Debunking Screenwriting Myths, Part XIV- The E-Blast Query

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Last night, I received a “query” letter, of sorts, from a screenwriter (of sorts) inquiring about any initial interest in this writer’s new screenplay. I could tell right away that the email was a group letter, due to its lack of any personalization to the recipient.

The letter opened with “Hello”, and the writer proceeded to introduce himself. He explained the purpose of the letter, adding that this particular horror script was “unusual” as it contained NO dialogue.

Well, color me intrigued.

Although there were some misspellings in the letter, and an admission at the bottom that this WAS, in fact, what he called a “multiple submission” letter, I responded. I indicated that I would be interested to review the first ten pages of said script. As many of you already know, I have a penchant for reviewing the first ten critical pages of anyone’s script and offering- for FREE- some helpful advice and spec writing tips that they might consider. It is my way of paying it forward, while also introducing my mentoring company, The Script Mentor (www.thescriptmentor.com) to some new writers. I’ve also been known to help produce some projects of my own, as well as introduce writers and their projects to producers, agents and managers when I saw fit. The list of writers who have received this help is long and well documented.

However, this writer followed up, now with a more “personal” letter. He asked if I was a producer or had a production company.

Now, I don’t mind if someone doesn’t know me and doesn’t know my history. It’s not about that. A simple Bing or Google search should tell you all you really need to know. Not only that, but this person found me through LinkedIn, of which he is a member, and failed to even review my profile.

Needless to say, I shut off communication at that point. Now, let’s review where this writer went wrong:

1) Email blast– Yes, it saves time, but it is just a waste of time in the end. You can cut and paste the same letter and send it to multiple people in a given time frame, but you need to address them individually. Also, when you cut and paste, make sure the font style and size from the source you’re cutting from is the same font style and size you’re cutting to. Otherwise, it will read all screwed up and unprofessional. For the record, I use Tahoma font, size 10, both in my Word documents and my email structure.

I’ve also used e-blast services, and there are some mixed opinions about these services. I can only say that, from my personal experiences, these email blasts have proven beneficial to me. I’ve made several important connections through e-blasts, which have led to several other opportunities. But, the recipients to these blasts are paying prodco’s who welcome the letters, and most are personalized to boot. I am aware of some ending up in junk files, but it only takes one to get read for a deal to happen.

2) No Spelchk– simplest thing to do. If you don’t know if it’s spelled right, look it up (btw, the word “spelchk” was done on purpose, so please, no letters).

3) No Research– If you are going to send off query letters to people, take the time to research them and find out what types of films they generally work with. Most production companies stay within a framework of certain genre or two. Rarely will you find a prodco that does documentaries and zombie flicks, with a rom/com thrown in for good measure. It happens, but not often. Once you discover WHAT they do, mention in the letter that you saw such and such and were impressed with the project and wanted to work with the best. It’s understood that it is your attempt to butter them up, but it shows you care enough to take the time to do it. It shows you care about the project, and your reputation. It shows you took the time to research and that you’re possibly someone others would enjoy working with. It may not help in any way whatsoever, but it’s certainly better than NOT doing it.

4) They looked a gift horse in the mouth– What this writer did in the follow-up letter blew any chance in hell of getting any help now, and most likely, in the future. I won’t forget this exchange, that’s for sure, and I seriously doubt he’ll ever forget me either. If someone actually RESPONDS in any way, shape or form to one of these email blasts, instead of sending it to the junk file with the dozens of others we receive on a monthly basis, consider yourself anointed with gold pixie dust, because it’s a rare feat indeed. Treat it as such. Be thankful, polite, considerate and complimentary. Answer whatever questions they ask, and shut your pie hole.

Now, chances are that this script was anywhere close to being good, but it would have been interesting to see a script without one word of dialogue, and how that might have been pulled off (I can only imagine it read more like a novel, but we’ll never know). The point is someone outside of their inner circle was willing to look at it. At worst, they might have received six or seven pages of script notes, helping them write a bit better in the future. At best, I might have been blown away and have invested in the project myself, or, more likely, introduced them to a number of producer connections who trust my judgment on these things. Beyond that, it may have led to a management meeting, or perhaps, even an agent meeting.

One never knows.

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3 thoughts on “Debunking Screenwriting Myths, Part XIV- The E-Blast Query

  1. wks9370

    Geno, Hey, how are you doing? I agree with a lot you had to say about E-blast querying and right now I choose to make my queries personal and targeted at a particular Prodco, Actor, or agent. And yes, it is a big mistake, I agree to not do your homework and research that person’s profile/b.g. and/or genre they are known to work with. I haven’t gotten in the door as yet, but I’m also shooting for the stars initially. Starting at the top and working my way down.

    I am networking and trying to connect with anyone who can sponsor or give a referral. I believe my musical-comedy is unique and of interest to many as shown by the influx of followers interest. I would appreciate any words of advice you can give Geno. You can also view my blog and possibly leave a comment at : stepintoadream2013.blogspot.com

    Thanks Geno

    W.Keith Sewell

    Reply
  2. thescriptmentor Post author

    Hi Keith! Thank you for the kind words, and for reaching out for some advice. I think what might be helpful are some points I made in a blog posting from January 23, and I’ll repeat them here:

    “These are but a few points of helpful advice that The Script Mentor has learned and developed along the way that might — just might — help save YOU a significant amount of that time and those resources.

    These points are in no particular order:

    1) You must write something worthy of being purchased, or write with a fresh voice or style worthy of getting paid. This means that it is unique, fresh, perfectly formatted, grammatically and punctually correct, exciting and appealing to the masses.

    2) You must write a perfectly constructed logline that highlights all of the elements, including the “hook”- the one element that separates your story from all others in that genre.

    3) You must prepare an excellent query letter, preferably in the format that is now considered the best for a query letter (from recent polling data).

    4) You need to develop a networking and marketing strategy and stick to it, spending a set amount of time each day to nurturing it, and as much time as your spend writing. You should do both concurrently.

    5) You should explore multiples avenues for marketing and/or breaking in. This includes contests, offering assistance, writing assignments, adapting source materials, etc.

    6) You must understand that there are many ways to achieve your goal (whatever goal that may be), and that your avenue to success is as different as there are goals. In other words, someone wanting to work as a script reader may have a different tact than someone wanting to sell spec scripts for a living.

    7) You should understand that because one person wrote a script this way, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Writing spec scripts are much different than the way QT or Cameron write theirs.

    8) You need to develop your three completely separate support systems we like to call our “cheers”, “peers”, and “rocketeers”, and build that circle of trust around you.

    9) People may offer constructive criticism and sound advice to your writing, but the vision is yours. Stick to the vision.

    10) You have to be someone that others WANT to work with. Be polite and professional, and people will know you as such.

    If you want the complete list of target points developed by The Script Mentor, please contact and join The Script Mentor program today, and get your writing career off on the right track.”

    We also help the writer (mentee member) create a networking strategy and marketing plan, and that plan has been proven effective time and time again. If you send out badly constructed query letters willy-nilly, you’re not only wasting valuable time, money and energy, but you may be doing irreparable harm to your blossoming career. But, the bottom line is, the script has to be RIGHT. Until that happens, nothing else will.

    Hope this is something along the lines of what you were looking for!

    Geno

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Ask THE SCRIPT MENTOR, No. 14: Cheers, Peers, Rocketeers and Reindeers | thescriptmentor

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