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Memo to Screenwriters #2: Like E.L. James, You Can Change the Game

Thompson on Hollywood By Nancy Nigrosh | Thompson on Hollywood July 16, 2013 at 12:17PM

In the 1960s, Marshall McLuhan emphasized the value of message and the medium the message uses over its creator. This idea flies in the face of the modern era’s printed book as the ultimate expression of the writer, who toiled in glorified isolation as the big publishing house distributed it magically across the universe. McLuhan went on to predict a wireless world, where all messages are accessed instantly to and from a collective brain--what we now call mobile media.
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Ted Hope, Franklin Leonard
Ted Hope, Franklin Leonard

A few weeks ago, the WGAW sanctioned use of the site solely devoted to promoting professional screenwriters’ work, searchable not only by name and title but by detailed genre, logline, budget and attachments as well as rated by reviewers. In the shadow of crashing tentpoles, opportunity has never knocked louder. Yet, how often have screenwriters solely described their work as a "calling card" that speaks for itself? By insisting on a virtual blind taste test, the writer’s identity elicits little more detail than a name followed by the question of who their agent is. Without a game a name is just a name.

Contrast that with what happens when a book is enthusiastically recommended to anyone. The question of "who wrote it?" paints a creative persona with details about gender, race, nationality, childhood, life story, life span, regional experience, class, politics. Expressed appreciation might extend to the book’s authentic atmosphere crafted by a mastery of language, character, genre cred, ear for dialogue, and clarity of message that all together earn that writer the reputation for ability to dial directly into universal truths.

Any kind of writer -- dead and buried -- or alive and writing, can "like" McLuhan, "friend" Gutenberg and become easy to discover via personal websites, genre driven blogs, mashup videos and show up on you-name-it social media to attract not only readers but loyal admirers. Why not screenwriters?

This article is related to: Features, The Blacklist, Amazon, Screenwriters, Writers Guild of America, Nancy Nigrosh


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