Is Data Now More Important Than Relationships in Hollywood?

“It’s who you know.” That’s an apt quote for making it in the entertainment industry. But why? Primarily, because of trust and efficiency.
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If not done with care, taking a chance on an unproven writer could be a multimillion-dollar disaster for a studio. That’s why relationships have been the gold standard for breaking into the industry for decades. Historically, new writers got their first gig because they were in the trusted network of the hiring producer or exec. For that industry professional, selecting a writer from their network was efficient and a bit safer than looking elsewhere.

If you were a screenwriter who didn’t know someone that could get you in, you had to network and create relationships with the gatekeepers who could help you create opportunities for being seen and considered. This process could take years for a new screenwriter. But with the rise of data, the landscape of the old Hollywood system is changing.

The new question being asked in Hollywood is, “how can relationships scale to meet new demands for writers?” That’s where data comes in—to help industry professionals use data to extend their reach and hone in on the most relevant writers for them. This gives more new screenwriters the opportunity to make their mark.

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The Truth About Data

Data is everywhere, and being used for nearly every conceivable purpose. It is a tool, and as a writer, you need to understand the specifics of what the tool does and how you can best use it to your advantage.

Data is important for a few reasons:

- It helps you stand out in search results

- It helps you network with the right executives and agents looking for talent just like you

- It amplifies the unique qualities you bring to any project

- It helps you to catalog all of your relevant experience and present it in an easily digestible way to executives and agents

Data being a quick and consistent way of finding top talent and stories has become a connection enhancer. A simple search gives industry professionals access to a global talent pool with writers that have yet to be discovered.

Data Isn’t Enough

When looking to create high-quality industry relationships at scale, data gives screenwriters the opportunity to be seen, heard, and introduced to more people without having to cold pitch all day long. But not all data is created (or even used) equally, and the truth is that data alone is not enough to help writers find success in today’s market.

The industry has been understandably mistrustful of letting artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning try to evaluate stories and the quality of writing. Artistic expression is subjective, and getting AI and machine learning to mimic the emotional response an audience would have to vet potential projects properly is tricky. This is where data is lacking—the emotional response. This is where the industry is starting to go to new trusted sources who can evaluate the data and condense it into something that is useful for their unique purposes—much like a matchmaker.

These matchmakers are using a mix of public data and proprietary data to index and recommend relevant projects and writers to the industry. Look no further than The Black List, Script Revolution, or Coverfly. They each have their unique flavor and process, but the most successful ones are finding ways to interpret the vast amounts of data for the industry in a personal way. In that sense, they’re building the trusted relationships so you don’t have to.

This is where you, as a writer, need to look at their trusted network. You can find out how much the industry trusts these different matchmakers through the connections they’ve driven for writers. By researching their writer successes, you’ll find out who trusts them to recommend talent. And from that, you can start working on your plan to get data working for you. But before you start building that profile, it’s important to understand how to use data to your advantage.

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How to Get Data Ready

There’s good data and bad data. Good data begins with defining your goals so that all of your other data gathering and organization can take shape. A goal might look like this:

  1. I aim to be a showrunner on a dystopian network drama catering to a global audience
  2. Write psychological thriller features for a North American audience 

In order to make sure that you’re building a writer platform that’s good-data rich, you want to make sure that you have these key pieces of data mapped out before sitting down to create your profile across different online talent discovery services: 

  1. competition placements (finalist and other placements)
  2. coverage scores
  3. existing connections (including connections that you’d like to make)
  4. tonal aspects of your projects
  5. concise bio focused on your unique brand
  6. engaging, concise loglines for your projects
  7. competitions for your projects (both competitions you’d like to participate in, as well as the ones that you already have)

This is the data that you’ll use to build your writer platform. As you put these pieces together, there are other good pieces of data that you need to know which will help you to shape your platform to be attractive and engaging to Hollywood executives and professionals. These consist of: 

  1. mandates for agencies (what is it that they look for or require?)
  2. management companies
  3. production companies
  4. a list of companies and services that are helping writers in ways you’re needing for your next steps (competitions, coverage services, consulting services, etc)
  5. the networks of industry professionals and companies you want to work with.
  6. accounts created with Variety Insights, IMDb Pro, Tracking Board, DoneDealPro, Studio System

Taking all of this information, you want to create profiles on talent discovery platforms like the Blacklist, Script Revolution, and Coverfly. Each platform has its own way of utilizing data, so you may want to create profiles across a few platforms to discover which ones work best for you.

Good data-driven profile vs. bad data-driven profile.

Good data-driven profiles are searchable. They have well-written bios, concise loglines, detailed life experiences, the top three scripts you’ve written, all of your competition placements, and a thorough representation of your experience within the industry.

A bad data-driven profile will leave some of these things out. It won’t include life experiences, which makes it difficult for executives to understand what qualifies you to write for special projects. For example, if you were an Army medic and an executive is working on a military drama focused on front-line doctors in the field, then your real-world insight sets you apart from all of the other screenwriters that they may consider.

Likewise, bad data-driven profiles will only list a couple of links to social media and will lack depth or clarity of background information. In other words, trying to fill out your profile quickly instead of being thoughtful with each word you include is likely to backfire and work against you. Things like social media links and life experience will set you apart from other screenwriters and help industry executives find you in the first place.

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Data or Relationships?

It’s no longer an either/or case. Relationships with wide-ranging, accessible data are now vastly more important than simply relationships. For instance, Coverfly’s data-driven platform has helped sign and staff over 60 writers in the past three months alone. It’s evident that the tide is turning. Industry professionals are starting to trust these new digital platforms for the effectiveness and efficiency in helping vet and secure new top talent.

So, what are you to do as a writer? Build your network. It’s helpful. But before you do, get your digital profiles set up. This will help fast-track your way into Hollywood’s new trusted network of talent discovery platforms.


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