Unscripted: How Twitter Can Help Your Career

To many writers, Twitter is a mystery. When someone first suggested I join Twitter three years ago, I thought, “What a time suck.” Yes, it can be, but it can also advance your career in ways you never imagined.

Here’s a piece I wrote for Tribeca, Hooked on Twitter: How 140 Characters Breeds a Community, where I share just some of the wonderful things Twitter brought to my life:

In 2009, I joined Twitter, and my life as a screenwriter forever changed.

My name is Jeanne, and I’m a tweetaholic.

Prior to my Twitter addiction, I was a screenwriter quarantined in my cluttered home office, sometimes not stopping to shower. Who wouldn’t love this job? Peace. Quiet. Creativity. Loneliness. Alienation. No money. Surrounded by a family confused by my passion for words.

Wait, this doesn’t sound very fulfilling. I was completely marooned in my country home with no support system. I needed to do something drastic.

I needed to tweet.

There I was with a grungy mane, a shiny new Twitter account and no idea what to do. I timidly poked around and discovered a writing chat, #WriteChat. I gasped as I witnessed a gaggle of writers sharing ideas. There are really people out there! I started tweeting, afraid they’d disappear.

Who else could I summon from my keyboard?

I searched for screenwriters and found Oscar-winning Diablo Cody. We were either going to become best friends, or she’d block me. I was willing to take my chances. I tweeted her, and much to my amazement, she sent a quick-witted one back.  Wow. I can access anyone on this site. If only Katharine Hepburn were alive.

I was two months in, with hundreds of followers and a new blog, yet something was missing. How could I go farther with this medium?

A screenwriting chat. Bingo!

Zac Sanford, Jamie Livingston, Kim Garland, Mina Zaher and I founded ScriptChat. Fast-forward two years, the chat now has thousands of writers plus an additional European chat. If you build it, they will come.

With a strong global community in place, we started a blog, posting transcripts and resource information. Our motto was twofold: “It’s not a competition, it’s a community,” and “bring your tequila, but leave your ego behind.”

Who said learning can’t be a virtual party.

Joshua Stecker, the former online editor of Script Magazine, the premier script writing community, soon spotted ScriptChat and offered to sponsor us. We had arrived! When he wanted to meet me in New York City for coffee, I hopped on a train and away I went. It’s the most expensive cup of coffee I’ve ever had, but it’s critical to take your online community offline in order to reap the full benefits.

Josh joined my writing partner, Douglas A. Blackmon, and me to discuss our adaptation of Blackmon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Slavery by Another Name. Script asked us to guest blog to chronicle our journey. That one cup of coffee and blog post ultimately led to my regular Balls of Steel column on the site. I was as giddy as a 5-year-old at Christmas.

Could this all be happening because of Twitter? While the site gives access, it doesn’t sprinkle fairy dust on people. Tweeting is laborious. In fact, it is a job.

You only get out what you put in.

Every day I watch projects birthed, sometimes from a simple tweet, asking if anyone needs a writing partner, a director, or an actor. Within minutes, queries are being tweeted and re-tweeted and connections are cemented.

My own short film, Impasse, was conceived while tweeting a play-by-play of a lovers’ quarrel witnessed at Starbucks. After the 30-minute voyeurism news blast, I had hundreds of followers on the edge of their seats, emails from two agents wanting to read my novel, and director Michael Bekemeyer asking if I would write the script for him to shoot.

We decided to use as much talent as possible from Twitter in the production. Our actors Jennifer Fontaine and John T. Woods signed on, as well as editor Eric Brodeur, who I not only met on Twitter, but also met at Sundance when two of his films were competing this year. The four key players of the project are from every corner of the United States and all met on Twitter.

While Internet access has shrunk the size of the world, our opportunities for filmmaking partnerships have grown.

It is absolutely possible to tweet to success. I’m not the only success story. Even accomplished writers like Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, Game of Thrones, and Once Upon a Time) use the platform to build their audience and get a buzz going about new projects. Espenson and co-writer Brad Bell launched the hysterically fun webseries Husbands and found such great success, she used the site to do a Kickstarter campaign, raising funds for the second season.

Espenson shares what attracts her to Twitter: “I love how easy Twitter is.  And the brevity gets rid of so much formulaic chit-chat. You get right down to business. And being able to tweet a link directly to content that you recommend is huge. It’s like being able to hand your favorite book to a friend, only multiplied by thousands. Everyone gets to be a taste-maker. Everyone gets to, almost, schedule their own little network of content. And for those of us creating content, it’s fantastic to be able to get it in front of people with one click – revolutionary.”

Bottom-line, the community of Twitter is generous. People share informative links to industry news, launch Kickstarter campaigns, cheer each other on through the dark days of being an artist, never allowing each other to give up. My Twitter followers are my life vest and the hand that always reaches back to pull me up when I need it.

My writer’s quarantine of solitude is lifted.  Twitter is my water cooler.

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14 thoughts on “Unscripted: How Twitter Can Help Your Career

  1. Gray JonesGray Jones

    Great article, Jeanne!

