Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How NOT to make a good impression

From time to time, I get emails from people asking me to read their scripts.  This really, really annoys me because anyone who's paying attention can see that IMMEDIATELY below the link to my email, I've put a notice that reads: "Please NO requests to read your material. All such queries will be ignored and deleted unread."

So what's so hard about following that instruction?  I'm sure I've talked before about how when you ask someone to read your script, you're asking a huge favor.  No one owes you a read, and it's a big deal to ask even a professional with whom you are acquainted with to take a look at your work.

Pro tip: when you don't know someone you're about to ask for a favor, it's a good idea not to get off on the wrong foot with them by ignoring their specific request.

About a month or two ago, I got an email that was pretty clearly a query - what was notable about this was that there was an attachment.  We've talked about this before, people, don't do this!   For more specifics, check out this old post.

I was feeling charitable, so decided to open the email so I could send a stern response to the sender rather than just delete it.

The email opens not with an introduction, nor a polite request to read material.  No, instead the reader is immediately assulted with a logline and a long synopsis.  And that's it.  No "please read my attached script.  It would mean a lot." Just logline, synopsis, attachment.  Now I'm really annoyed, so I send back this curt response: 

Do not EVER send anyone a PDF of a script unsolicited.  It's not only rude but it puts the receiver in an awkward legal position.  I cannot read your work and as the instructions just above the link to my email explicitly state, I do not accept submissions.

Please do not make this mistake with any other bloggers or screenwriters you attempt to contact.

So if you got that reply, what would your reaction be?  Perhaps you'd be too embarassed to reply.  Or maybe you'd be so mortified at your unintentional offense that you'd write back with an apology.

Or you'd do what this guy did, writing back with this response:
Keep your hair on - it's only a screenplay - thought you might enjoy it!  

Awkward legal position my arse! 

If you want to read it - read it! (It's actually very good!) If you don't - don't!  

No one's going to sue you!

And that's where the writer lost any benefit of the doubt from me.  I responded thusly: 

The correct answer should have been: "I'm sorry, I didn't realize that was a breach of etiquette.  Thanks for letting me know."

No one in this town reads anything without a release.  Look at all the idiots suing people like James Cameron saying he "stole" their idea merely because they sent him a script that had elements similar to a film he made.

That and it's just plain rude to send a script without querying first.

The writer responded with a couple emails, offering explanation and rationalization more than apology.  I've since learned that this writer has submitted to other bloggers in a fairly clumsy attempt at drawing attention to their spec.

Oh, I forgot to mention that this screenplay was an unauthorized sequel to an existing film.  You all know my thoughts on playing with someone else's toys.  So if I didn't already have my doubts about this writer's ability, an Amateur Hour blunder that big would have confirmed it for me.

But more than that, this writer's blunder was in not caring at all about the person he was submitting to.  I was nothing more than a means to an end.  The writer hadn't done even the most cursory read of my blog to see what might be the best way to approach me, or even if I wanted to be approached.

Would you have been any more forgiving of someone who treated you with the same disregard?


  1. Would this writer be pulling a bullettime face, by any chance? ;)

  2. There's rarely a good excuse for being a dick. For this guy to send his screenplay unsolicited was bad enough, but to be rude after you did him a FAVOR with your response is just insane. His arrogance is laughable. I love the "No one is going to sue you!" line. He's the guy suing Kinkos for 30 mil over a papercut he got....two days after he left Kinkos!

    I did like the "Keep your hair on" comment, though...haha.

  3. If it's indeed the Bullet Time Face Guy, this guy has been posting his script EVERYWHERE, challenging people to read it. His premise sucks, his logline sucks, his etiquette sucks, and from all accounts his script sucks too.

    1. I'm thinking a part II of "Shit Script Readers Say" is on the way based off of this post alone?

  4. This must be The Usual Suspects 2.

  5. I understand the 'nobody owes anybody any reads' logic perfectly, but I also think that saying it's a HUGE favor you are doing somebody when you DO read their script might be a slight exaggeration. Obviously when you do something like that it might open floodgates, but in terms of ONE script that you give yourself... say... 2 weeks to read. Is it really as huge a favor as so many writers say it is? To find and hour or two in 2 weeks time?
    Just to be clear: I'm now even a writer myself, I'm just fan of movies that reads scripts the same way people read books. I don't have a script that I would like people to read so I don't come from a place of personal frustration or anything. I just think that unless you're completely and utterly swamped, working 80 hour weeks running a network show or something... reading one script from random person every now and then (even just because you might be curious what's it about) is not THAT big of a deal. Is it? (ridicule ensue in 3, 2, 1...)

