In 2014, right after I received my Master’s degree in Business Administration, I signed up for a personal account on Twitter to look more appealing to hiring teams at the organizations I was applying to for marketing roles. I’d used Twitter before for the different companies and clients I worked with, but never for myself.
While I signed up intending to post marketing tips and advice, I ultimately didn’t use my personal account much.
Fast-forward to March 2020. I had been furloughed due to the pandemic and spent all of my free time consuming screenwriting articles and books, attending panels, and writing and reading screenplays. It was lonely, and what I didn’t have were peers to read my work and vice versa. One day, while browsing through screenwriting advice I’d found on Reddit, I stumbled across a link to a Twitter thread. While I can’t recall what the thread was about, I noticed multiple people in the thread using the hashtag: #preWGA.
I didn’t know what the hell the WGA was yet or what it stood for, but when I clicked it, I was floored by the number of screenwriters using this hashtag. There was a COMMUNITY OF SCREENWRITERS. On Twitter, nonetheless. Who would have thought?
I followed a few people and started using the hashtag myself. Before I knew it, I was swapping scripts with other writers, helping others by acting as a sounding board for ideas, and, ultimately, building relationships.
The important thing to note here is “building relationships” and not “networking.”
I didn’t use the #preWGA hashtag to network. I used it to make connections, to find more people, and bring them into our community of talented writers from around the globe.
Because from what I’ve experienced over the past year and some change, I believe screenwriting is a team sport. And through spending my time helping others and building genuine relationships on Twitter, the following has come out of it without trying: solid writing groups, producers and managers reaching out for generals, and friendships with not only up-and-coming and veteran writers, but others in the industry from composers to directors to actors.
Throughout this journey, I learned valuable lessons and unspoken Twitter etiquette that allowed me to sync up with these talented individuals, and I’m about to spill the tea on a high level as to what I believe it is and why, in the hopes it will help other screenwriters navigate the platform.
1. Participate in conversations and try to use hashtags when necessary.
If you don’t participate in conversations, how else are people going to find you? Take the time to respond to other screenwriter’s tweets and retweet them if it’s something you resonate with or think others will find valuable.
If people post that they’re excited about placing in a competition or fellowship, take the time to congratulate them. If they’re asking for advice, chime in with any insights you might be able to offer. @ScriptPipeline started a popular Twitter hashtag event, #pipelinewriters, which occurs every Friday at 5 p.m. PST and goes on for hours, with the writers running the show.
It’s worth checking out and participating in. You might even win a coveted mug people are willing to fight to the death for. *Hint Hint* *Wink Wink*
2. Follow other screenwriters.
The more people you follow, the more relative tweets and topics you’ll be able to see, and the more you’ll be able to engage with others. I’m not saying spam follow everyone with #preWGA or #screenwriter in their bio, but screenwriters you find interesting, who tweet things you enjoy seeing.
3. Offer to read and give notes on other writers’ work.
The more you help other writers, the more willing they’ll be to help you. While the primary intention of helping others shouldn’t solely be to receive help on your work, it’s a way to make new friends and work on your writing feedback skills, which will prove helpful.
4. Don’t message strangers asking them to read your work.
I can’t put enough emphasis on this one. It’s considered rude and will mark you as unprofessional. If it’s someone you’ve barely spoken to and they don’t know anything about you, please do not do it. If it’s someone you’re swapping scripts with, it’s a different story, but messaging an unassuming agent, manager, showrunner, producer, screenwriter, etc. with your screenplay without having an established relationship with them is frowned upon. There are other ways to get people to read your work, and it comes with time or querying. [If you’re interested in learning more about querying, visit this article after reading this one.]
5. Strive to be positive and kind.
There can be drama (and trolls) on Screenwriter Twitter from time to time, and it’s essential not to lose your cool. Try to kill everyone with kindness.
As coined by the one and only Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
It’s true. Additionally, if your Twitter feed is mainly you being crotchety or cruel, people might not want to engage with you. Be yourself and remember to be kind.
To confirm everything I’ve just written, so you don’t think I’m exaggerating the value of Twitter and why you should care, I asked screenwriters (via Twitter, of course) to share their successes as a result of using the platform. Here’s some proof of the power of Twitter from people other than myself:
The number of writers who have had meetings with agents, managers, producers, been staffed, optioned, or sold a screenplay due to Twitter is astounding, but it makes complete sense. The purpose of Twitter is to connect people with similar interests, which is why it works so well for creatives, in general.
If you use it with good intentions and follow the above etiquette points, you will find community, friendship, and who knows, maybe even sell a spec. The opportunities are endless!
Love it or hate it, you can’t deny its power.
*Feature photo by Kobe (Pexels)