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Should I Have Specific Actors In Mind For My Script?

I got this question recently: “If I write my script with particular person/persons in mind, how do I say it in the query letter?”

If you have a specific actor in mind for a role in your screenplay you do NOT want to mention this in the query letter.  When you option your script the producer will inevitably ask you who you saw in what roles and at that time you can tell them your casting ideas.  That’s really the only time you would want to mention these ideas.  Keep in mind, too, you’re most likely not going to get the actor(s) you want for your script so don’t get too attached to a casting idea.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t envision certain actors in certain roles in your script.  Envisioning a specific actor can help you craft your character and give it a voice so you might find it helpful in the writing process.  Just don’t get too attached to these ideas.

The only exception to this would be if you already have contacted a well known actor and you have them attached to the script.  This adds value to your project and you should definitely mention this in your query letter.

However, if your only attachment is an actor who’s not well known (i.e. yourself or your brother or “that guy who was in that one episode of Miami Vice who you might recognize if you saw him”) do NOT mention this in the query letter.  It doesn’t add value to your script and it’s not going to help you get your script read.

If you must attach yourself (or a friend) to a project as an actor or director you’re going to hurt your chances of selling the script.  If you are absolutely 100% sure you will not sell your script without these sorts of attachments then go ahead and mention it in the query letter because you might as well let the producer know upfront that you’re not going to sell the script without these attachments but realize you’ll be killing your chances of anyone agreeing to read your script.  If it’s something that you’d like but are willing to negotiate on don’t mention it in the query letter.  Once a producer has read your script if he likes it you will have at least a little bit of leverage and this would be the time to try and attach yourself to the project as more than just a writer.  Again, just to be extra clear, attaching yourself in any other capacity other than writer is a horrible idea and you’re killing your chances of selling your script.  If you are an actor you probably could get yourself a minor (although hopefully juicy) role in your movie but that’s about the most you can hope for.  If you’re a director trying to attach yourself to your script you better have a good looking reel and at least some experience but even with that you’re going to be hurting your chances of selling your script.  If you’re a writer/director and you won’t sell your script unless you can direct it you should seriously consider putting on a third hat and become the producer as well – then start trying to raise the money for your project because that’s going to be your best bet.

Make sure you read my post How to write a professional query letter for your screenplay if you haven’t already as it will help you write your query letter.