If you’ve been searching around online, you’ve likely found very little information on how to write a resume if you’re a screenwriter. And the information that does exist is made-by-committee, copy-and-paste garbage. Why is that? Thousands and thousands of creatives want to become screenwriters, so why is it so difficult to find good information on how to write your screenwriter resume? Today we’re going to go over why there’s so little on this topic online, what a screenwriter resume even is, and how to best go about showcasing your talent as a writer.
Why you don’t need a screenwriting resume
The real reason there’s very little information on making a screenwriter resume is because you don’t need one. That’s not to say you don’t need a resume when applying for assistant-level positions, but those resumes aren’t any different from the type you’d make for any “normal” job (here’s a great article on writing a traditional resume). But once you’ve graduated to actually finding writing gigs that pay you to, you know, write, most employers couldn’t care less about a properly-formatted piece of paper. So how do you get jobs if not via a resume?
- Through your agent and/or manager – I’m not just saying this because this is Get Me An Agent. The only purpose of an agent is to find you jobs, that’s literally the whole gig. Which means they’re very good at it. Agents and managers often have personal relationships with execs at the companies who’ll be hiring you. So they can dispense with formalities like resumes. All that matters to these producers is your writing. So that’s what you should focus on improving. Also, if you don’t have an agent, you might want to get one.
- Through the WGA directory – Back in my day (up until 2021), members of the Writers Guild of America weren’t allowed to have agents due to a dispute between the guild and big time agencies. When this was the case, writers had to turn to other tools to find employment. One of the most popular was the WGA directory. This is a system that allows showrunners and producers to find talented writers using an online database. This directory is, as with everything, all about the writing. Petty details like your last six assistant jobs and your alma mater aren’t nearly as important.
- Social media – You should NEVER bank on being randomly discovered, because it rarely rarely rarely happens that way. That being said, more than a few successful writers (especially actor/writers) have been discovered on social media sites like YouTube and TikTok. Rachael Bloom, for instance, the co-creator of Emmy-award winning series, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, was discovered after the show’s other creator watched her YouTube parodies. But, again, it was about the content she was making, not lists of her responsibilities at McDonalds.
You may be sensing a pattern. Like almost everything else in screenwriting, it always comes back to the writing itself. If you can write well, you will find work. If not, you won’t. A resume has nothing to do with it.
Does this mean you shouldn’t make an effort to put your best foot forward and really sell your talent? Absolutely not. As much as this word has sleazy implications, developing a personal “brand” is vital to any screenwriter’s longevity. So let’s take a look at some of the ways you can show your talent without writing a boring old resume.
The power of portfolio
There’s the key word: Portfolio. This is the single most important tool a writer can use to find work. And no, that doesn’t mean a bound glossy catalogue of your scripts. It’s not about what the portfolio physically looks like, it’s about what’s inside. The ugliest, most hideously formatted script that tells a beautiful story will beat the good looking, poorly written screenplay ten times out of ten. But no matter how pretty it is, having a portfolio is vital.
But what exactly is a portfolio? Here are a few things a portfolio isn’t:
- A bound catalogue of all of your scripts.
- A single PDF document with all of your scripts.
- A website where employers can read all of your scripts.
Sensing a pattern? A portfolio isn’t about showing everything you’ve ever written, or even everything you’ve written that you really like. Instead, a portfolio is a private collection of scripts, stored somewhere like Google Drive, including only the best scripts you’ve ever written. These are the scripts you’d be proud to show Steven Spielberg if he knocked on your apartment door and asked to read a sample. And you should have one script that’s better than all the rest. This is your calling card. It’s the first thing you send out to agents and managers when they ask for a sample. If you write TV and features (or drama and comedy), you may want to have one of each on hand. The rest of the samples in your portfolio are backups (but still excellent). These are the scripts you’ll send when a potential agent asks for a second sample. You can have a couple, so you have a deep bench to send out, depending on the feedback you get after the first one.
PRO TIP: If you have more than four or five scripts you’d be happy to show Steven Spielberg, and therefor would be happy to put in your portfolio, you probably have a heightened opinion of your abilities, and aren’t quite ready to look for work, anyway. Be honest about your talent level. Talk to writer friends or submit your work to a reader if you need a reality check.
Your writer bio
You probably also need a writer bio. Some agents and/or managers will write one for you once you’re their client, but it never hurts to have one ready for when you do find reps. Your agent will send your bio to potential employers to give them a sense of who they’re about to read. Consider this the screenwriter equivalent of a cover letter.
Here are some tips to keep in mind while writing your bio.
- Keep it third person, present-tense.
- Explain your backstory (where you’re from, anything that makes you diverse or unique, etc)
- Include any previous credits you have (max 4)
- Add your awards, fellowships, and accolades (max 5)
- Make sure to have a personal detail or anecdote that makes your bio memorable.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth guide to writing your bio, you can check out this excellent video from Reedsy. This is for authors, but much of it still applies to you:
Once you’ve finished your portfolio…
The above two steps will account for 95% of your “resume”. This is how you will get the vast majority of jobs as a screenwriter. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have other ways to display your work. Operating outside the lines of a traditional agent/client relationship is a vital ingredient to a long and fruitful screenwriting career. Here are some ways to display your work publicly (which can also be an invaluable resource for finding work as a writer).
- A website – Having a basic portfolio website is a great way to market your skills. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and you shouldn’t make your scripts publicly available. Instead, display loglines, links to any developed projects you’ve made, and at least one way to get in touch with you. If you have an agent, include their name and number as well. You can use something fancy like Squarespace, but I’ve personally found that a domain from IONOS ($1 for the first year), and a clean Google Sites website looks plenty nice, costs less, and is easier to build and maintain.
- Social media – In my personal life, I hate social media and hardly use it. But in my professional life, I’ve found it a vital resource. I was once told by a successful showrunner that the writers who consistently find work are the ones who are constantly releasing content on social media. It doesn’t have to be great, groundbreaking short films, or anything. But potential employers want to catch a glimpse of who you are as a writer, and having a professional social media presence is a great way to do just that.
Putting it all together
Okay, so let’s recap: Screenwriter resumes don’t really exist, at least not among professional screenwriters. Instead, you should let your exceptional writing speak for itself in a well-curated portfolio. A writer bio is a nice supplement to said portfolio, and you can add a cherry on top with a basic website and a steady, if not groundbreaking, social media presence.
You can find writing jobs without a screenwriter resume. But it’s going to be very hard to find them without an agent or manager. Agents and managers are the gatekeepers to the industry, and while having an agent doesn’t guarantee you a successful career, not having one creates a real hurdle for you on your road to the red carpet. So how exactly should you go about getting an agent? The easiest way is with a strong industry connection. But a close second is by cold-emailing. The only problem with that is that many agents have emails that are incredibly difficult to find. They’re out there, but buried. That’s where we come in. With a plan from Get Me An Agent, you’ll get unlimited access to our catalogue of hundreds of Hollywood lit agents and managers, plus free email templates to help you craft the best query emails, and unlimited Live Chat support with actual industry professionals who will help you every step of the way towards finding representation. Our plans start at only $19.99/month, and every plan comes with a free month to help you get started. If you’re curious about a plan from Get Me An Agent, click the big red button underneath!