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Bunker
03-08-2010, 04:08 PM
I've done SASE, emails, and phone calls. I've crafted my query letters based on all the posts, blogs, books, and articles on how to query. I have detailed Excel sheets of whom I've queried and when (including date and time). I was comfortable in my querying abilities.

Then I started working at a major production company.

Not all companies are the same and I can only speak from my experience at this particular company, but here's what I learned from being on the receiving end of letters, emails and phone calls. In no particular order:

1. The big wave of queries comes in at, yep, Tues-Thurs from 10-12 and 3-4. That's the advice everyone gets and that's when EVERYONE queries. When a surge comes in, I'm much less likely to pay close attention to any one pitch. Of course, if one comes in when I'm shutting down, I'm not going to read it either. Point is, there is no "perfect" time to query.

2. Writers are told to be persistent and passionate. Be forceful because it shows you believe in your work... Well, nothing makes me hate you more than when you don't gracefully accept my polite way of saying "no thanks." Nothing is gained by trying to keep me on the phone after I say, "I'm sorry, but our development slate is full right now."

3. Email queries can be spotted a mile away. If I'm busy, they won't even be opened. That's just the reality. With that said, don't try to trick me into reading your query. When we want to read queries, we'll read queries. When we don't, we won't.

4. I don't care what happened in your life to make you passionate about this story. I don't care if your query is filled with cute little self-deprecations that show you have a sense of humor. I don't want some lame attempt to show you've researched this company ("It's in the vein of your previous movie ______"). And I don't much care about your biography unless you've written a movie or TV show I've heard of (in which case, why are you and not your agent querying?). All I want is the logline.

5. Please give me the genre right off the bat. It helps so much. Yeah, if we're not looking for horror, it might lead to an automatic rejection. But again, don't try to trick us into reading something we don't want.

6. People actually read the queries when there's time. But our eyes glaze over. If the wording causes me to mentally stumble, I'll move on. A well-written synopsis is easier to understand than a logline where a writer tried to force in too many elements. Length isn't all that important, but ease of reading comprehension is.

7. Everyone says they want "The same, only different." That doesn't mean you should plug new characters into old plots. Do you know how many scripts have the logline, "A washed up _______ needs to come out of retirement in order to compete in some tournament against their old foe"? I wonder how many scripts about washed up Olympic curlers are out there now.

8. Your script being registered or copyrighted means nothing. When I said we only accept submissions from WGA signatory agencies, one guy replied with "No, it's okay. The work is registered." Ummm... great. Please see point #2 on this list.

9. As you can tell, it's all about the logline. A logline is NOT a premise, a list of similar movies, a group of random characters, a location, a rhetorical question, or a title and genre. Those other things alone won't get a request because nobody knows what the script is about.

10. All in all, it's a giant crap-shoot. As someone who is struggling to get a foothold with my own writing career, I felt bad for every writer I hung up on, rejected, or just didn't respond to. Don't take it personally.

Ulysses
03-08-2010, 04:29 PM
3. Email queries can be spotted a mile away. If I'm busy, they won't even be opened. That's just the reality. With that said, don't try to trick me into reading your query. When we want to read queries, we'll read queries. When we don't, we won't.


Do you mean e-queries aren't a good thing? So far I understood they are better than snail-mail queries.

There isn't really much else you can do bare of already knowing people. I don't know any people in good places. This is why I'm querying. Once I have a few contacts I like and that I feel are right for me, I can get more human and specific in my working with the industry and work with recommendations.


4. All I want is the logline.


When I'm doing my e-query using the script I'm currently writing I plan to do it very, very, very short. No introductory phrases, etc.

Just: Dear Mr./Mrs.
genre
logline (or slightly extended logline, but no more than two phrases, and keeping them short)
best regards,
my name.

Would you say that's rude? I just don't see a point in sending more than the absolute minimum of words.

This is why I wouldn't write "Please let me know if you're interested and I'll send you the scrip" because it's understood you would do that. I also wouldn't ask for your preferences (hard copy or Pdf) as I take anyone responding would tell me the way he wants it. If there's no preference, I'd send a Pdf.

