Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Should you include a PDF of your script in your query email?

Driscoll asks:

What's your opinion on attaching your screenplay as a pdf to the query email instead of waiting for them to request it? Is that really bad form? I understand why agents wouldn't want a bunch of physical scripts lying around the office. But with email, it seems like no inconvenience for them. Just don't open the pdf. Also, maybe they're curious enough to want to read the script but not curious enough to respond and risk someone harassing them with emails and calls over whether they read the script.

It's horrible form.  TERRIBLE form!  Do NOT under ANY circumstances send a PDF of a script before getting permission to do so. Looking through the archives, I see I sort of gave this advice almost two years ago, but it's hidden in a post title that doesn't seem to have much to do with queries. 

I cannot stress enough how important it is that you do NOT do this. First, many people will not open any attachments from an unfamiliar source due to the risk of viruses.  Another major thing to be aware of is 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 the company you query has a werewolf movie in development and you send them - unsolicited - your brilliant werewolf script. Then, six months later, you open the trades to see that the company you queried to just got Paramount to buy their "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 that company for "your" money.

Maybe the producers will be lucky and the case gets thrown out, or it goes to court and they win anyway - but they'll still be on the hook for legal fees and will have lost valuable time, to say nothing of the stigma that comes from the accusations of stealing ideas. That's aggravation they simply 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 the recipient 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.)

The legal reasons are a big part of why this is a bad idea, but also, it's pretty damn presumptuous to send someone a script in your first communication with them.  That's like walking up to a girl at a party and immediately trying to steal second base.  Win your target over, get them excited about reading the script and seduce them into reading the material.

Make this a commandment: "Thou Shalt Not Submit a PDF Until Thou Hast Been Invited."


  1. Now, if I cough on a girl while trying to steal second base...

  2. Saw this post on Hollywood Original Screenwriters Group on Facebook. It took a double-take to understand because, though I've dealt with overeager beginning writers, I've not found it common for people to send entire works unless they had been invited to.

    I learned about "queries" when I was in High School and decided my career would be professional writing. How young are the writers sending whole scripts without an invitation? Perhaps I should blog on this topic?