Today we welcome back guest blogger and screenwriter (not to mention, one of my favorite Stage 32 members), CJ Walley. CJ is one busy guy and someone who truly understands the importance of networking and being visible both online and off.
Recently, CJ optioned shorts for production in Zurich, NYC, and Washington D.C and connected with an assistant for a top Hollywood director on Stage 32. He also contributed to the Stage 32 Success Story Video for YouTube (featured at 4:28). CJ is a true advocate of the power of Stage 32, and wrote two fantastic blogs regarding the foundation of his successes on the site called 5 Reasons We Should All Be Taking Stage 32 Very Seriously and A Plan vs. an Attitude: How Dr. Webber Changed My Approach to My Career.
Today CJ discusses the top 10 free resources he has used to further his screenwriting career. Additionally, he gives inside advice on the best way to utilize each or these terrific resources and (selflessly, as is his style) provides you with the direct links, making it virtually effortless to find out all the information you need. While these tips are directed toward screenwriters, I believe the act of finding free resources and really using them for all they're worth applies to all creative disciplines.
I thank CJ for his continued contribution to the Stage 32 Blog.
It’s that time of year where our friends wonder where us aspiring screenwriting friends have disappeared to, why we tense up at the thought of going to the movie theatre, and why we escape out the bathroom window when it’s our turn to buy a round. They don’t understand that May is the month when, for many of us, our funds run the lowest and becoming a squeegee bandit at nearest busy traffic tailback looks like a positive career move.
You see, it’s competition season. Fantastic opportunities may await us, and there’s certainly nothing wrong trying to speculate to accumulate, but what can we be doing while our wallets are populated by nothing but moths and half filled coffee shop loyalty cards?
We know we should be supplementing our efforts to hone our craft, market our work, build our brand, and network with peers as much as we can. Doing that for little or no cost can be tough, but it can generate remarkable returns for those willing to put in the leg-work and play the long game.
So what I’m about to give you isn’t ten big secrets to quick fame and fortune, but ten bonafide ways I’ve managed to move the needle when I’m time rich and cash poor - i.e. all of the time.
Well duh, right? But seriously, we are in an amazing place at an amazing time. I’ve gotten so much out of Stage 32 and never spent a penny; short script options, offers of assignments, experienced advice, some remarkable contacts. It’s essential we fill in our profiles, upload our headshots, grab our vanity urls, share our work, and most importantly - reach out and interact with those we aspire to work with. That means no hustling, just being ourselves, showing them our passion and asking how we can help them. It really does work, we’re all one connection away from some of the biggest names in the business, believe me, you’d be surprised. There’s no excuse, hit that connect button and network, network, network!
TOP TIP: Watch the On Stage With RB videos for pretty much everything you need to know about how to use Stage 32 effectively plus tons more information about the industry.
I’d say we’re all paying our taxes, but, well, we’re screenwriters so the opportunity would be a lofty privilege for many of us. Regardless, public libraries are there for us to use while screenwriting books can quickly drain our funds and clog our shelves. Some of the most influential screenwriting books I’ve read I borrowed rather than bought. Are you a student? Even better, you’ll barely have time to play beer pong. We can read the books, make notes, take them back, leave cackling like a super villain, and pay it forward later.
TOP TIP: Your library doesn’t hold a specific publication you’re looking for? Ask them to find it for you and order it in. Librarians love giving you the information you need, trust me, I’ve been dating one for twelve years, it’s like foreplay to them.
The candid exchanges between John August, Craig Maizin, and their guests give us an enormously valuable insight into the working world of screenwriting. Available to listen to at our leisure and zero cost, the episodes are packed with valuable information and real life anecdotes. Listening to those who have succeeded and continue to succeed in this incredibly tough industry has always really helped me stay level headed and duck bad advice - Well, as relatively level headed as someone who likes to make up imaginary stories can be.
TOP TIP: Having recently moved to a subscription based service, only the most recent 20 episodes are available for free. However you can still click on many older episodes, scroll to the bottom of the page, and read the transcript for free.
Pretty much the only large studio openly accepting unsolicited submissions, Amazon Studios have become a serious contender over the past year with award wins for their TV series Transparent and bringing in indie king Ted Hope as their head of production. While an option or a sale would have been fantastic, I had one of my scripts added to their Notable Projects and promoted to their massive social media following. They did this purely to help me gain exposure in the industry. That’s pretty darn good of them. Yes the site has gone a little quiet of late but they’re still reading. For those of us with very limited industry contacts, opportunity may await.
