Querying—Pretend You’re a Manager
This is another piece I dashed off at the Scriptfella Facebook group. I thought people might not like it, but the reaction, thus far, has been all positive.
Like most people I have sent out query emails in bulk, and it was a time-consuming and demoralizing experience.
It felt like I had to send 50 emails to get 2 or 3 read requests...and those were inevitably passes (that I had to chase).
I had more success by watching manager interviews on the Scripts & Scribes YouTube channel. I would ask a chat question during the show, and follow up a few hours later with a query email as “The guy who asked that question.” They were more likely to respond because they sort of knew me already.
So here’s the depressing truth...
Managers ignore your queries because, almost all of the time, your logline sucks.
Your logline is more likely to be a collection of “plot fragments” rather than an original, intriguing idea with market potential.
What they’re looking for is something they can sell. They’re not looking for clients, for friends, for relationships—they already have those. They’re looking to make money.
Chances are these guys, the lower-level ones, are even more broke than you.
They get anywhere from a few to 30 of these emails EVERY SINGLE DAY...and they’ve become conditioned simply to ignore them, to save their strength.
Because, second of all...even if you do have a cool logline...just from experience, they know...the script will probably suck.
I have read (or skimmed) over a hundred amateur scripts—via email, the Black List, Coverfly, Twitter, reddit, other sources.
Probably in those 100+ scripts—and many of those I asked to read because they had a cool logline, a Black List 8, or some other recommendation—fewer than ten had real potential.
The number that were even CLOSE to production-ready?
Everything would need a massive rewrite and, probably, reconception.
And by the way—I include my own work! Up until the past several months, my own stuff was in that “sort of okay” area. Certainly not shootable. I was a total mediocrity!
But the point is that I have a decent amount of experience not only writing, but interfacing with scripts and writers as a producer or manager would—because I sought that out, to learn “the enemy’s playbook.”
Here’s what I recommend—it is, unlike contests and consultants, absolutely FREE, and you’ll learn a ton:
Imagine you’re a manager!
You will see how quickly they all glaze over into “logline mad libs.”
You will be begging for a quick and merciful death rather than read more of these
agonizingly lame loglines!
You will see how truly rarely something strikes you as, “Oh, that’s a cool idea!”
Then, go ahead and read some of the scripts that sounded cool from the logline. Just ask for them on Twitter, or wherever you find them—almost all of the time, the writers will be thrilled to send them to you.
By all means, be respectful of the writer—give feedback if you want (and they ask), and be kind. We’re all learning.
But see how the scripts disappoint. See how they fail to mine their concept for all it’s worth...how they’re full of confusion and clichés...and how absolutely tiresome they become to read.
You’ll learn a ton about what NOT to do.
You’ll be forced to up your game in your own writing.
And you’ll start to realize—gee, this is why managers don’t respond to my query...
Because almost all of the time, the loglines suck and the scripts disappoint.
Remember, a bad script brings two bad experiences: 1) trying to read it, and 2) trying to respond to the writer.
I realize I may be bumming people out or seen as overly negative—this is just my opinion, people are welcome to discuss and I welcome disagreement!
But I do want to point out that I am as hard on my own work on anybody’s else. I learned so much by “thinking like a manager” that I pulled back from querying and spent most of the pandemic doing page-one rewrites of multiple projects.
Now I have some scripts that people are liking—and I always say, “Thanks! BTW That’s probably the sixth draft of the fifth page-one rewrite.”
But it was worth it!