    But don’t forget the TV Writer Chat, and also the TV Writer Twitter Database! And our 2-part social media round table on the TV Writer Podcast is a great resource for anyone looking to expand their social media strategy.

    TV Writer Chat: http://www.tvwriterchat.com

    TV Writer Twitter Database: http://www.tvwriterpodcast.com/?page_id=530

    Social Media Round Table Part 1: http://www.tvwriterpodcast.com/?p=888

    Part 2: http://www.tvwriterpodcast.com/?p=901

    Gray Jones.

  2. Marg

    What a great article! Of course I heard about it on Twitter!! The awesome web show, Husbands, by Jane Espenson and Brad Bell is a perfect example of how success can be achieved by utilizing social media. A wonderful show that deserves the success it is experiencing through its use of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

  3. Marguerite

    What a great article! Jane Espenson & Brad Bell have created the BEST webshow & were able to film a second season because of Twitter. Socia Media is important to writers as well as many others in the entertainment business. Thanks for an article pointing this out.

  4. Shaunna

    A few years ago when I was living in NorCal one of my friends from the1st BlogHer conference excitedly told me about the launch of the next.big.thing… Twitter. Afraid at the time I couldn’t quite see it and made a rude remark along the lines that it’d be full of announcements about taking kids to school and relieving bodily functions (but) I signed up. The account stayed dormant for a quite some time.

    Fast forward to when circumstances forced me to embrace the joy of microblogging. It is very much a writer’s medium; it’s not easy to make a succinct or witty point in 140 characters or less.

    I started following Cheeks aka Brad Bell after lurking about Cheektopia and being consistently entertained by his amazing YouTube videos.

    He is such an awesome writer, now partnered with another awesome write. There isn’t anything I enjoy more than a well-crafted situation comedy (particularly those that are innovative and matter in the long run). That is Husbands.

  5. Lisa

    This article made me think. Twitter makes communication, good and bad, instant. Celebrities and Fans can get a message out in minutes via twitters that would have taken weeks just a few years ago. The first celebrity that I followed was @gocheeksgo, AKA Brad Bell. Brad had a series a funny youtube videos that a few of us followed. It has been so fun watching his rise to fame and the evolution of his talent over the last three years. Jane Espenson was also among one of my first celebrity follows. I find Gilmore Girls, which Jane was a writer, to be the best modern day show ever written. As a fan of both, it is extra thrilling to watch fandoms collide. It felt like having a front row seat in the birth of Husbands, Co-written by Bell and Espenson. The two reached out on twitter to allow us to invest in Husbands. I feel this would have been impossible before twitter.

  6. MusicalAbuse

    I really enjoyed reading your article.
    I think Twitter has changed a lot over the past few years, and it’s great! I love the platform it gives people to state their opinions or share their great talents with the world.
    I loved your mention of Jane Espenson’s wonderful web series Husbands, which, by the way, was co-created by the fab Brad “Cheeks” Bell! It’s one of my all time favorite creations online, it’s taking the whole “web series” genera to a whole new level..and Twitter helped Jane and Brad bring their “baby” to the audience, and I’m very thankful for that.

  7. Isis Nocturne

    Twitter has definitely affected my life in some incredibly positive ways. Through it, over the course of a year, I have connected with people whom I highly admire, leading to things that actually happened offline.

    Jane Espenson, bless her, is one of the positive connections I made, and it’s how I learned of the fabulous series ‘Husbands,’ which she and Cheeks (aka Brad Bell) co-created. Now, it’s fun to turn my friends and followers onto the funniest webseries I’ve seen.

  8. tuke18

    Twitter rules my world! I often wonder what I did before twitter?? I also follow Jane Espenson and Brad “Cheeks” Bell and other fans of Husbands. It’s awesome to be able to get updates and speak with people who have a common interest such as this. Twitter makes it possible to interact with people like Jane and Cheeks! And, they’re very good at interacting with us!!

  9. Dawn_KJ

    Excellent article. Twitter connected me with a community of Husbands fans. I was thrilled with the first season of Husbands and am thoroughly enjoying the second season. Writer/producer Jane Espenson and co-creator/writer/star Brad Bell (Cheeks) have really brought something to the viewing public that we were ready for. When I contributed to the Kickstarter effort, I just wanted to help out, to see more of their work, but now I’m feeling strangely gratified as I watch because I think to myself “I’m part of this.”

  10. Sherrie Richey

    What a great article! I heard about it…of course…on Twitter. I have also found a great community of supportive people, and find Twitter to be much more valuable than other social platforms. Also, thanks for mentioning my favorite web series, Husbands. Good luck in all your writing endeavors!

  11. xof1013

    I truly enjoyed this article. Especially the mention of Jane Espenson and the Kickstarter for the online comedy “Husbands” – her co-creation with Brad Bell (aka Cheeks). I am only one of many fans of Jane, Brad and Husbands. Together, we have made Twitter a primary platform for our voluntary and enthusiastic championing of this smart, hilarious and thought-provoking show. We are a part of an elective community, that grows every day to include new viewers and more vocal fans. Seeing the impact that our voices can lend to the progress and growth of the series is both satisfying and encouraging; it creates a synergy that’s rewarding to all.