Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Advice from Brandon Easton, author of Shadowlaw

Strangely enough, I came upon this Wired magazine interview through an imperfect Google alert for my blog...and then I realized that graphic novel writer Brandon Easton is also a screenwriter who did his undergrad at my alma mater (Ithaca)! I thought he offered some great advice for all kinds of writers:


In general, what inspired you to become a comics creator and screenplay author? What advice would you give others seeking the same career?

BE: I have many inspirations in film, TV, comics and literature. It would take me another hour to get through just a few of them [laughs]. If you were to pinpoint a few, I would say the works of Gene Roddenberry George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Katsuhiro Otomo, Mamuro Oshii, John Steinbeck, Richard Wright, Ridley Scott, Warren Ellis, Aaron Sorkin, ’80s afternoon and Saturday morning animation, the culture of the street/neighborhood arcades and Soul music from 1970-1989.
The best advice is to have something to show people.

Far too often I’ve met people who claim to be writers but have nothing to show for their career. No blog, no articles, no self-published work, no “officially” published work, no track record of any kind.

It is impossible to take someone seriously when there isn’t a method of determining if they have talent. If you’re a comic book artist and you don’t own a portfolio, then you’re a complete moron.

I don’t mean to seem harsh but the same thing applies to writers who have nothing written down. I wish I could say this was a small population of people, but the reality is that I’ve met thousands of aspiring writers over the years that talk a great game about getting published but spend little or no time actually writing anything.

Then the next level is to find ways to let people know you exist. It’s not easy, but it is possible to build a following through message boards, internet chat rooms, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites.

I see writers finish a project and then assume that editors and publishers will miraculously find them and offer them a contract. Writers have to be aggressive, vigilant and consistent in their pursuit of recognition. It takes time to develop yourself as an entity (it took me ten years and I am JUST getting through the thick outer layers of the business) and even more time for people to realize that you’re not going to waste their time.

Writers have to do research. If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that writers need to do research as often as possible. What do you research? Well, 1) market trends (what’s selling, what isn’t, and where your product will fit in once you get it out there); 2) how the industry accepts new talent (do you know how to find a literary agent and why you need one? What processes exist to get you past the gatekeepers of publishing companies and Hollywood studios); 3) determining who or what your core audience is and finding ways to attract them to your product; and 4) understanding how to “brand” yourself as a franchise and using that to attract others to you.

I produce a podcast devoted to sci-fi and comic book writers called Writing for Rookies that addresses the ins and outs of the business. I set it up as a “writing 101″ for those interested in comics and screenwriting but have no idea where to begin. It’s a perfect way to learn how this industry operates.

You can read the full interview here.


Dan Williams said...

Nice interview!

What he said about building up a portfolio of work is how I see it, too. If I was an agent, I'd be much more impressed with a writer who had spent his or her time writing ten spec scripts, for sale or as samples, then with a writer who had only one or two.

I'd like to hear the writer saying, "And I've got this to show you, and this, and this one, and this one" etc. There would be a story behind each script, and hearing the writer talk about his or her work would let me know if they were wasting my time or not.

More is more, not less.

Eltram said...

Thanks. The whole interview and Dan's comments are really helpful.