I get a lot of e-mails from up-and-coming screenwriters, much of it containing film related questions. For that reason, I've introduced this section of the publication. If you'd like your question answered, send it to the email address listed further along on this page.
I tend to delete mail with return addresses I don't recognize, or with subject lines that seem inappropriate to what I'm doing (there are certain areas of my anatomy that don't exist and, therefore, don't need to be lengthened). When sending questions, please indicate in the Subject Line of your email that it's for SWN (Screen Writers News). ALL E-MAILS MUST BE SIGNED WITH THE SENDER'S FIRST AND LAST NAME.
From Roberto Ricco: "Esther, I really don't know what to do. I've sent out more than 200 letters (queries) and I only got answers saying they aren't interested because they have their own clients - except for Leslie Ann Warren, whose name I got from your website. She asked me to send the script for an evaluation. I bought a book on Agents and Managers with addresses and names, but I don't really know what to do next. I feel blind because I don't know how to approach these people in order to sell my script. Should I go to all of those script competitions? Should I go to Hollywood? Should I try to produce my movie myself? I know the script needs work, but they can change it when they read it and see how good the story is. Thank you."
First of all, dear one, you must stop sending queries. You never want to interest anyone until your material is absolutely ready to market, and yours isn't. Your cart is in front of your horse.
You say you sent out 200 queries. My goodness, Roberto, that's nothing. Professionals who've been at this many, many years can tell you that's a mere drop in the bucket. It takes, on the average, from 3 to 5 years to make a sale. How many queries do you think the professional sends out (or makes on the phone) in 5 years?
Next you tell me that your script needs work, but the story is so good that if they like it, they can fix it later.
Think of it this way. Would you want to go out to buy a car, approach a dealer, and see that he has an automobile that has dents and scratches all over it, yet he wants a lot of money for it? You'd say, "I don't want to pay for a car in that condition!" and the salesman would reply, "But we're going to fix it. Once you pay for it, we'll take out all of the dents." No. You wouldn't be interetsed. So it is with someone you hope will buy your screenplay. They have no interest unless it's as perfectly presented as possible. You wouldn't even drive the car to see how well it runs if it looks like that to begin with, and that's how it is with producers. They don't read the script to see how good the story might be if it looks wrong (unprofessional) in the first place.
The process is simple, but it takes a world of patience, and here are the steps:
1. Make certain that your script is letter perfect and formatted correctly. 2. Make sure that your One Page is absolutely sparkling. When they read it they should feel that they HAVE to get their hands on the screenplay as quickly as possible, they're so dazzled by your writing and by the story you propose. 3. Once you've done those two things, send at least 30 queries a week. If you get 2 replies, you're doing great. 4. Don't go to Hollywood. If it took the producers of "Fried Green Tomatoes" and "Driving Miss Daisy" 7 and 5 years to get their films made, why do you think that living there makes a huge difference? You're a writer. You can write from anywhere. 5. There are NO SHORT CUTS. An agent isn't the answer. You can go faster and do more alone. 6. There are groups that get together to pitch their stories in Hollywood. It's a very, very long shot and not worth the time or money to make the trip - except in rare instances. I'll keep you informed on this website of those opportunities. Save your money for stamps. 7. Your best source for names and addresses can be found on this website and on other sites on the internet. Don't pay anyone for this information.
Yes, Roberto, it is difficult. If you expect to earn a minimum of $250,000 (the averages is $750,000 for a first script,if sold to a major producer) - why would you think it would be easy? It's also why you need to master the craft and send your work as nearly perfect as humanly possible.
Don't give up. That's what makes a winner in this odd profession: not giving up.
Good luck to you! Esther