alt.screenwriters

The bleeding edge of screenwriting and media convergence

May 2001

by Terry Borst

filed 18 April 01 Copyright ©2001 alt.screenwriters

Few would argue that these are uncertain times for screenwriters. Those exploring New Media venues have seen one Internet entertainment site after another suddenly close the doors, the halcyon days of Y2K long gone. For the rest who have stayed in the safer, time-tested waters of film and television … a storm waits on the horizon, and after May 1 all bets are off.

So what’s a screenwriter do to ply the trade of writing, even when it’s not for the screen?

Hop online and see what the marketplace is for freelance and staff writing assignments.

One of the most “venerable” websites catering to writers and writing assignments is craigslist.org. Initially originating in San Francisco, craigslist has widened its net for writing assignments to both coasts. The homepage will direct you to postings for the Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Boston, Washington DC and New York City (with one flyover stop in Chicago).

A typical day’s posting for any one of these cities will list writing and editing assignments for both print and online publications, as well as copywriting, technical writing and other writing-related positions.

“In the early days craigslist was a bit of a secret, but now it’s a well-known resource,” notes WGA member Howard Raphael Cushnir (author of the award-nominated book Unconditional Bliss: Finding Happiness in the Face of Hardship and writer/director of the Showtime film Sexual Healing).

Cushnir reports that over the past several years, he found two long-term writing projects as well as several “small one-time freelance gigs” through craigslist.

Some of the jobs listed on craigslist will pay the money that will pay the bills. Some won’t, however, and it may take a little time to tell the two apart. “I’ve learned to read between the lines to see how serious a project is, and if there’s real money. If I can’t tell, I send a quick email suggesting that I’m super qualified but need more information. If they respond, I may go forward. If they don’t, I leave it alone.”

Craigslist is not the only resource for assignment-seeking writers, however. Some of the others include:

Sunoasis Sunoasis focuses on jobs for writers, editors and copywriters, and is a little more flyover-friendly, covering the South, Southwest, Midwest, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Northwest, Rocky Mountain and Canadian regions as well as the Far West. One of their homepage resource links leads to “How to find Writing Jobs on the Net”, a worthy tutorial that discusses job boards, e-resumes and more, and also contains links to www.newspaperlinks.com (a goldmine of links to the nation’s newspapers) and to the Association of Alternative Weeklies (publications that generally don’t pay generously but are excellent venues for writing assignments).
N.Y. New Media Assn. Don’t care about anything west of the Hudson River? Then the New York New Media Association’s website is for you: its job board covers the New York area only, and on the day of this column’s composition listed 60 assignment postings.
VIC Don’t care about anything east of Hollywood? Then VIC may be for you, though to be fair, some of their listings do stray outside Los Angeles County. VIC is famous for their frequent Southern California networking schmooze-fests connecting dot-commers and other digital media types, and if you’re in Los Angeles and actively seeking to diversify as a writer, using VIC’s job and networking resources is a wise thing to do.
AuthorLink Jobs Authorlink is affiliated with Random House, and aims to be a general portal for writers, editors and literary agents. However, one of its prime links is its job board. This board seems to specialize in folks looking for co- writers … but magazine and website writers are also sought, so it’s definitely worth checking.

Virtually all of these sites offer links to even more job boards for writers, and nearly all of them offer free resume-posting services.

Most of them also offer advice, information and tutorials on how to successfully seek and secure writing assignments on the Internet. Cushnir has a few other tips, from the screenwriter’s perspective.

“The most important thing to remember is that for an exciting opportunity the ad placer can get upwards of 500 responses. To rise to the top requires a) submitting in the exact form specified; and b) crafting a specific enough email intro to make it clear to the screener that you’re close to an exact fit. ”

You might think that marquee-worthy Hollywood credits will be a selling point, but Cushnir cautions otherwise. “Be thoughtful about the possibility of downplaying your credits. I’ve been in situations where it’s too confusing to a small dot-com or e-zine to see that I’ve directed a film with big movie stars. I want them to think I’m IN their league, not above it, so sometimes I leave things out.”

However, Cushnir does think screenwriters can offer something unique to clients who are seeking superior writing abilities.

“All writing is storytelling, to some degree, and often a screenwriter’s clear vision of structure and impact can make a great difference for even the most prosaic widget company. So part of the pitch (for the assignment) is expressing how you can provide fresh insight to the way a product or campaign is put together from the beginning — and then promoted — to its ultimate audience.”

Craft your resume, fire up your modem — and we’ll see you out there on the cyber-hustings!

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Written by tborst

April 18, 2001 at 10:03 pm

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