, but actual groups where screenwriters meet in person and exchange ideas and notes.
- At Screenwriting Staffing, most of our industry employers ask for a resume AND a script sample. But NOT a full script, just portions. You need at least 2 showcase scripts – in this business, diversity is everything. Be able to show you can write a feature, pilot, and a commercial. Always have your work copyrighted.
- I’m sure you a familiar with actor, cinematographer, and director online video reels, right? Well, screenwriters’ should have them too. Of course, if your work has not been produced, or the quality is quite low, then this isn’t possible. But if you have access to footage, put together a reel on Vimeo or Youtube – trust me, it pays off!
- Don’t tease the employer. What do I mean? I see so many screenwriters writing out a lengthy bio, pitching their “amazing” scripts, and how many years they ‘used” to live in Los Angeles. Just get to the point. Do bullet points, and outline your screenwriting career in a very quick, clear, and concise manner.
- Lastly, and most importantly, APPEARANCE is everything. You hear this all the time in screenplays, that the formatting appearance of your script can make or break a sale. The same applies with your initial e-mail and resume to the employer. If your e-mail and resume is scattered, lengthy, and tedious, this is EXACTLY how the employer will interpret your writing ability.