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.