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Sunday, February 05, 2012

Putting Together A Writer's CV / Resume

Many thanks to the Bang2writers who've been asking various script-related questions over at the Facebook page today... If you have a burning writing-or-industry-related question, "Like" the page here and join in.

I was able to answer most of the questions very quickly on the FB page, but this one from Gail warrants a longer post:

How do you put together a writer's CV? What should go in, what should be left out, what counts as relevant experience?

First up, the usual disclaimer: this post is based on my experience of writing my own CVs and reading other people's ONLY. There is no *set* way of doing it. However I've seen some very good CVs and I've seen some very pants ones, so I think I can offer some help here, however small, especially for those who are having issues knowing where to start.

So, without further ado, my thoughts:

Presentation. We often hear presentation is everything in this biz, which is why CVs sometimes look surprisingly BAD on this front. Supposedly "eye-catching" fonts and colours are the biggest no-nos; jazzy layouts, extra space and justified text can also cause issues. I don't recommend putting your photo on them either, even if you are hot - you're not an actor. I recommend the following:

- A sans serif font (Minus that "squiggly" bit, ie. Arial)

- 12 pt size

- Black type on a white page

- One to two pages MAXIMUM

Of course, there is room for personal preference too. I like to put my name and jobs ("Script Editor and Novelist" at the top in larger type, putting my address, website and contact details in a little box on the right hand side. I then seperate each "section" with a line. Basically, lay it out HOWEVER YOU WANT as long as it is a) simple and b) does not affect "readability".

So that's the dull stuff out the way. So what else could go on your writer's CV?

- About you. A short intro about you is nearly always MISSING on CVs I see and I think it's a real shame, since this is a GREAT opportunity to really sell yourself off the page to whomever's reading. Give them an insight into WHO YOU ARE. Mine reads "Straight-talking, web savvy Script Editor with an eye for structure" as a sub heading and underneath there is a short paragraph about my various interests , such as challenging gender stereotypes, social media and event organising. I prefer to write in the third person because I'm BRITISH and saying it in the first feels like BOASTING to me, but if you're more sensible and don't have the same hang-up, either is fine.

- Online presence. Do you have one? If so (and you really should), put your website, your LinkedIn, Facebook & Twitter idents here too. If you have a particularly popular blog, why not include something like its daily hit rate? Perhaps you're well known online for things like #scriptchat on Twitter - why not include that. Maybe you have a large FB group or participate in discussions online a lot - why not link to such an example, if appropriate? Basically you just want to show you're an active part of the online scriptwriting "community" and not afraid to get out there.

- Membership. If you belong to The WGGB, here is the place for it. Similarly, list here any other clubs or writing societies and make sure you say you organised the group if you did! You could also link to online profiles here, like your Talent Circle page.

- Education. If you have a BA or MA in scriptwriting, obviously that should go on. But so should short courses like Guerilla Filmmakers' Masterclass and yes, things like London Screenwriters Festival. A couple of lines about the course, listing elements you feel you did well in or have a particular interest in (ie. networking, speed pitching, TV writing, one page pitches, writing for radio, feature writing) and any relevant results (if appropriate) would be good here.

Other Education. With space at a premium, I would recommend not bothering including stuff from school, college or university unless it's RELEVANT. So, for example - if you did English Literature and Language and got a first class degree? That's impressive and shows you potentially have mad writing skillz. On the other hand, a degree in IT, whilst very useful, probably could do with being missed out. It is however up to you. BTW: Back in school, I remember the careers guidance people advising us to put our education on our CVs FIRST. This might be good when one is a "newbie" (screenwriter or otherwise), though it's probably a good idea to list experience first if you're more "seasoned" and have a few collaborations or credits under your belt.

- Agent. Do you have one? Make sure you put it somewhere on your CV. If not, just ignore this bit.

- Experience. Again, keep it relevant: this is your WRITER'S CV, not your "normal" CV. So here, I'd say don't bother listing your seasonal job at the cafe when you were a teenager or the fact you've spent the last ten years growing cultures in a lab in Borneo. If you have credits, great - stick 'em down. But equally, even if your collaborations, options, commissions and whatnot have come to nothing... STILL PUT THEM DOWN HERE. Do not hide your light under a bushel. If you worked on them, those projects EXISTED. Don't pretend they never happened. "Wait a sec... I have no experience of any of that." I wondered when you'd chime in with that! No problem... We all have to start somewhere. Miss this part out and move straight to the next bit...

- Projects. Here, make a list of your specs. I would recommend having at least three here. List title, genre, plus a short logline. If you have had any interest, contest placings/wins or good feedback, list that here too briefly.

- Contests. If you're a contest pro with MANY placings, you may want to create a whole section just for this. Things like getting through the second round of the BBC Writers' Academy, The Red Planet Prize, various rounds of The British Screenplay Competition and placing in US biggies like Bluecat, Scriptapolooza, Final Draft Big Break and Just Effin' Entertain Me could all go here.

- Other. "Normal" CVs say boring stuff like "clean driving licence, excellent telephone speaking voice, computer skills" - YAWN! Think outside the box on this one, give them a flavour of who you are, make them remember you. Have you ever been stuck in a lift with a celebrity? Perhaps you sat in a bath of beans for three days for Comic Relief? Whatever, just put something. Mine at the moment says that I'm related to the guy who pulled the longest tapeworm ever out of a cow (true story). If that doesn't appeal, maybe you could write about your SPECIAL KNOWLEDGE here... 'Cos we all have some. If you're a stay-at-home Mum or Dad of fifteen years' experience, you "know" kids and how they sound; if you were a policeman on the beat or a nurse in A&E, you *know* conflict; if you work in construction, IT or local government you also have a wealth of knowledge... As does every single person who's worked in a supermarket, a factory, a school or hair salon. Don't do yourself down, there's stuff you know that other people don't that HELPS your writing - so figure out what it is.

So hope that's of use, good luck with those CVs!


Scriptpunk said...

Fab Lucy

Just the ticket

What a useful post, I have bookmarked and am defo goig to get mine done in the next month. Bang2write strikes again.



Ben Craib said...

Thanks so much for this great post! I am really loving setting out my cv, becoming a typographical nerd!

reelcitizen said...

Thanks Lucy, very useful stuff. I've just put together my CV for a competition and wouldn't have known where to begin!