Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How to get read

Jeffrey sent in this question a while back, and I'm embarrassed to admit it languished in my inbox a bit longer than I would have liked:

I guess what it boils down to is... how can we get people to read our stuff? Is sending queries the best way? We do have some industry contacts and we're even working with a story editor on a popular tv show on a joint project (not for tv), and hopefully something will come from one or more of these contacts in the future.

We just really need a manager so we can get our career off the ground, and it just seems like we're floundering in figuring that out. We can keep writing good tv specs and pilots and screenplays until the cows come home (and will!), but if nobody reads them that's a problem. This step has always stymied us, especially now that we're here. I hate not knowing what to do next. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.

This is kind of a perennial question, but there are a couple of tactics that bear repeating.

First, if you're in L.A., you've got a leg up because the best thing you can be doing is going out and meeting people who either share your interest in writing or who work in the business.  Make enough friends and you'll probably find yourself a few degrees of separation from someone with the ability to pass your script on to a representative.  We've talked about networking a lot before, so I won't repeat most of it - except to underline that you shouldn't expect favors right after you meet someone, and try hard to not be too pushy or phony.  No one likes to feel like someone is just trying to use them.

This includes Twitter networking.  If you're really good, you can find some agents and managers on Twitter and some of them have been know to do open calls for Twit queries.  But again, the key is to not be too pushy and desperate.  I interact with a lot of great people on Twitter and even made friends with some of them, but I can tell when someone is "trying too hard."  Most of you guys are great but a few people are bad at taking the hint that I'm not inclined to read their script, look over their query or whatever.

The query letter/email query method still is known to work, but note that the success rate is usually pretty low, so do your detective work and target your queries.  An IMDBPro account can help.  Don't just blindly email people and ask them to read your script - go after reps who manage newer talent, or keep an eye on the trades and note when someone gets promoted from agent to assistant.

Here are some good things to keep in mind when composing those queries.

Then there are those who try more creative methods.

It's not easy, and to be honest, even if you have a contact who's in your corner, or if you get a read request, it's still going to come down to if that person likes it or not.  If they read the material and it doesn't fit their needs, then it's back to the beginning.  Because of this, I suggest not putting all your eggs in one basket. Always be trying to meet new people, keep improving your material, and keep working on getting that material into the hands of people who can do something with it.


  1. Heh thanks for the post. I'm kinda stuck in the same situation as Jeffrey right now. So this is very pleasantly timely.

    ps:- Do you think making some short films would work? At least that way I have an imdb listing as well and I've got the resources to make some shorts right now. Or is there not much cross-over between short films and screen-writing?

    1. I definitely think short films can help. The trick is to build up a following so that Hollywood takes notice and comes to you. Read some of my posts on my friends who used to make webshorts as "Chad, Matt and Rob" and amassed quite a following on the web. They recently made a segment for V/H/S under their new name of Radio Silence and currently have a few irons in the fire following the film's success at Sundance and SXSW.

  2. Ok thanks BSR/Zuul. Much appreciated, I'll fire up the short film engines (as well as keep writing scripts).

  3. I've actually used Virtual Pitchfest and have made quite a few contacts over the years. A handful of Creative Execs I keep in contact with and are always open to reading my work. Granted, you have to pay for VPF, but I'm a fan of it.

  4. For what it's worth, time management is incredibly important here, because if you spend too much time networking / querying you aren't spending that time working on your scripts...

    Consider writing time and networking time all coming from the same pool. When you are doing, you can't be doing the other, but they are both "work." Make sure you're spending at 3/4 of that time writing. Always be writing and making it better. Because you will always have a far better shot with 1 person reading a GREAT script, than you do 100 people reading a GOOD script.

  5. Is Virtual Pitchfest worth money? I recently stumbled upon it. It APPEARS to look like a straight-to-the-source way to query specific production companies and studios, for a price. BSR, any advice?