Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The art of asking a good question

Though I've been doing what I can about keeping up with reader mail, there's no denying that the last few months I've fallen behind.  If you've sent an email and I haven't responded - either via the blog or directly - I'm sorry about that, but real life has gotten in the way a lot lately.  I had some time this weekend to dig into the mailbag and after rereading several emails I had set aside, I found I had a few things to say.

It's totally understandable that new people would be discovering the blog every week.  Heck, that's what every blogger hopes will happen.  It's a good thing to have an expanding audience.  However, I received more than one email that started with a sentence like, "I just discovered your blog and I wonder if you can tell me how to get representation."

I hope this doesn't come off as dickish, but the "How do I get an agent?" question is one of the most frequent questions any screenwriting blog has.  So when faced with a new blog of over 900 entries, it might be a good idea to poke around, maybe see if there are any relevant tags about "getting an agent."  I even have a whole video series on "I Wrote It, Now What Do I Do With It?"  I get that there are a lot of tags to go through, but you can do a word search for the appropriate tag, or even Google your question along with "Bitter Script Reader" and see what pops up.

Here's why I bring this up - I assume that the way most people approach me through the blog is roughly the same as how they'd approach any working pro in the industry - ESPECIALLY writers.  You're not going to get off on the right foot with those people if you ask them a question while pretty much making it clear you haven't done any legwork yourself.  When I find a new blog, I'll often take a glance through the archives to see what topics they've covered.  It's certainly something I do before I email someone for an answer.

This is a roundabout way of saying that if you are lucky enough to get the email address of a working pro, do a little research before shooting them an email.  I know that I'm far more likely to respond to a brief email from someone who clearly has made an honest effort to make sure I haven't already covered their query.  That's often the difference between an email that gets answered and an email that gets ignored in favor of more pressing ones.

Another point that you'd do well to consider - keep your email brief.  Most of you are pretty good about this, but every now and then someone will beat around the bush in their emails, maybe telling me their life story before settling on what will inevitably be a question asking if I can help them get an agent.  When I get one like that, I can't help but think that meandering queries like that are why they haven't gotten an agent yet.

I bring this up less to complain about the kinds of emails I get, and more to give you all something to consider as you write emails to agents and managers who you are approaching for representation.  You've got to make a good impression in a limited amount of time, so don't expose yourself as ignorant and don't make the email an imposition to read.


  1. I'd like to ask you about finding an agent, but that would mean I'd have to actually finish the damn script :)

  2. I remember after finishing a draft of my first screenplay I sat down with my instructor, a repped writer, and asked not HOW, but WHEN could I get an agent... He kind of looked at me for a while and then said,"How about we work on draft two..." It was a pretty bad script. A lot of us are asking about representation when we should probably be writing a few more scripts and making sure what we have is worth an agent's or manager's time. Don't be like my youthful self! Write more!

  3. Here's a question:

    I'm unrepped, completely free of any connection to the biz. If I want to break in, do I concentrate on writing spec movies or spec original TV pilots? I would guess movie specs, because for a TV show to make it, they have to trust you to write 100 episodes, whereas with a movie script, it's all right there.

    Any thoughts? (btw, sorry if you've covered this. I've read your blog for a while and I don't believe I've seen this question come up.)

    Also, spec tv scripts for established shows, that's something that's not covered much. Does that even happen? I would think it would be impossible for something like Breaking Bad, where the story beats are laid out way in advance, but for shows that are stand-alone, maybe it's possible?

  4. DON'T EVER WRITE A SPEC SCRIPT FOR AN EXISTING SHOW! Those shows are those writer's/creator's babies....and it would be like walking up to someone and saying "I'm sure you're a great parent, but let me show you how to do it better."

    And I'm changing my 'whatcha do?" line from writer to accountant. Because then people wouldn't say "I have an amazing story, I just need someone to write it out for me as a script." Either that or say "$1M and you got yourself a deal. Cash up front."