Anything wrong with this?

Especially in regards to agents and managers.



6. A well-written synopsis is easier to understand than a logline where a writer tried to force in too many elements. Length isn't all that important, but ease of reading comprehension is.


Sounds very interesting. Does this also go for agents and managers?

I always had the impression everybody wanted just loglines in e-queries.

Bunker
03-08-2010, 05:04 PM
I can only speak for the experiences of myself and my coworkers at one particular company. I don't know if agents approach queries differently, but I believe my observations have some universal truth to human psychological responses to wave after wave of queries.

I'll amend my post slightly. I know I said "no bio" and "no greetings," but a small amount is expected and can be helpful. You SHOULD NOT be long-winded or "cutesy." The better queries were generally:

Dear_______,

Please consider _______ for your company.

Genre:______
Logline: _________

I graduated from the UCLA Screenwriting Program and was a finalist in the Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship.

Sincerely,
__________


Short and sweet. Only list a bare-bones bio if there are some significant accomplishments in it. I used UCLA as an example because you might get some alumni love from it. If you took a workshop in Indiana, nobody cares.

As for e-queries, yes, they're better than snail-mail. And people WILL read them if they have time and are in the mood. It's all about luck and good timing.

And now for length of logline...

If it takes a paragraph to coherently explain your story, use a paragraph. If you use 1 sentence, it will be wordy and confusing. Too much emphasis is placed on length instead of clarity. I can read 3 well-crafted sentences quicker than I can read 1 sentence that's packed with too many notes. Make it clear!

I'm sure there are certain agents/producers who won't look at anything that's longer than one line on their Blackberry, but if you force your script down to one incoherent sentence, they won't like it anyway.

Yes, shorter is better. But coherent-long trumps incoherent-short every time.

mtoomey
03-08-2010, 06:14 PM
Thanks Bunker. Amusing and informative.

BTW, don't worry about not reading my e-query. I'll just keep emailing you every week until you put me on spam block. And then I'll change email addresses and do it again until I get rejected. Then I'll call. :rolling:

MT

hscope
03-08-2010, 06:27 PM
Interesting stuff, Bunker.

Lately, I've taken to emailing my logline and contact details only, without salutations or greetings.

I get the same (low) script request rate as always.

Ulysses
03-08-2010, 06:57 PM
The better queries were generally:

Dear_______,

Please consider _______ for your company.

Genre:______
Logline: _________

I graduated from the UCLA Screenwriting Program and was a finalist in the Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship.

Sincerely,

(...)

As for e-queries, yes, they're better than snail-mail. And people WILL read them if they have time and are in the mood. It's all about luck and good timing.






And now for length of logline...

If it takes a paragraph to coherently explain your story, use a paragraph. If you use 1 sentence, it will be wordy and confusing. Too much emphasis is placed on length instead of clarity. I can read 3 well-crafted sentences quicker than I can read 1 sentence that's packed with too many notes. Make it clear!

I'm sure there are certain agents/producers who won't look at anything that's longer than one line on their Blackberry, but if you force your script down to one incoherent sentence, they won't like it anyway.

Yes, shorter is better. But coherent-long trumps incoherent-short every time.

Excellent advice. Thanks, Bunker.

Script Curmudgeon
03-09-2010, 11:16 AM
Great stuff. Thanks, Bunker.

sppeterson
03-09-2010, 07:39 PM
Yah, thanks for the insight!

Mad Mat
03-11-2010, 07:38 AM
I can only echo the previous posts:

Great advice, many thanks. :)

Mat.

BattleDolphinZero
03-11-2010, 08:41 AM
I can't imagine a better post for this site.

Good job dude.

When I'm reading the loglines here, I will now be able to remind people of Bunker's number 6.

WAY too much stuffed in the log lines here.

LIMAMA
03-11-2010, 09:01 AM
Query letters, unlike sex, should be short and sweet.

