Kelly Jo Brick is a television and documentary writer and producer. She wrote the Telly Award-winning film PAUSE and the Frank Lloyd Wright documentary The Jewel In The Woods. Kelly Jo is a Sundance Fellow, winner of Scriptapalooza TV and a member of the WGAW Nonfiction Writers Caucus and Women In Film – Los Angeles. Prior to moving to L.A. in 2013, Kelly Jo grew and developed her writing career while working in television and radio advertising in her home state of Wisconsin. You can follow Kelly Jo on Twitter: @KellyJoBrick
You have a passion for writing, but moving to Los Angeles just isn’t an option. No worries, there are many ways you can fuel your passion for writing from right where you are. Small town, big city, it doesn’t matter. Opportunity is all around, you just have to get work and seek it out.
1. Build your craft
Your writing career isn’t going to grow if you haven’t mastered the basics, so always be writing. When you finish one project, take a moment to enjoy the accomplishment of finishing a script then get going on the next one. If you’re working a full-time day job, it can seem hard to find time to write, so develop a writing habit that works best for your schedule. Get up early and write before work. Write during your lunch break or set aside time every evening. You’ll quickly find that your brain automatically slips into writing mode when that time of day hits and you’ll find yourself being more productive.
2. Look for local outlets
Local TV and radio stations are often looking for creative talent to work in their advertising departments. Reach out to stations about teaming up to develop creative content for their websites. Area non-profits can provide partnership opportunities. Together you can create content to help promote their missions and as a result, your writing will be exposed to a larger audience. Community theaters and high schools are always looking for material to perform, think about what you might be able to create for these groups or see if, as an acting exercise, they’d be open to doing a read through of your latest script. Given that you can now shoot a film with your iPhone, there’s nothing stopping you. Get out there and make a movie on your own.
3. Take a class
There are so many online writing classes available, you don’t even have to leave your home to work on your writing. There are classes for beginning, intermediate and advanced writers. You can take a workshop to concentrate on developing compelling characters, horror, rewriting, comedy, TV, film, dialogue and more. Do your research before choosing what class you’re taking. Look for instructors who have real world experience and successes. Ask your writing friends for recommendations. The benefits of taking a writing class go well beyond improving your skills as a writer. They help you develop peer relationships with the other writers you’re in class with. You’ll find some of these people become great friends and you’ll be supporting each other and sharing work for critiques and advice years and years later.
4. Join a screenwriting group
This can take many forms. Search out other people in your area who have a love of writing and get together once a month to share your work. Believe me, even in small towns you can find fellow writers who would love the idea of getting together to read and discuss writing and review work for each other. These groups can be incredibly supportive and inspiring. Some states and larger cities have screenwriting groups that not only provide support for their members, they also bring in speakers, have a peer script reviewing system and provide other valuable resources. Although you sit down and write alone, it’s important to connect with other writers and a screenwriting group can be a perfect way to do so.
5. Attend writing conferences and film festivals
You can’t grow your career in isolation. You need to build a network of fellow writers and filmmakers. Your mutual support helps bring out the best in each other. How do you create this network, go to writing conferences and film festivals. The Austin Film Festival and Screenwriting Conference is one of the best places for writers to go as this conference is dedicated to honoring and celebrating writers. They bring in some of the top film and TV writers to share their knowledge in a vast assortment of panels. It’s very much a collaborative atmosphere where everyone from panelists to attendees inspire each other. There are others conferences both in L.A. and all over the country. Film festivals are a great place to meet directors and producers who might be interested in ultimately bringing your script to the screen. For any of these, do your research for what you feel fits best for your type of writing, your budget and your goals.
6. Screenwriting Contests
Contests are a great way to start getting you recognition as a writer. A win or high placement gives you legitimacy and sets you apart from the field. The big contests like Nicholl and PAGE can really move the marker on your career, but keep in mind that Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) was discovered through the Virginia Screenwriting Competition. Any victory or accolade can create positive momentum for your writing career.
7. Don’t be a stranger; make trips to L.A.
The entertainment industry is all about relationships and Los Angeles is the place to be when it comes to getting film and television made, so take a trip to L.A. Reach out to all the contacts you’ve made through classes, conferences and social media and let them know you’ll be visiting Los Angeles and you’d love to have coffee or take them out for a bite to eat. Take in a Writers Guild Foundation or Paley Center event. Check out any filmmaker or writing Meet Ups. Stop in and read scripts in the Writers Guild Library.
Get more tips on navigating Hollywood from afar in our on-demand webinar
Breaking In Outside of Hollywood