A new decade and the old ways of breaking in aren’t cutting it. The film industry is notoriously hard to break into. It’s been compared to being a professional athlete; you have to continue to train and stay on top of your game if you want to start for a great team, as per an article written by Jason Hellerman in nofilmschool.com
“But just like professional sports, film and TV have changed through the ages…and so has the way you break into the industry. As we enter into the 2020s, I wanted to devote an entire post to how to break into writing, directing, and producing in this new era,” says Hellerman.
How do you break into Hollywood in the 2020s?
Before I talk about Hollywood, I want to talk about how the business has changed over the last decade. We know that the rise in streamers like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ has put more content out into the world than ever before, wrote Hellerman.
In 2020, an estimated $35 billion will be spent on streaming compared to a US box office that generates about $9 billion annually. Sheesh. 532 shows were made last year.
This streamer rise has increased the number of jobs out there. Every day these platforms are expanding and creating to keep up with their competitors.
So, the good news is that there will be more jobs for making content in the 2020s, but bad news comes coupled with that as well.
Breaking in using film festivals in the 2020s
By and large, film festivals like Sundance are great places to seek exposure, but they’re also nearly impossible to get into now without a pedigree or studio backing. What used to be beautiful places to find new voices has become corporatized, meaning you still can find new people as long as a giant company made their movie.
Okay, so what can a new filmmaker do?
“Our best advice is to make films and look for festivals that can build your clout before taking a swing at something much bigger,” says Hellerman.
In the article published in nofilmschool.com, he further added, “make sure your movie fits into what typically gets shown at the festival. If you have a genre movie, maybe try SXSW and not Cannes if you’re a first-time filmmaker without a ton of press or prestigious backers. Go for Atlanta, Austin, or Woodstock.”
Another thing you have to remember is that the most critical eyes at these festivals are the buyers who want to give your movie a platform. Since theatrical is becoming incredibly cutthroat, your best shot might be a streamer.
And even then, making an entire movie might wind up being the calling card that lets you pitch on progressively more significant projects.
So, instead of making a movie to break in, you might consider making some short films instead, says Hellerman.
How will making a short film help my career in the 2020s?
Writing and directing short films has always been something we advocated for at No Film School. Not only do they provide you important time on set, but they also can showcase your talents on a limited budget or tease a feature film you want to get funded.
Shorts are now and will continue to be excellent sources of content.
There are so many places they can have homes and be seen by the masses. YouTube, Vimeo, Short of the Week, etc. all are websites with millions of viewers daily. Standing out in those places can be hard, but if you crack the code, you’ll have something shareable and valuable.
And it’s not just those websites. Netflix, Apple TV, and Prime all have various short programs that have stood out, like Love, Death, & Robots, Modern Love, and Amazing Stories (complete with gimmicky hooks to draw attention.) Now you don’t need a gimmick all the time, but it definitely helps when you’re trying to sell a series of shorts, Hellerman wrote.
What are new ways for screenwriters to get noticed? Sadly, I don’t think writing a short film is going to get you noticed in this new decade. Luckily for writers all over, we are always in need of new voices and ideas. While IP will still be king in the 2020s, more things will hit the public domain every year.
And as we detailed above, you can come prepared with scripts and story ideas that are not just perfect for a film and TV pilot, but also perfect for a streaming series. You can also prepare pitches and TV pitch documents. But I think focusing your talents writing things that get produced is extremely important. To get your work produced, you need to get it in front of real makers. That usually takes reps.
How do writers get reps in the 2020s?
We’ve talked about it here before, but to get reps now, you have to stand out in some way. We’ve seen people use the Black List website (myself included) to get agents and managers. I still think it’s a great way to be found, especially if you’re not working in Hollywood or even living in the state of California.
Other options include contests. I think most are bullshit, but Nicholl, Austin, and Final Draft Big Break all have success stories linked to them, wrote Hellerman in an article published in nofilmschool.com.