How To Write A Filmmaker Bio Without Sounding Like You’re In The Running For Sainthood

The filmmaker/web series creator bio. You’ve definitely seen one. Working with filmmakers to build their original content businesses on a daily basis, I see a ton of them. Every time I do, my eyeballs turn to jelly and I die a little bit inside. A filmmaker or web series creator’s bio that reads like an advertisement for the second coming is soooo no bueno. It actually has the opposite effect of impressing busy people who might want to work with you.

It goes something like this:

John Doe is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, producer and actor best known for his world class short films, TELLTALE HEART and PROGNOSIS NEGATIVE, a micro-thriller based on the critically acclaimed, one-man-show of the same name. He is a Deans List graduate Such-N-Such University where he was awarded the Such-N-Such film prize for….

You get the gist. So, what’s wrong with bios like this? You know you’ve seen them, and lord knows, we’ve all written one or two.

The Breakdown:

In general – it suffers from the “me, me, me syndrome” but somehow is written in the third person as if someone from the New York Times wrote it. It’s all designed to impress but comes off as puffery.

The ubiquitous and almost always present “Award Winning”. Unless it was Cannes, Sundance, a Golden Globe or SXSW no one cares. This is often used to give gravitas to one’s career but comes off to buyers and people who might hire you as hacky. Don’t be tempted by this tactic.

Use of the “actor, singer, dancer, model, deep-sea welder” list – This is often designed to be sure all bases are covered and to throw as wide a net as possible. The belief being, it gives the writer of said bio the ere of multifaceted super creator and/or more chances to be hired in any one of those myriad categories. When, in fact, it tells the buyer/hiring producer that John doesn’t actually know what he does.

“Best known for” – these are often films no one who could buy your content or hire you for a gig has ever heard of, let alone seen. The films are important to John because he dedicated his life to them, but to the outsider who has a slot to fill, those films have little to no effect on the decisions they get paid to make.

Making up new genres like “micro-thriller” and letting the reader know that it was based on a one-man-show his bro wrote? ‘Nuff said.

Finally, the college or university John attended, even if it was NYU or USC (AFI might be a little different, I’d throw that in there), is not enough to persuade. It was college, and people who are in decision making positions know what that means. “John made student films and got a degree from a good university, but what does that get me here at Such-N-Such Studios”?

Clearly, most people don’t have huge studio credits or big festival wins or possess a direct line to JJ Abrams. So, what do you do when your credit list is thin or you’ve been making a ton of great corporate work but not a lot of entertainment content that people would recognize?

Including the following items in your bio will not only put you in front of decision makers honestly, but dramatically increase your chances of getting called in for a meeting:

Instead of making it about you, make it about what THEY need. In other words, tell them what results THEY get by working with you.

  • Tell them how your work impacts THEIR audience.

  • Tell them what it is about your work that is hard to achieve and why you’re the only one that can accomplish that.

  • Tell them what your work promises that a buyer/hiring producer could look forward to? (i.e. “The ending of my project is totally unexpected”, “The screenplay has a revolutionary structure”, etc)

Finally, if you’ve been making corporate work to pay the bills, let them know how, for the past several years, you’ve been turning that experience into the exact tools they’re looking for.

In the end, decision makers buy the person, not just the project or resume. Communicating why you matter gives them a clear picture of why hiring you or buying your project is of huge benefit to them and their company.

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