Ben Affleck is the most famous person to reinvent himself in Hollywood. He started as an actor in films like Mallrats and Chasing Amy. Wanting better parts, he started writing and sold Good Will Hunting, which earned him an Oscar. After that, he enjoyed a long, sort of successful second career as an actor. His worst review as an actor came in Gigli. Then, somehow, he did it again — he moved into directing. Some of his credits –The Town, Gone, Baby, Gone, and the Oscar-winning Argo.
How do you reinvent yourself as a writer in Hollywood?
1. Decide on a different style, or genre or art form.
You could try different styles and structures, different genres, and even different art forms. Try writing plays, novels and short stories.
Some writers may want to show a different side of themselves; social, political, or philosophical. Others might try using a different tone; edgy, dark, satirical, for example. Or they may want to write straight from the heart.
Some decide to raise their standards. If they’re used to writing children’s TV, they may want to write prime time comedies. If they’re used to writing straight up action films, they may want to write a dramatic tour de force.
They may want to try shooting the same event from different character’s points of view, or using a docudrama or documentary format, or experimenting with web series, children’s books, plays or radio dramas.
2. Make sure your new approach is something you can do well or learn quickly.
Say you’re ten years into your writing career and want to expand your reach. Chances are, though that you’re stuck in your box (for example, a late night talk show monologue joke writer), because it’s something you’re really good at.
Be careful you don’t pick something that you just won’t be able to do. For example, coming from a comedy background, I doubt I’m the guy to write the next 12 Years A Slave. Be realistic.
How do you know if you’re good at something? It’s hard to know without trying. So try a few different styles or genres. If there’s something you’re really passionate about, then that’s probably going to be it.
Try writing a short sample in your new genre. Get feedback from your writer friends. If you get good feedback, especially if it’s from a writer who’s known in that genre, then that’s a good sign.
If you’re at a place in your career where you can pick up the phone and pitch movie ideas, you might want to pitch a a film from a new genre. If you’re not at that place, then pitch ideas to writer’s groups, or in writing classes.
3. Visualize yourself writing in your new style or genre, successfully.
While you’re reinventing yourself, you should do some serious research. Read screenplays by writers in your new chosen genre. Read books about the writers who write them.. Read their scripts, novels or plays. Soak it up.
If you want to write edgy gangster crime thrillers, then read the best scripts; Goodfellas, Casino, Heat, The Long Good Friday, and Reservoir Dogs. Then read about the writers. Google them. Find out what makes them tick.
From time to time you might try to picture what it looks like – to leave your genre behind and try to write what you’re passionate about.
Pick a writer, say Tarentino. Get the feel for subjects he chooses, the films that personally inspire him, his characters and his dialogue. Get inside his head.
Picture yourself on the set of a film in your new genre. Or picture yourself writing like another writer you admire. Picture what an average day would be like to write like your hero.
Keep revisiting these visions from time to time, maybe every morning, or whenever you have time. If you meditate, that’s a perfect time to visualize. Visualize yourself being successful. It beats the alternative.
Most people don’t realize it, but they do this without really thinking about it. If you’re doing well as a novelist, for example, you probably gave that career a lot of thought, and at some point, imagined what it would be like.
Ask yourself where you’d like to be in five years? What would you like to be writing? Crime novels? Gangster movies? Independent film comedies? Ask yourself, “Is it in your wheelhouse?” Whatever it is you’re passionate about, take time out of your day to visualize yourself being successful in a new arena.
I hope you find these tips helpful in reinventing yourself. If you’d like to discuss it, you can call for a free phone consult, or a free session. 310-850-4707
Image credit: Creative Commons, Ben Affleck, 2012 by Elen Nivre, is licensed under CC By 2.