Internet Movie Big Deal
Issue #3 - September 23, 2019
Earlier this week, I tweeted that I get a lot of unsolicited emails from aspiring professional screenwriters, and that I noticed a weird trend that a lot of these query emails start by praising only the concept of a movie I produced. Such a bizarre backhanded way to start what is essentially a sales-pitch!
This turned into a full thread where I tried to solve the mystery of where these emails were coming from, and how writers are getting this advice.
If you want to read the full thread, you can find it here:
A side effect of this thread becoming popular is that a lot of screenwriters have been reaching out to me for advice on how to approach producers. My advice is probably not what they want, but I think it’s relatively useful.
In my experience, producers like finding material through either recommendations or from their own direct research. By "direct research," I mean living their lives and consuming the media they enjoy, and finding inspiration there. Hard for an aspiring writer to find a way in there, which leaves recommendations. Those recommendations could be from agents and managers that have a fiscal stake in the success of the writer and project. It could be from a producer or film executive friend who loved a script, but knows it would never fly at their company. It could be from a fellow screenwriter or director. It could be from someone interviewing for a job. Honestly, it could be from anyone who a producer knows and trusts.
This might seem like a bizarre closed system, but the reality is that every producer I know who can get movies made is a producer who has way too many things to read. If you’re an active producer, it’s literally impossible to do your job (getting movies made) and also read every submission that makes its way into your inbox. There needs to be one or more threshold that you can use to reduce the stream.
For producers, the simplest solution is to only read something if someone else you know is already vouching for it.
But how can a writer get that “first read?” Focus on people whose careers rely on being able to find new talent! Agents and managers with thin client lists. Assistants who are about to be promoted. Directors who can’t get hired by a studio. Producers who aren’t established enough to already have a wide network of people they trust who are submitting projects to them.
I think email queries can work with this set of people, but I recommend being very targeted with your approach. Don't just assume that a shotgun form-letter approach will work. Your email will almost certainly be deleted immediately. Be clear about who you are, and what your script is about. Be specific about why you think it's worthwhile for this person to read your screenplay. If you can't think of a good reason why they should be reading your screenplay, then don't email them!
Realistically, the most success will come from building a group of peers who are all trying to break into the industry, and sharing your work with each other. Help each other climb the rungs together. That's why the most common advice is to move to Los Angeles. It's possible to break into screenwriting from outside a film-hub like Los Angeles, but it's a hell of a lot easier if you are building a career with a set of peers with similar dreams.
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