Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year and a few ground rules

Happy New Year all! With a fresh year upon us, it seems like a good time to deal with some housekeeping issues/FAQs that have been cropping up lately. I've been noticing a trend in some of the emails I've been getting and I think I need to lay down some ground rules.

A few of you have sent me emails pitching your films and often you include PDFs of your screenplays. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you do NOT do this. First, I do not open any attachments due to the risk of viruses. Secondly, you should never email ANY professional your screenplay unless you have first gotten their permission to send it. No one in the business will read your script until you sign a release stating that you will not claim they stole your ideas or sue them should they one day develop a story that is similar to yours. This is why if you shoot CAA, ICM or any other agency an email with an attachment, you'll likely be sent a response that says something to the effect of "Your email was deleted without being read."

Let's say I'm writing a werewolf movie and you send me - unsolicited - your brilliant werewolf script. Then, six months later, I sell my idea for $2 million and you open the trades to see that the guy you sent the script to just sold his "Twilight with werewolves" idea for big bucks - and you're certain your concept has been swiped. With luck you find a lawyer ready to sue the pants off me for "your" money. Maybe I'll be lucky and the case gets thrown out, or it goes to court and I win anyway - but I'll still be on the hook for legal fees and I'll have lost valuable time, to say nothing of the stigma that comes from the accusations of stealing ideas. That's aggravation I don't need, and that's exactly the situation a writer creates when they blindly send their script to someone.

You might as well cough on me and say, "Hey, do you want to sample this great strand of Ebloa virus I've got?"

(Not that I'm comparing the quality of your script to the experience of having Ebola, but if you're naive enough to send your script without asking first, the odds of your script being terrible certainly rise.)

Bottom line - unless I've sent you a release and you've returned it to me signed, don't send me your screenplay. It protects me, it protects you, and it protects your ideas. Most of all, I hope that by telling you this, I'll keep you from making this mistake with agents and producers, which would be a lot worse for you than annoying some anonymous blogger on the internet.

I should probably mention that I'm really not in a position to accept pitches or queries, so if you email me hoping that I'll request a script and pass it on to someone I work for, you'll probably be disappointed. I have to be strategic about when I approach those people with my own writing, let alone the works of people I've never met.

And let's face it, if I did say, "Send me your pitches and scripts -Anything you have!" I suspect several of my more savvy readers would probably find that fishy and perhaps even post that such behavior seemed shady.

There's one spammer who keeps sending me a pitch for his golf movie, and I'm getting a little annoyed at the lack of social grace. The letter would probably be at least two pages printed and it's "BAM! Here's the whole plot of my movie." It's written in the same sort of style as those Nigerian emails that try to get you to help a deposed royal access his bank account or some such. If this keeps up, I will print the text of the email in full. (Have any other screenwriting bloggers gotten something from this guy?)

This is not to say that I don't appreciate your emails. I do, and I try my best to respond to as many as I can, time permitting. If you ask a question that covers something that would be of interest to my readers, I'll probably answer it in a blog post rather than a personal email. Sometimes those posts will show up soon after you send in the email, but since I try to plot out a month's worth of posts at a time, it might happen that I decide a particular answer will work better later on the schedule. Anyway, if I think what you've said/asked merits response, I promise I'll reply to it.

Anyway, I think it'll be a great year here. I'm working on lining up some cool interviews, so let's hope they work out. Also, I've asked a few of my friends to contribute from time to time as a way of both providing you guys with more content and in giving you a perspective outside my own. (For those of you in my writing group - consider this my reminder about the open invitation all of you have to pitch me ideas for articles you want to write.)

And with that, let's all have a great 2010 everyone!


  1. Not just for pros - it's rude to send anyone you don't know your screenplay and expect them to read it. I get that sometimes - an email from someone I've never spoken to who wants me to read their script and give feedback and attaches it. Ask first, no matter who it is. It's very presumtuous to assume someone you've never spoken to has time to give you free notes.

  2. Please print the text in full.

  3. I heard of a PA who pretty much lost his job because he came in to a writing meeting with his spec.

    A good rule of thumb is to not give someone something until they ask for it.

    That said, I've just finished a draft of a film I call "The Virus." It's like The Matrix, except it's set in the body of Olivia Munn.

  4. Good points, unfortunately, I hear of these etiquette breaches all too often. If these folks are so desperate for free reads they should get on TS.

  5. kgmadman - Google is my friend. I ran a search on the "writer" of the email and came up with several links. You can find the full text here or here.

  6. Heh, you should respond by apologizing that you're not interested but have a business partner who is. Then just grab the return email address from the last Nigerian son of a bitch who emailed you and forward it on to him. Let 'em work it out amongst each other.

  7. Great post. So important and amazing that people still dont understand this. Would love to link to this in a post of mine, I get about 2-4 pitches/scripts sent to me a day.

  8. Link away! And about five days after I posted this, it got ANOTHER script/pitch! I was like, "C'mon, really? I just went over this less than a week ago!"