Developing Your Brand, Part II: Combining the Technical and Emotional Aspects of Your Writing
August 28, 2020
Welcome back to our two-part series on developing your brand! Back in part one, we talked about what a brand is, why you need it, and how to develop the “technical” part of your branding statement. From here, we’ll finish up developing your brand and talk about what you can do with it to help propel your career forward.
To start, work out what your brand is from an emotional/personal perspective. What sort of baggage do you bring to your scripts? What kind of stuff are you trying to work out? What message are you trying to communicate? What are your obsessions? How do you see the world? This part of your brand is, at least for me, much harder to pin down, but also a great signifier of who you are as a creative. As an example, I lived in Australia for most of my life and found it hard to fit in there, and then I moved to L.A. and had to learn to fit in all over again, so I tend to bring my own feelings of alienation and trying to belong to my work.
I didn’t even notice this until after a couple of years of therapy and long talks with my closest friends. Take a long, hard look at your work and see what parts of yourself you can find within it. Even if you write the most outlandish, cartoony, broad stories out there, I promise you there’s passion and pain and emotion buried in there. These don’t need to be negatives, either! Your hopes and dreams are just as valid emotional brands as your fears and hang-ups. A few examples: “I explore characters who cope with the loss of a loved one.” “I’m a passionate activist, and my stories reflect how I want our world to look.” “My characters are always struggling to keep their head above water.” “I confront racism in my work, both literally and through fantasy.”
A great brand statement should combine both the technical and emotional perspectives into one or two sentences. From our above examples, let’s mix and match and put a statement together. “I write dramatic and romantic stories filled with quiet character moments, based around loss and grief.” That’s just one sentence, but it tells you a lot about the writer, both in terms of their technique and what drives them.
Once you’ve got your brand nailed down, congratulations! You’ve solved everything that’s holding you back in your career, and if you open your mailbox you will see your first royalty check has already been delivered.
Nah, if only. But it’s almost as magical as that. You can deploy your brand in any number of contexts. If you’re out at networking drinks and someone asks you about your writing: Boom. You’ve got your ready-made answer. When you’re out hunting for reps to query, you both have a great lead for your query letter and a filter to help you find out if a rep is a good fit. If the writers they rep and the work they sell ticks all the same boxes as your brand, odds are they’ll be able to sell your work, too. The next time you’re filling in one of those pesky fellowship essays that, in so many words, say “tell us about yourself,” all you have to do is pull from a personal story that informed your brand, and suddenly the fellowship reader will see the brilliant connections between your script and your essay.
When you land that big general meeting and tell the exec your brand, suddenly that exec knows exactly what sort of stuff you could pitch on. Your brand will also help you and the rest of the industry know what you’re not right for, which saves a lot of time. To go back to the Target analogy, let’s say someone is baking a cake and they wander into the sporting goods section. There might be the best baseball bat in the world there, from a world-renowned brand. But that someone is going to walk right by that baseball bat; they need flour and sugar.
Does that make the baseball bat worse? Nope! It’s just not what that someone was looking for. If an exec or rep hears your brand and it’s not at all what they need in that moment, that’s great for you and for them. They know who you are when they are ready for you, and you’ve saved a lot of time by not working on something that’s not a good fit.
I’ve saved the best for last: Brands aren’t set in stone. They aren’t evergreen. You aren’t the person you were 10 years ago, and that person will be different 10 years from now. Your pain will fade, your passions will change, you might want to explore new horizons that don’t “fit your brand.” You know what? That’s fine. Go on your new adventure and change your brand to fit the new you. This may be easier said than done, especially if you’re an established writer, but at the end of the day, your brand is just a reflection of yourself and your scripts. You can change it whenever you want, as long as you’ve got the work to back it up.
Your brand is what’s going to help people understand just why you’re the next great writer. Go build one and see what kind of doors it opens!
Written by: Alex SwitzkyAlex Switzky is an LA-based writer and producer. He has worked as a creative producer for Dream Reach Media, development coordinator for Adam Wingard, and as a freelance story consultant for film, TV, and podcasts.