:)

Mad Mat
03-11-2010, 09:25 AM
Query letters, unlike sex, should be short and sweet.

:)

LOL :bounce:

The trouble is, we don't always get what we want, but hopefully there's always a gem of excitement in there somewhere!!!

Sorry, thought we were talking about scripts again ;)

Richmond Weems
03-11-2010, 09:54 AM
I always accidentally hit the send key before I'm finished with the query. I know it's a problem, but I can't help it. I just get so excited.

HH

loopdesign
03-11-2010, 02:13 PM
Thanks, Bunker.
Appreciate the insights.

Why One
03-11-2010, 03:49 PM
Great posts, Bunker. Really insightful. :)

HLTassin
03-11-2010, 05:39 PM
:bounce: harold.....I'm still laughing over that one:bounce:

author
03-11-2010, 05:47 PM
Very helpful, Bunker... thanks, dude!

--Ralph

jeannie517
03-11-2010, 06:57 PM
Great post -- should be pinned as a sticky.

JKB
03-12-2010, 07:59 AM
Saw this off Ulysses' link in the logline threads - great insight Bunker! Thanks.

Seems like one quick way to quality-control a logline is to count commas. If you've got more than 2 in a sentence, you're probably playing dangerously close to Dickens territory = TOO many clauses.

Great writer, but no one wants Dickens in a logline.

thatcomedian
03-12-2010, 09:16 AM
Great post -- should be pinned as a sticky.
Is that another double entendre?

iknownuffin
03-12-2010, 02:00 PM
I wonder how many scripts about washed up Olympic curlers are out there now.



Damn. Now I'm gonna hafta do a major re-write.

25 O'Clock
03-12-2010, 03:06 PM
A bit confused, maybe i missed something... you said that your production company only accepted writers who had agents and managers. Okay, nothing that unusual there (though, btw, if you're unrepp'd and happen to have a cousin who's an exec at said company, don't let that stop you). So if these writers all have agents and managers then why are they querying your company in the first place? Shouldn't their reps be calling your boss?

Bunker
03-14-2010, 04:22 PM
A bit confused, maybe i missed something... you said that your production company only accepted writers who had agents and managers. Okay, nothing that unusual there (though, btw, if you're unrepp'd and happen to have a cousin who's an exec at said company, don't let that stop you). So if these writers all have agents and managers then why are they querying your company in the first place? Shouldn't their reps be calling your boss?

Yeah, the company's submission policy is "no unsolicited queries," but EVERY agency and production company has the same stated policy. Even with these policies, queries do get read (not every query, but if there's time, someone will glance through them). If a logline really stands out, that writer might have just cracked the door open ever so slightly.

So if a writer wants to increase their chances of their logline getting read, they need to ditch all the fluff from their query. The query needs CLARITY CLARITY CLARITY. Clarity of genre, clarity of tone, clarity of idea.

Butch Jarvinen
03-14-2010, 04:54 PM
"So if these writers all have agents and managers then why are they querying your company in the first place? Shouldn't their reps be calling your boss?"

"Yeah, the company's submission policy is "no unsolicited queries,"

but EVERY agency and production company has the same stated policy."

This could certainly discourage any unrepped writer from sending out cold queries.

I think I will stick with my MO; Use the telephone and have my finger on the send button.
Echo
*no need to damnblast my way of thinking, I don't feel like sending a logline to someone that might be on the rag.

scripto80
03-15-2010, 09:14 AM
I think it's important to remember that everyone has an opinion and a way of doing business. From reading the OP's post, I realized that some of what he/she said is actually completely contrary to things I've read actual agents (some of them the best in the biz) say, had managers tell me, etc. So just remember there's no set rules, no industry-wide law. Take everything as an idea and guideline, but don't think one size fits all, because it doesn't.

Bunker
03-15-2010, 12:33 PM
I think it's important to remember that everyone has an opinion and a way of doing business. From reading the OP's post, I realized that some of what he/she said is actually completely contrary to things I've read actual agents (some of them the best in the biz) say, had managers tell me, etc. So just remember there's no set rules, no industry-wide law. Take everything as an idea and guideline, but don't think one size fits all, because it doesn't.

