As many of you know, I’ve been conducting several script searches for various clients, as well as one search for a screenwriting job. I do this because I want to help upcoming writers- and established ones- add to their resume and credits, make a little money, and hopefully find that “break” we’re all struggle to find.
The hard part is actually making the referral without doing too much damage to my own credibility, and then having to tell others why they may or may not have been recommended or referred to the next level. I realize I’m not REQUIRED to this, but I think it’s beneficial for the writer to hear exactly what we thought of the entire submission package: query, logline, one page and screenplay. Doing this does NOT win any friends, I can tell you, but once the dust settles, hopefully the writers will take a nice, long look at what I’m telling them and try to improve in this area.
Chances are, the rejections are piling up and you can’t understand why. You’ve been told how wonderful a writer you are, and you’re convinced that screenplay you have fits the criteria of the script search to a “T”. Look over your submission package and see if any of your issues just might be included on this list:
1) Failed to follow directions – In most script searches, pretty explicit directions are provided. You’re free NOT to adhere to them, out of personal choice, but there will be clients (I’m one of them) who will not give a second look at someone who failed to follow the specific directions. The reason is simple: if you can’t follow the directions on how to submit a query, than you’re probably not going to do well moving forward. It tells me you think you’re “different” and should be treated as such. Sorry, you’re not. Follow the directions.
2) Missing information (no query, no logline, no script) – For a script search, we received several submissions missing the script. Some didn’t include the query letter, the logline, the project title or contact information.
3) Spelling errors – If your query letter is rife with spelling and grammatical errors, no one is going to waste their time looking any further. You must treat you marketing material with the same respect and concern as your screenplay. In a competitive industry such as ours, you really DO have to be perfect.
4) Doesn’t fulfill the genre or budget requirements – In the case of our searches, one script had an open budget, yet another had a very precise budget requirement. If you submit a script that is obviously NOT in that range, it is automatically declined. You should not take the opportunity of a specific script search to submit everything you’ve ever written, especially when it doesn’t fit the stated genre requirements. You do more harm than good to you reputation. No producer looking for a Western is going to consider a sci-fi and be so overwhelmed with the greatness of the story that it will forgo the western script search and choose your screenplay. In your fantasies, maybe…
5) A synopsis doesn’t have a “surprise” ending – In a synopsis, you tell us the story, without specific details. A “reader’s digest” version. Your script probably doesn’t end with “you’ll never guess what happens next”, so your synopsis better not either.
6) Missing Writers Bio – Clearly, many folks do not know how to put together a proper query letter. While disheartening, it’s not the end-all, at least for this script search, but you really need to learn it. You should learn the “new and improved”, most preferred version as well (yes, there is one). Included in all query letters should be a “Writers Bio”; a place where you can tell the producer about your writing accomplishments and relevant credits or experience. One writer submitted a resume, which I included in the submission. He’s experience was so extensive and at such an impressive level, it could only be properly demonstrated through a resume. Most of us HAVE writing resumes, but probably can reduce the relevant information to two or three lines under a writers bio.
What you should NEVER do is include a link to your web page, Twitter, Facebook or IMdb and tell the requestor “To learn more about me, check these out!” Ain’t happenin’…
7) Writers Bios without specifics – it’s a wonderful thing to be able to say you’ve been optioned eight times, and have had five movies released through studios. Care to mention any of the films by name? Unless you ARE a household name- and many of us aren’t, even in our own households- you need to back up your claims a bit. Again, it comes down to time and credibility; we don’t have the time to determine your credibility.
8) Do not beg – We all want it. Show you want it be submitting the script exactly as explained, write a cogent query letter with an effective logline, a proper synopsis/one page, include your contact information, and provide a script that meets the basic requirements of a spec script, and has been reviewed by a PROFESSIONAL. All the begging in the world is not going to get you any further, and it’s just “ewww”.
Here is an example of one of the better queries we received for this script search. I did not know the writer personally, but was only too happy to submit the screenplay concept to the client, along with the query:
I am submitting my western action concept, “(Title)”, for consideration.
Logline: A wanted man falls for a vengeful Mexican girl while on the run from the crooked Texas Rangers who murdered her family.
Amora Vargas looms over a dead Texas Ranger, a smoking pistol in her hand. Just days ago, corrupt Rangers massacred her Tejano family and stole their land. Now, as the Rangers close in, Amora is swept away by her new love, Kit, a Texan on the run for Mexico, and hunted by a racist marshal. The lovers are ambushed; Amora’s going to hang!
Kit eludes his captors and races to save Amora only to find a woman’s body hanging from a noose – but it’s a decoy. Amora’s been kidnapped by the sadistic lead Ranger. Kit pursues the gang to a secluded cabin to rescue her. Fleeing to Mexico, the lovers face off against the villainous lawmen in a blaze of gunfire.
“(Title)” has placed in the PAGE Awards each of the past two years. If this concept is of interest, I’d be more than happy to discuss the script with you.
BIO: (Screenwriter’s name) is a Canadian writer by night, Energy Market Risk Manager by day, shark diver, world traveler, and former CAF infantry solider. He is actively involved in ScreenwritingU’s ProSeries Alumni.
There have been other variations of this query and submission equally good, but you would do well to have it appear something close to this. The writer did NOT know the updated query letter format that is preferred among many of the production companies these days, but for an earlier version of the accepted query letter, he did quite well.
If you have any questions about this script search, or how to write a proper query, logline or synopsis, please contact The Script Mentor at firstname.lastname@example.org .