TOP TIP: Posting your script on Amazon Studios may result in some valuable peer feedback. Or maybe you want to keep your specs on the down-low? If so, check out the private submission option.
While the feature side of Inktip’s script listings are paid for, few realise that their shorts listings are offered at no cost. It’s maintained well, they take care with placing the loglines, and listings are held indefinitely. There are directors, producers, and actors browsing all the time. At it’s peak, I was getting around one read request a week and had three requests to option scripts over a couple of months.
TOP TIP: If you do option a short then let the site admin know. They’ll give you a mention on their enormously popular newsletter.
Much like InkTip, Simply Scripts offer free shorts listings, in fact you can also upload features for free just like you can on Stage 32! But through their Shooting The Shorts section they take things to a whole new level by taking time to review the scripts that stand out and promoting them on the front page of their very popular website. I found an option request coming in only a few weeks after being featured with a second request coming in shortly after. And, just like InkTip, if you let Simply Scripts know your script has been optioned, they’ll post a feature on the front page of their website.
TOP TIP: While Simply Scripts do offer an upload feature to submit your scripts, you can link people back to your Stage 32 loglines section instead to help drive readers to your profile, learn more about you, and possibly connect.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to recommend it’s time we all start taking selfies and photographing everything we eat - although I am partial to the odd amusing cat video. As mindless and fruitless as some social media avenues may seem on the surface, they can prove enormously useful in terms of networking and brand building. I’ve optioned a short through LinkedIn and I’ve been offered work through Facebook and Twitter. Also consider that LinkedIn and Facebook have their own private discussion areas that you may need to become part of at some point - I was fortunate enough to be invited into an exciting female-centric project only last month.
Not sure where to start? Try reaching out to those you’re networked with on here. Want to get a little more advanced? Learn how to export all your contacts from one platform and see if they are registered on another. Connect with non-screenwriters to learn more about the lives of those focusing on other areas of filmmaking. Follow the accounts of sites like Stage 32 and people like RB for the skinny on the latest industry news as it happens.
TOP TIP: Close the loop. Keep all your social media accounts filled in, up to date with an accurate bio, and linked to each other. Don’t have a website? You can use your Stage 32 profile page as an excellent hub for all your detailed information and scripts.
Generally if you want the contact information for specific industry members you’re going to have to pay for it - and it doesn’t come cheap, or up to date, or even that accurate in my experience. IMDB Pro is probably the most current and trustworthy source of industry member information available, plus all those contacts are linked to the productions they’ve been a part of, so you can seek out material similar to yours and find out who made it. But CJ! IMDB Pro is like $20 per month, brother! I hear you, brah. But here’s the deal, your first month is completely free, you just need to remember to cancel your subscription before the second month rolls in. I’ve gotten more read requests and fewer bounced emails via those free thirty days than any annual directory subscription.
TOP TIP: Be careful about when you do finally decide to pull the trigger, you only get one shot so make sure you know who and what you’re looking for before you do it.
While it’s not easy to find (here it is for Mac and PC) the older desktop version of Celtx is completely free to use. I’ve found the resulting pdfs look as good as anything from Final Draft and there’s no issue with moving material to alternative screenwriting software or supplying a working file to an industry member. Okay there’s no iPad app, but seriously, dude, if you have an iPad you can afford to upgrade your software.
TOP TIP: Create a free Drop Box account to keep your work backed up on the cloud and accessible through multiple computers.
If any of the above pays off, you are most likely going to need Skype ASAP. Installing on pretty much any device, it’s the most widely used form of communication software I’ve seen used by filmmakers. People want to work with human beings and being able to see each other and communicate in real-time is a powerful way to show your personality, you passion, and hopefully bond with new contact. Plus, if you’re remotely collaborating, the closest you’re going to get to meeting in person.
TOP TIP: While many people do like to talk face-to-face you don’t have to use Skype in video mode if you’re uncomfortable. My first Skype was with a Cosmo model who’d contacted me via Stage 32. Needless to say, if I didn’t feel self conscious enough before, I certainly did then.
So there you have it, that’s my top ten, they’ve worked for me. You can take that to the bank, if they’ll still let you in. Do you have any free resources you’ve gotten results from? If so feel free to add them in the comments below.
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