The film industry markets movies by genre.

Do you want to see a horror? A comedy? A thriller? Or do you want a mixed genre like action adventure or romantic comedy?

To make it as a screenwriter, one needs to become genre specific: to specialize in horror or thriller is better than being a master of drama; drama is considered too general a description.

Better yet, successful screenwriters specialize in a mix of genres. For example, Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) is a master of comedy and horror. Richard Curtis (Notting Hill, Love Actually, Bean) as a master of comedy combined with the love genre.

What these writers have done is created awareness of their specific skills, which enables producers to say, “Who can we get to write this rom-com-zom?” Of course Edgar Wright’s name will pop up because he is now known to be a master of that particular genre-blend.

As writers use genre, so too all filmmakers need to use the tool of genre to distinguish themselves from their competitors. Where writers have the 10 key dramatic genres to help them get noticed, filmmakers have no such help – this is where the use of personal genre becomes paramount.

Personal Genre

Our life is the era of personal genre.? Everyone is competing to get work, and before you are hired, employers want to know what ‘story’ you are. What you are and how you use it will determine what jobs you get, who you develop relationships with, both personal and professional.

As screenwriters use genres to distinguish themselves, your personal genre is what will set you apart from everyone else.

Many of the filmmakers I work with get jammed on this point and worry that they need to develop a personal genre. It is very easy to over think this key point. The fact is, you are your own unique personal genre, and because your genre is you, it is as unique as possible. You don’t need to worry about genre blends or style – because you already are one. The trick is to look at your core DNA and decide as a filmmaker – be it writer, director, producer, actor, cinematographer, editor, designer – and decide what is truly you. You then need to strip this message back to basics and learn to communicate your genre clearly.

Co-incidentally, the steps you take to communicate your personal genre to the outside world are very similar to the steps taken by marketers and advertising companies seeking to communicate so-called brand values.

The 10 Steps To Creating Personal Genre

1. Resonance

Resonance is that deep inner satisfaction you get when you know you have made the right decision. Get it crystal clear that what you are doing resonates with who you are. Once you are clear, and have ‘resonance’ you will work with a passion that with send a huge ‘filmmaker genre’ signal out ahead of everywhere you go.

2. Core Genre Values

Screenwriters can sum up a particular genre in a few words. For example, Detective: To find the truth. Get very clear on what your core message is. Find what is unique to you. List any problems that you are really good at solving. See if you can compose a 3 – 5 word tagline that would sum up your key personal genre. Brainstorm away until you find something that resonates deep within.

Raindance came from such a session very early on. A friend came up with the logline: Raindance: Because of the dance needed to get your film made and because it rains in London.”

3. Know Your Ideal Audience

Getting a clear idea of who your ideal audience is will be a complete posting on it’s own. Simply put, the clearer the idea you have of who your audience is, the more successful you will be. If you want to end up, say, as a production designer, then you will realize that your audience are the people who hire production designers – directors and producers. If your end goal is to work as a runner, then your audience are the people who need runners – production companies. If your goal is to be a screenwriter – you need to get the word out to producers, directors and agents.

Any goal is possible if you understand what it is that you really want. The trick of course is to fit your dream and ambition to the realities of your life, enabling you to keep your landlord happy, and the personal relationships you have as well.

4. Projecting Your Genre

From the minute someone reads about you, sees a picture, lands on your website, sees your company logo or is involved in your film, film work or screenplay, it should be completely clear what you are about. What your core genre is. To have someone land on your website and not know what your core genre is within 5 seconds is a calamity that needs immediate repair. Remembering too that 5 seconds is an eternity in the world of the internet, and in the world of the movies.

5. Consistency

We now live in a cross platform world: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, Myspace and so on. The goal is to make sure your profile, image and messages is the same on each platform. Simple things like profile pictures on Facebook need to be considered.

If, for example, your profile Facebook picture is a couple of years old when you had just suffered a personal trauma, chances are that picture shows you at an emotional low that doesn’t suit the new you. Scrub it out, delete it and get an image that represents where you are today and clearly demonstrates where you are now going. And then update any other platforms you are using. Consistency is the key people use when they measure your talent.

6. Blogging

You want people to think of you as a filmmaker? Then you’d better start blogging immediately.

Blogging is where you tell your own personal stories and where people get a sense of the real you. Blogging is where you sell your human side. A Blog tells your story. People are fascinated by stories. Stories sell. People will connect with you through your story.

7. What’s Your Story?

We all have stories. What’s yours? How did you come to be where you are now? What were your most notable achievements? What were your noble and heroic failures? What have you learned from them? Make it personal. Then tell us what special wisdom or skills or knowledge you have that makes you the special problem solver someone might be looking for. Employers and commissioners buy from people. Your story goes onto your “About” page

8. Write In The 1st Person

We all know who writes your bio – you! You will connect with your audience much quicker by writing in the first person.

9. You Can’t Please Everybody

Marks and Spencer is one of the great British retail brands. For years they focused on an audience that most of us would consider suburban and square. And they became hugely successful. Then they tried to please everybody, to the derision of trendy types like me, and to the massive disappointment of their core audience. And they nearly failed after a century of trading success.

Speak your core message. Apologizing is totally unnecessary – you are who you are. There are always those who will criticize you and try to take you down. But the people you connect with follow you and your career everywhere you go.

10. Show Some Emotion

I know filmmakers who are so afraid to let anyone know what they think, and I know screenwriters who never show anyone their writing. To me this shows tremendous lack of confidence and fear of criticism – not the attributes I seek in collaborators. Don’t be afraid to show off your wares. Tell people what you like. Have opinions. `

Here’s mine: I grew up on an Amish farm in Ontario and I measure everything through my farmboy eyes. I am now vegan. I love the colour orange because when I was a child on the farm, my grandfather discovered that when he went to market with milk filled in bottles printed in orange, he got home an hour earlier. He realized that orange made the milk creamier. I’m always rushing to finish things. I post blog after blog with typos and broken links {very uncool) when I should be more patient.

But that’s me. Raw. Unrefined. Love it or leave it. But what about you? Your audience, your future collaborators and employers want to know.

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken”
– Oscar Wilde

About 

Elliot Grove is the founder of Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards. He has produced over 700 hundred short films and also five feature films, including the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead in 2006, Deadly Virtues in 2013 and AMBER in 2017. He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance trailer 2017

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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