Part 3) Why a Fresh Voice is Your Key to a Successful Career?
As a literary agent, manager and producer, selling writers and their screenplays for eighteen years before becoming a founding member of Fresh Voices, I have learnt that the paramount quality you need to establish yourself as a successful screenwriter is to find, develop and hone your own unique voice. It is on this guiding principal that Fresh Voices was found.
Let’s face it. While many writers aspire to launch their careers in Hollywood by selling a spec script, the odds of success this route are pretty low. WGA does not provide precise data but I would venture to guess that only a slim minority of writers jumpstart their career by selling a spec screenplay, even a finely executed one. The vast majority of in-demand screenwriters build their careers by taking on writing assignments, work-for-hire jobs and commissions (rewrites, adaptations and first drafts based on pitches, treatments and synopses). These writers are not household names. They are not the A-list. They are diligent, dedicated writers who work tirelessly to bring words to life. I’ve heard them referred to as blue collar writers. They are the lifeline of the film and television business. But as an unknown writer, how do you even get such an opportunity to be considered for one of these coveted jobs, and once you are, how do you stand out among all the other writers and how do you seal the deal?
Consider this common scenario: a producer has optioned a book and needs to find a writer whom he believes can turn this fascinating story into a cinematic journey and write the first draft. Agents, managers, even the Starbucks barista send their writing samples to vie for this job… dozens, maybe even hundreds. Now the producer has to pour through all those writing samples and find a single writer to trust with adapting the book into a first draft. How does a producer choose which writer to hire for this project? What does he look for when reading all those writing samples?
The producer is looking for many markers that qualify the writer, but one thing above all else: the producer is seeking a fresh voice whose sensibility matches that of the project. The sample material speaks to them and gives them the assurance that this particular writer is going to “get” the material, to relate to it at its deepest level, that their perspective on the world as gleaned from their writing will bring something unique to the source material and inspire a great movie.
So the producer selects three of his favorite writing samples and asks the writers to come into his office and give their “take” on the material. Again, as you give your take as a writer, your voice will be essential to the way you interpret the source material. If you are true to yourself, your voice is who you are, it is your perspective, it is how you see the world and it will ultimately inform your response to the material and shape your take.
Do you stay true to the original, do you embellish certain aspects fearlessly and unapologetically? How do you alter the narrative structure for a better cinematic experience? What plot points do you move around, remove or include to increase dramatic tension within each scene? What parts of your life experiences do you choose to include and how does this improve the story? There is no right or wrong answer. Whether or not you get the job comes down to what the producer is looking for, and what your Voice ultimately brings to the project.
As you can see, it is a fresh voice that sets the writer up for a rewarding career. It is a fresh voice that will distinguish you from all the other writers and it is a fresh voice that will make your script memorable to the industry and audiences alike. Identifying those unique voices, that special talent, is the foundation upon which our Company is based.