I got this question recently:
“I’ve noticed that e-mail queries are becoming more accepted. When sending an agent an e-mail query, what should the subject line be? Should it say Query or the script title or Attn: Agent’s Name?”
You should read my post Getting your screenplay to producers and production companies if you haven’t already as that article covers some logistics to tracking down contact information for production companies including email addresses, fax numbers, and mailing addresses.
The fact that email queries are considered “acceptable” is precisely the reason why I think you might want to consider other methods of approaching a production company like regular mail or faxing. The problem with email is that it’s so easy to do and costs so little that everyone is doing it so your email is likely to get lost. In addition with increasingly powerful spam filters there’s a high probability it won’t ever be delivered. No one has invented a spam filter for faxes and most companies are not in the habit of throwing regular mail away without at least opening it up and having a quick glance at it. Furthermore, unless you’re prepared to send hundreds if not thousands of emails you’re probably not going to be very successful at cold emailing agents, producers and directors. When I was sending out email queries to production companies I had gathered every single email address in the HCD so I was sending a lot at one time. I suspect that these screenplay submission services are doing the same thing. If you’re going to use email as your delivery method be prepared to spend a lot of time gathering the email addresses because you’re going to need to send a lot.
As a rule I would try and be as direct and up front as possible while also trying to catch the person’s attention. Perhaps you can even slip in a condensed logline, something like this: “Screenplay Submission: Dish Dogs is Easy Rider meets The Graduate.”
What I’m doing is using my alternate log line and trying to grab the person’s attention as much as possible. See my post Writing A Screenplay Logline for more details about how to write a good logline.
Do not just use something vague like “Screenplay Submission Request” as your subject line. That will most likely be deleted quickly. You’re not giving the reader any reason what-so-ever to actually open your email and read what you’ve written.
I highly recommend you NOT try anything underhanded even if you think it might increase the likelihood that someone would read your entire email. For instance something like this is probably a bad idea:”Steven Spielberg told me to contact you about my project.” You’re trying to build a long-term working relationship with this person so start it out on the right foot. Use creativity in a positive way to make your subject line catchy and interesting.
It’s really marketing 101. If your email actually does arrive in someone’s email box they’re most likely going to read the subject line and then either view the full email or delete it without reading it so make the subject line count. Keep in mind there’s really no hard and fast rules with something like this. Use common sense and test what you do. For instance if you gather 100 email addresses from the HCD try a test to 10 or 20 of them using one version of your subject line and then 10 or 20 with another version to see what works best.
If you have a specific contact name (i.e. a friend knows the brother of an agent at CAA or you meet someone in a coffee shop who gave you her business card) use that in the subject line. “Jane Smith told me to contact you” or “We met in Starbucks on Thursday”. These may not be very creative or catchy but a lukewarm lead like this may actually be just enough of a cracked open door for you to slip your email in and it will separate you from all the other people just trying to submit using the above mentioned logline approach.