Agreed 100%! That was kinda the point of the original post.

I've read all the articles and gotten all the advice from agents and managers, and yet, I feel people have twisted their advice until it no longer reflects the reality of being bombarded by queries.

For example, an agents says truthfully, "I'm not just looking for scripts; I'm looking for writers whom I feel confident I can send into a room of producers." Many writers take that little bit of truth and decide that they need to be charming in their queries. They put in bios and jokes and self-deprecation to show they're "real." But all that's clutter. Yes, agents are looking for writers, but nobody reads queries looking for a cool person. They read queries to look for scripts, first and foremost. If they like your script, then they'll evaluate your coolness, so why clutter up a query with useless factoids about yourself?

The original post wasn't a "My steps to a successful query!" But from my time on the other end, I've realized that the interpretation of these previous "query rules" is often fundamentally wrong.

Bunker
03-15-2010, 12:41 PM
I think I will stick with my MO; Use the telephone and have my finger on the send button.
Echo
*no need to damnblast my way of thinking, I don't feel like sending a logline to someone that might be on the rag.

Whatever works, right? If you've found success with this, then keep it up!

I just know that from my experience and the experience of everyone I've talked with, the phone queries are the most intrusive. There's always another line ringing or something else I need to be doing. And yes, the phone calls do stand out from the thousands of email queries, but generally not in a good light.

Again though, if it's working for you, don't change a thing. My experience is individual and my company is only one of thousands.

I advise anyone who does cold calling to not be too pushy. It's soooo easy to cross into door-to-door salesman mode.

Pasquali56
03-15-2010, 03:00 PM
Have any cold queries at your company turned into options, sales or assignments? Just curious -- and thanks for posting.

scripto80
03-15-2010, 03:07 PM
Agreed 100%! That was kinda the point of the original post.

I've read all the articles and gotten all the advice from agents and managers, and yet, I feel people have twisted their advice until it no longer reflects the reality of being bombarded by queries.

For example, an agents says truthfully, "I'm not just looking for scripts; I'm looking for writers whom I feel confident I can send into a room of producers." Many writers take that little bit of truth and decide that they need to be charming in their queries. They put in bios and jokes and self-deprecation to show they're "real." But all that's clutter. Yes, agents are looking for writers, but nobody reads queries looking for a cool person. They read queries to look for scripts, first and foremost. If they like your script, then they'll evaluate your coolness, so why clutter up a query with useless factoids about yourself?

The original post wasn't a "My steps to a successful query!" But from my time on the other end, I've realized that the interpretation of these previous "query rules" is often fundamentally wrong.

Oh I know you didn't mean to say your experiences are the ultimate truth, and you even said so. And thank you for doing that because it means you're not some egotistical douche, lol. I just got the feeling from some of the reactions that some people may think you've just handed out the keys to the kingdom, and want to remind them that there's multiple doors, and all kinds of gate keepers. ;)

Ulysses
03-15-2010, 05:23 PM
I think it's important to remember that everyone has an opinion and a way of doing business. From reading the OP's post, I realized that some of what he/she said is actually completely contrary to things I've read actual agents (some of them the best in the biz) say, had managers tell me, etc. So just remember there's no set rules, no industry-wide law. Take everything as an idea and guideline, but don't think one size fits all, because it doesn't.

How about sharing these different experiences in detail?

Don't keep your knowledge on the far side of the moon ;)

Bunker
03-15-2010, 05:58 PM
Have any cold queries at your company turned into options, sales or assignments? Just curious -- and thanks for posting.

Directly? Not that I know of, but I haven't been there very long.

Indirectly though, I know that unrepped writers have had their scripts read and passed up the food chain. Some of those writers have been referred to agents and managers based on that.

There's a storage room that's filled wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling with purchased scripts. I have no clue how many of those were on spec.