The Untold Story of Screenwriters and Your Career

Sometimes things are just too serendipitous to be a coincidence. Things happen almost as if they were preordained. 

I’m one of those people that marks Shark Week in the calendar months in advance. My Shark Week premier parties have become legendary, in fact. 

I’m so fascinated by these creatures that it’s hard for me to do anything else for the entire week. This year was different however… 

After a chance encounter with one of the industry’s most sought after and successful screenwriters, Shark Week turned out pretty productive this year. 

It gave me an opportunity to pick one of the most important brains in the industry and hear first hand some of the most important things to you as an actor, straight from the source. 

Most actors, myself included, often forget about screenwriters and the integral role they play in the industry. Without them, the wheels would simply stop turning. With such a high demand for content these days, they now wield an unprecedented amount of influence. 

Here’s what that means to you as an actor… 

It’s happened in music for a long time and it has finally caught on in the industry. Songwriters have been able to dictate whom they would like to appear on the songs they wrote. For the most part producers and record labels oblige. 

The same thing has quietly been happening in the industry for the last couple of years too. 

See, when screenwriters create a character, they don’t do it blindly. It’s difficult to put words on a page without having a subject in mind. So, they create one. 

They build a mental picture what every character looks like and list out what the ideal attributes of each actor portraying that character would be. 

This can take on many forms. For some writers it’s surface level stuff: blonde hair, blue eyes, 6 ft. tall. 

For others (the best and most sought after writers) things go much deeper. Not only do they cover the physical appearance, they also build a personality profile. Not just of the character, they also build a personality profile of the actor they would ideally like to see playing the character. 

They cover things like: a raspy voice, wrinkles of wisdom in the forehead that appear when he is deep in thought but do not age the character unnecessarily, etc. 

After the writers put these together it is up to casting to find actors that fit the profiles. 

More and more, screenwriters are asked to stay involved throughout casting and sometimes even into production. 

This is because any good production, at its core, has a phenomenal ensemble cast. Since the screenwriters have created the ensemble throughout the writing process it only makes sense that they help make that ensemble a reality. 

Almost no one in the industry talks about this. This is just one more way that CDs are seeing their place in the industry erode. Studios are still weary of fully trusting writers after the strike, since it revealed how indispensable they are. The studios gave huge concessions to them after this. 

Have you ever wondered why some up and coming actors have a handful of projects in production and stay busy for a couple years before cooling off? 

What typically happens is that a studio will recognize that they are the next “big thing” and lock them into [what is most commonly] a 3 or 5 picture deal. Television works much the same way and actors will be signed to a series plus they will be granted first right of refusal on other projects, just in case their series doesn’t succeed. 

At this point, what happens is that the studios will go to work building entire productions around this particular actor. 

Screenwriters are then brought in to come up with stories suitable for that actor. The process is reversed. 

When I asked my new shark loving friend why this happens he confirmed something that is one of the core concepts of the Boost My Star methodology. 

He said that when writers are tasked with building productions for specific actors it’s because the studios feel they have found something different. Think Pauly Shore in the early 90s or Amy Schumer quite recently. 

The beauty of that is that it’s within reach of anyone. 

You just have to find your X factor. What is the one thing that sets you apart from everyone else? What is your category of one? 

For Kristin Chenowyth it was her incredible singing talent. For Jackie Chan it was his martial arts talent. 

By their own admission, both of these actors built careers beyond their expectations. Kristin Chenowyth had productions created for her that utilized her singing talent. In some cases productions were dramatically redone to allow her to showcase that talent as part of her role. 

The same thing happened to Jackie Chan. Rush hour was intended to be an action-comedy with two American police officers. Because Jackie Chan was available, the story was redone to accommodate him and the martial arts angle. 

Even Josh Groban has landed on screen in much the same way. 

The list goes on and on. 

You have something that sets you apart from everyone else, you just have to identify what that is and play to that strength. 

Create a category of one for yourself and you too can have entire productions built around you that utilize your talent. 

Of course, this all starts with getting in the room with the right people. For that you will need to make sure that your credentials match your goals. 

Here’s a quick fix for that.

See, even if you are able to get in the room and read for a career changing role, having a vulnerable file could still prevent you from being cast. 

Make sure your file matches your potential.

When screenwriters need to put a face to a character during the writing process, guess where they turn to? 

They often turn to IMDb and it’s not uncommon for the “face” they choose to put to the character, to end up with the role. 

You should at least be putting yourself in the running by ensuring that your ranking will expose you to these opportunities. 

Here’s how I can help with that.

So what will you do now grasshopper? What’s your category of one? Do you need help narrowing the possibilities? 

Let me know in the comments below or shoot me an email. I read every one that comes through. 

After all, my goal is to… 

See you at the top,