The death of your script may not be your story but how you are marketing it. You will find countless of articles on this subject, but they fail to touch up on some simple truths:
We are NOT interested about your screenwriting background!
After operating a successful screenwriting staffing service, working as a producer for my own boutique production company, working in the development department for Midwest’s TOP documentary production company, reading countless of scripts in Hollywood Screenplay Contests, and just being a screenwriter in general, there is one important MISTAKE I find in every query letter: “Hi, my name is JOHN, and I would like to tell you about my fascinating screenwriting experience.” Here’s the problem with this. You’re not advertising your services as a screenwriter, but trying to pitch your script!
Let’s be honest, if you are sending out your own queries, you most likely don’t have representation. And to lock representation these days, you must have some successful credits under your belt. So, at first glance, I’m already bored and uninterested. Why? Because I’m not impressed that you wrote a TV Pilot on your own (that never sold), and you have a writing partner from Oklahoma, and you once listened to a Podcast about “The Truth of Storytelling”.
If your logline is witty and high-concept, you can be from Iceland and have no writing experience and it is NO longer important! Listen, if a company is interested in your script, don’t worry, they will eventually ask you what your experience is.
Stop making fancy fonts and odd colors in your query letters. Here are 5 tips to get your script ready:
1) This isn’t a coloring book, but your pride and joy! You take your script seriously, right? Exactly. So take your query letter seriously.
2) Have you ever written a paper back in H.S. last minute, and you didn’t reach the word count, and most of the writing you wrote was just paraphrased from the textbook? Yes, I’m sure you have. I know I have. So what did I used to do? Try to trick the teacher, making my spaces a little larger, italicizing certain words to pretend like they were “important”. But what usually happened? I failed the assignment, because teachers pick up on that – they’ve seen it before. Same with producers and agents. They’ve seen it all. If your logline is brilliant, it needs nothing else.
3) As a screenwriter, I’m sure you get annoyed when people say, “Hey, you’re a screenwriter? I have this amazing idea!” And they go on and on about the story, and before you know it, you are beyond uninterested and annoyed. Keep that thought in mind when writing your logline. No more than two sentence, and that’s pushing it. I like the one sentence theory.
4) This is putting it nicely, but Hollywood is A.D.D., they have NO attention span. Keep the script simple, and straight to the point. Trust me, it goes a long way. If your logline is longwinded, then most likely your script is to!
Lastly, stay away from cursive font when ending your query. In other words, your signature, contact info, links to past work. Keep your font consistent (usually courier). No one wants to struggle trying to read your name and contact information. Unless you are in Hollywood or selling a script in the state you are currently living in, DON’T put your full address in a query letter. Why? Hollywood tends to discriminate to those outside of its circle. Get them excited about your script first. If they love it, your location won’t matter anymore. Also, remember, Hollywood is a pretentious city. Putting down your small studio number in Montana gives them the impression you are a starving-artist going nowhere. It’s sad, I know, but no one said this business was full of “nice” people.
In closing, my script “Crossing Flowers Motel” nearly took me a year and a half to sell! (Sold in June of this year). But what’s interesting, I had more companies’ request this script based on my logline, than any other of my scripts I’ve EVER sold. Yet, no one seemed to want it. But they read it! And that’s what’s important for any screenwriter, especially for those starting out.