I’ve started to receive a good number of emails from new writers with questions. I’ll be posting the email exchanges as I think other aspiring writer’s can benefit from them. If you have a question please let me know: [email protected]
(Note: Please keep in mind that this is an informal email exchange so please pardon spelling and grammar mistakes).
My name is Branden and I have finished a screenplay that I spent a year and a half working on. I’m still not sure if agents or studio executives can believe that it will be a plausible story to be made but I’m going to ask you what you think and if you think there’s a way I can make it sound more interesting. It’s about a man named Mr. Lee Burrows, who is a middle school ancient history teacher obsessed with the Roman Empire. While being a teacher, he is also the leader and founder of an underground dog fighting ring that he slowly turns into his own version of the Roman Coliseum. Midway through the story, he gets a new next door neighbor who is the founder and leader of an extremist animal rights movement based on Keith Mann’s animal rights movement in England. We soon find out that this man is also a closeted child molester and begins to prey on the children of the town including one of Lee Burrow’s students. The story is a drama comedy and is hopefully breaking new ground in terms of its topics.
Ashley Scott Meyers responded:
Well… I think it actually sounds pretty compelling. You certainly have a lot going on in your story. You should write up a query letter and a 1 page synopsis and start doing a test to see if you can find any interest. Did you read my post about writing query letters? That’s a good place to start.
Thank you for responding to my e-mail and the positive response to the story. I have been reading most of your posts on your site and I think it’s the best advice I’ve read from anyone’s website. I have friends who write and I will refer them to your website too. I have been reading the query letter section and how to get your screenplay to production companies and this is all helping. I have written five drafts of my query letter so far and I sent out 15 so far to agents from the WGA website. I have gotten no responses yet. I see you say to send out 100’s and I will have to do that then. I will also have to re-write my query letters because my loglines are like a synopsis because it’s two paragraphs I take to tell them the story. I read on another website you need one paragraph and I couldn’t get my story to just one. This could be why I’m not getting responses or maybe it’s because I have been writing to agencies that don’t work with unpublished writers. They used to have the agencies on the WGA website that tell you if they work with unpublished writers or not, but they changed it so now you don’t know who you can or can’t write to. Anyway, thank you so much for responding to my e-mail. I may try to write to production companies too. One question I have is, how important is it having the names of the agents in the letter? Some of the agencies I have found don’t have agent’s names. Does it make a big difference?
Ashley Scott Meyers wrote:
It sounds like you’re doing many of the right things.
Before you spend a lot of time submitting to agents read my post “How do you get an agent for your screenplay? (And why you don’t need one!)“.
15 letters isn’t enough to really get an idea if you’re on the right track or not. However my first impression is that you’re probably not so take some time and go back to really hone your query letter, log line and synopsis. Check out these posts:
You do need to pair your logline down to a sentence or two – less than a full paragraph. And it should really be something that quickly piques the interest of the reader so that they want to read the full (1 page or less) synopsis. You’re not trying to tell your entire story in a couple of sentences all you’re trying to do is get people interested enough in your basic idea as to get them to read your short synopsis.
In my experience submitting to agents is far less fruitful than submitting directly to producers and production companies. So the percentages I quote in my submitting your screenplay post might be a bit lower if you’re submitting to agents.
I wouldn’t worry too much about trying to find agencies that supposedly will accept unsolicited material. In my experience if you find that information it’s often inaccurate and a lot of the companies who say they won’t, will and a lot of the companies who say they will, won’t. So just pick some and submit.
If you can get a specific name to include on your query letter that should help tremendously. I recommend calling the agency and talking to whomever answers the phone. Ask them if there are any junior agents who are accepting new clients. They’ll probably say “no” but maybe not. If they give you a name write it down and address your query to them or better yet try and pitch your idea right over the phone (telemarketing skills required!). If you buy the HCD’s Hollywood Representation Directory it will list actual names of people who work at the agencies and sometimes list their job title, too. This can be a bit dicey, however, as it won’t always be clear exactly who are the junior literary agents but it might give you a bit of a clue. I think even if you address it to the wrong person that’s probably better than addressing it to no one. In fact I think that could be why out of the 15 letters you sent you haven’t gotten anything back from any of them. A letter addressed to no one probably was received by a receptionist and tossed away without even being considered.