Thursday, January 17, 2013

I wrote it, now what do I do with it?

Mario asks:

Let's say you're an unrepped writer and that you've written what you believe to be the next hot property. To whom would you submit it first? 

With an abundance of contests, producers and web-hosting venues creating an atmosphere in which a potential hit could easily be labeled a dog, how would you ensure that your material gets objective attention?

Well, if it was me, my first recourse would be to submit to people I directly know in the business.  (And this usually comes after I've vetted the script through many, many readers whom I trust.)  I'd work every direct connection possible in search of finding someone willing to pass it on, take on the script, or otherwise work to advance the project.

Failing that, my next stop would be The Black List 3.0, for many of the reasons that we've discussed time and again.  I think the "do no harm" policy is a great way to test the waters.  If you're worried that your script will get some bad reactions on the site, you can always pull the script and the listing, so it won't impede any further queries that you do.

Step three would be targeted queries.  Notice the use of the word "targeted."  It's gotten very easy to dig up a bunch of email addresses for agents and managers.  The bitch of this is that if it's easy for you, it's easy for everyone else.  In the old days, if  you wanted to query an agent, you usually had to do your research, track down addresses and pay for postage to send your query.  With all those obstacles in place, there were fewer people submitting blindly.  They took the time to research their targets and the expense of sending snail-mail kept them somewhat in check.

That's not the case in the electronic age.  Today a simple Google search will probably locate an archive of email address.  The lazy submitter will havest those and blindly blast out the same query to several hundred people.  (The really lazy types will do it all at once as a bcc.)  On the other end of the internet, those emails will be treated like the spam they are and summarily deleted.

So when you go the query route, really take some time to research the reps who are most likely to respond to your material and craft your query accordingly

Then after that, that's when I'd turn to contests and fellowships.  But be smart about which competitions you chose to enter.


  1. Bitter,
    I wonder if you can do a companion piece to this and write about how to go about researching targeted queries? (Or have you already addresses this in a previous post?)

    1. Hey Monique,

      I know Bitter will probably disagree with me here but after doing lots of research and sending tons of queries to agents, managers and production companies I don't think a "targeted search" is a good use of anyone's time. And trust me, you will be putting in A LOT of time if you want to get read.

      For agents and managers, if you write a good query and they are looking for new clients, they will request your script. If they like your script, regardless of genre, budget etc they will take you on as a client. If they think they can sell your script, they will try. They may prefer to read rom-coms but they really enjoy writers that make them money.

      As far as production companies go, yes, there are some that only do horror, comedy or whatever, but there is no harm in emailing them. The worst they can do is say no. If they give you a specific reason like "We only make horror movies set in Las Vegas." Thank them for the response and make a note of it. Then next time don't send them your rom-com query.

      No matter how you choose to go about sending your emails (mass bcc or otherwise), it is A LOT of work to do all the research and build your submission database. If you choose to do a separate customized email for every person or company you will then add A LOT more time. At 3 min per email for 1,000 emails you will spend 50 hrs at the computer just sending emails.

      Research-wise, Google is a great place to start looking but you will soon find that spending $ on or some other service works way better. Even on it will probably take you more than 3 min per email to find each one and add it to your list. For managing large email databases is good but costs $.

      There's lots of work even after you write your script. Say like min of 150 hours. The good news is that after you do the initial research it's pretty much done. But you still have to submit until someone agrees to read your script. It may take a while.

      Keep this in mind, if you have a good idea and a well executed script, they won't be mad at how you went about contacting them. They will probably just thank you.


    2. I have to kinda disagree. If a Prod Co. only produces drams, why would I want to query them for my comedy/horror? One could argue that there is a SLIM chance that they might like your logline enough to go against their track record and suddenly choose to do a comedy/horror, but I personally doubt it.

      Also, don't mass BCC emails out, that's just asking for your query to go straight into the recycle bin. Each query email needs to be personalised to the company, agent, manager, etc. If you want to add the ol' "it's like x meets x" or something similar, go as far as using titles of movies the company has produced, or the management company reps the writer who wrote the movie, etc.

      Think of query letters as your resume. If you take minimal effort, expect minimal to no effort in return.

    3. I definitely agree that you should put the utmost care into crafting your query. And I'm not saying mass emails work as well as customized ones. Only that they are more efficient from a time perspective. Which may be an issue to some people still trying to break in who don't have 40hrs a week to put toward writing etc.

      From my experience mass emails get rejected as spam no more or less than customized ones and the difference in the number of requests is small enough (1-2%) to suggest that it might just be the logline/concept that is not getting the bite.

      Also from my experience, the reason to take the time to email every possible person/company is that I've had multiple companies request to read scripts that go against their track record. They didn't option or buy the scripts but they did write back asking me to keep them in mind if I ever write something more in line with their previous movies. That helps me to prioritize which script I work on next.

      Hope some of this is helpful or encouraging.


    4. I think it depends on exactly what your aim with the query is. If it's about finding someone to produce a particular piece of work, then it absolutely makes sense to target your queries to those who are most likely to be receptive to the genre or budget level or whatever.

      However, if it's about career building, I've had some surprisingly positive results with a wider approach too. I tend to agree that the worst that can happen is that they'll ignore it (and they usually will) but it just takes a handful of responses to turn into a couple of relationships, and sometimes those responses come from where you least expect it. I once did a mailout to companies that make commercials & corporate videos looking for day-job copywriting work, and happened to connect with a producer looking to make the leap to drama - you never know!

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  3. If any of your out there are on to Bitter's last resort, Contests, here is a list I made of the big 2013 Screenwriting Contests/Competitions/Fellowships - along with deadline dates. If anyone out there is looking to apply to some in 2013 this might help!