Invariably, at the end of any interview, the interviewer will pause and then say, “What advice would you give newer writers trying to break in?”
This used to seem like an impossibly broad question. Seriously? You want me to sum everything up in one piece of advice?
And then one day it wasn’t impossible. It wasn’t too broad. One day I knew the answer.
Stop trying to fit in and start trying to stand out.
Nobody in Hollywood wakes up in the morning thinking, “Wow, today I’d really like to discover a new talent who sounds just like everyone else. What I’m really looking for here is someone who ‘blends.’”
The only people in Hollywood who get hired to “blend” are extras.
Everyone else gets hired because they are interesting. Different. Distinct. Unique.
By “interesting” and “distinct” and “unique” I don’t mean wear funny hats or bold scene headers. Funny hats are circus props and if the most original thing you can do with a script is use the bold command? Maybe it’s time to head back to Connecticut.
Different and distinct and unique means you’ve stopped walking around being afraid of offending people and you’ve stopped trying to impersonate other writers thinking that’s what “real writers” sound like and you sit yourself down and tell a story in your words without worrying about whether you sound like a “real writer” or offend anyone (including some imagined future director) or whether some guy on the internet who’s never been on a studio lot told you you are not allowed to write like that.
You are allowed to “write like that.” Writing like that is what gets you noticed. Writing like that is what gets you signed. Writing like that is what gets you sold. Writing like that is what gets you hired. Writing like that is why writers are above the line. Writing like that is why writers are referred to as “talent.”