It has been a HUGE week for black girl nerds everywhere. Our very own, Issa Rae, creator and star of “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” has hit the big time.
Deadline.com reported yesterday:
“Larry Wilmore and Issa Rae have teamed to co-write a comedy series project for HBO, with Rae set to star. The project focuses on the awkward experiences and racy tribulations of a modern day African-American woman. These are also themes Rae has tackled in her successful web series, The Misadventures Of Awkward Black Girl.
Wilmore will executive produce with 3 Arts, which manages both him and Rae, while Rae will co-executive produce.”
As we all know, Issa is not an overnight success. She worked hard to create productions that would showcase characters that represented blerds everywhere. Her partnership with HBO is only the beginning of the blerd revolution. We wish Issa much success—she is the First. But she is only one person and many will follow in her footsteps. Now I know there’s a lot of blerd writers and actresses out there, so I’ll ask this question:
Are you ready to follow in Issa’s footsteps?
I’m a proud blerd screenwriter and these are the tips that have been passed along to me by my mentors.
If you’re not getting the opportunity, then make your own.
If you want to be a screenwriter, but you can’t get your foot in the door—partner with an up and coming director or producer to bring those dreams to life. We have to help each other. This is not the time to become selective and possessive of opportunities. Together we rise or alone we fall. Issa rose with the help of her friends and I’m sure they will benefit from her newfound commercial success.
Stop watching other people’s shows and create your own.
I know you want to binge-watch all 12 episodes of “Orphan Black” or “Orange is the new Black” but that’s time wasted. Set goals and rewards for yourself. If I write five pages then I get to watch one episode. Also, the Internet is your mortal enemy. Download a free app that prevents Internet abuse during your creative time. Issa Rae uses the Mac app called Self Control. There are tons of these apps available for Mac and PC. No one is immune to distraction.
Practice, Research, and Learn the Hell out of your Craft
Study screenplay structure, research how to craft a good story with unique dialogue and learn how to use your screenwriting software. Write something everyday, no matter what. Go to the library or Amazon and get books that will help you learn your craft. Put what you learn into motion and your work will progressively get better over time. Give your writing the same professionalism you give your day job.
Always have writing samples available
When I first started getting serious about my writing a few years ago, I cannot tell you how many times someone has wanted to read my work and I didn’t have a sample available. I never finished anything. I missed out on a good opportunity two years ago because of my intimidation of story completion. I learned my lesson. Always, have a few spec scripts in your back pocket. Some people will even read your short stories. They want to know if you’re talented and have a distinct voice. You never know when Issa may need to employ some fellow blerd writers and if you snooze, you lose in this business.
Stay true to your characters and ask for opinions about your work.
We sometimes get so wrapped up in a story that we assume hard work equals good work. Pick a couple trustworthy friends and pitch them your ideas. Tarantino has a friend circle to this day. He makes them sit in a room while he reads his drafts from start to completion. You don’t have to go that crazy, but there’s a method to his madness. Read your dialogue out loud— does it sound natural? Pitch your story to friends—are they interested? Sometimes they will give you feedback that takes your work to the next level. Feedback is not final and opinions are opinions. Be objective enough to know what advice to take and what to leave on the cutting room floor.
Buy your own domain name and put your samples on line. The Internet is everywhere and if someone in the biz can pull up your stuff on their smart phone, all the better. Also, get rid of that high school e-mail address. No one wants to read the work of firstname.lastname@example.org. Be professional.
Get a subscription to imdbpro.com. It’s $15.95 a month but it is the best $15.95 you will spend for your career. You will have access to thousands of producers, directors, and writer’s contact info. While you shouldn’t solicit your work to them, it can’t hurt to send an introductory e-mail to a fellow writer. Ask for advice. Perhaps you’ll make a friend or gain a mentor. You can also find a lot of your favorite writers or show-runners on twitter. There’s no harm in trying. There’s nothing but pain in regrets.
It is hard to be a writer, but you are not alone. We are everywhere. BlackGirlNerds.com is a fantastic site for networking. If you want to meet an entertainment-minded friend, just hit up the BGN twitter account. Jamie is great about making connections. Finally, NEVER GIVE UP. While success is not always immediate, it can’t happen to you if you walk away from it all. Quitting is a bad color on everyone.
While these are tips for writers, they can apply to any career path. Implement, focus, practice, confidence and networking are the keys to success. There’s room for everyone on this ride. Get moving and let’s represent!
Desiree Bowie is a freelance writer/filmmaking native of Los Angeles, California. She is a complete movie junkie who once attempted to seduce Joseph Gordon-Levitt with a pick up line using broken French. She is currently working on a screenplay that she hopes to produce early next year. I’m working on my website so I’ll just give you my twitter handle until it’s complete: @dangerbowie