  6. It's one thing if you read scripts for fun or to educate yourself... but TBSR reads as a paid daytime gig. So the last thing I'm sure he wants to do is his daytime job for free at night. I'm sure he'll read scripts friends recommend to him, but I understand his point. When I go home from work, I'm not going to do the same job I get paid for during the day -- and THEN do it for free for someone I don't even know.

    The larger issue is just plain etiquette. Be nice. Be grateful when someone will read your script for FREE! It's time out of their day when they could be spending time with friends or family. It may not sound like a big deal to some, but put yourslef in TBSR's shoes -- or anyone you ask to read your script for free.

  7. I'd not agree with the 'but it only take a couple minutes to read the first 10 pages' attitude.

    1)it remind me of those people who ask doctors at social gatherings for just a 'quick lookey' at their cyst or a general diagnosis of their (or their coworker’s) cough.

    Never ok (unless the cyst is on Charlize Theron's chest, I guess) and very demeaning. Even biggest advocates of giving away intellectual property/time/involvement (Seth Godin et al.) do charge for their speaking engagements.

    2)I am amazed at the generosity of time and advice in the screenwriting community. Imagine if nuclear scientists were half as open with support/insight knowledge to the extend the TBSR or Script Shadow (just to name those two) are.

    3)Going back to the stunt: would this guy (and I know it’s a guy) approach Charlize Theron and demand she pleasures him, because ‘come on, it’s only 10 minutes of your time…plus “thought you might enjoy it!..”

  8. I've heard the doctor analogy multiple times and I don't think it's an accurate one. It's somewhat accurate if you're just talking about professional readers like TBSR or Carson. But even with them I think there's one distinct difference. I THINK (feel free to correct me) that even professional readers will read a screenplay now and then that they don't get paid for. Maybe because they really like the writer (like a new Tarantino script or something) or maybe because it sold for a lot of money (like Vanderbilt's script about the White House). Therefore they're curious and they read it. A doctor would never do something like that in their profession, would they?

    So while an unknown writer's script will never be as exciting to read as new Coen brothers screenplay it's still possible to come across an interesting logline from some polite and respectful newbie, isn't it? And to cut that possibility off because you perceive it as a HUGE favor on the same level as Charlize Theron having sex with a stranger (I know, I know... it was a joke)... just seems a little bit over dramatic to me.

    Because the difference between a doctor taking 10 min. to look at your... whataver it is you want him to look at... and a reader (or a writer) taking a look at first 10 pages of a script... is that there is a SLIGHT possibility that said reader actually WILL enjoy that script (whereas I can't see any scenario where a doctor gets a kick out of examinig someone's abdomen). Tell me where I'm wrong and I'll gladly listen and admit that I don't know anything about anything.

  9. I won't say you are wrong and I'm (always) right (I reserve this rule for my personal relationships ;)

    I do get an impression that Carson sure enjoys reading ALL kinds of stuff thus he's coming up with Amateur Fridays, tweet a pitch -thons and what not. We all have met people who seem to love what they do. Based on my experience doing informational interviews with such passionate individuals, however, I see them really learning to detest random requests on their time/attention/involvement that are made on an assumption ‘but you love this kind of stuff’.

    I guess I’m more of the ‘build and they will come’ kind of a gal (at least till I come up with some outrageous stunt e.g. hire a Spielberg’s impersonator to deliver the script to Arnon Milcher

    I will disappear for now, because if I learned one thing from my personal life is that it’s way easier to have a last word, if you are not there to listen to the counter arguments…

    Cheerios and truly, best of luck to every single one of us!

    1. Cap, there are a lot of problems with your assumption, but I'll start with the fact that when I read for pleasure, it's for just that: pleasure. I don't do a write-up, I don't report back to anyone, I just read.

      And yeah, there's a huge difference between reading a Tarantino script that might actually end up being useful in my work, and an amateur script that stands a 90% chance of sucking.

      Those scripts also tend to come attached to writers who become quite rude and argue with me when I say their work isn't up to par. I don't need that headache.

      P.S. I love Madison's Spielberg impersonator idea

    2. What could someone say to convince you that they are in the 10% (ie don't suck!!)

      How should one approach you to read their script?

    3. BTW when he wrote "Awkward legal position my arse!" don't' you think he should have had his lawyer write that to you? wouldn't that have been more effective? ;)

  10. Wow. That's terrible. I can't believe anyone would do such a thing. Some people have no tact. Like the characters in my fantastic new screenplay. If you're interested in reading it, e-mail me...

  11. Cap7 seems like a decent fellow, but honestly, his argument seems to be based in ignorance of what entertainment industry workers actually deal with.

    After I had a few paid gigs, every asshole in the world wanted me to write a free script.

    "My job is so crazy. It should be a sitcom. Hey! You're a writer..."