I am a fool. This is proof.
No, not the photo. I have been writing for quite a while now. I have samples of every genre in TV and features but still– WTF, dude? I’m black, goddamnit — I have worshipped at the altar of Diversity programs; why haven’t the gods worked for me? Sorry, I digress. Anyway, although I am technically represented I am sending my own queries and doing my legwork. Which we should all be doing. I have been collecting stray change and managed to cobble together enough to buy the Hollywood Screenwriting Directory. I wrote about this in a previous post: The Maybe, Potentially, Sorta Great Query Letter Experiment. (Dec. 25, 2015) It was a foolproof plan. I combed the directory and found 100 production or management companies accepting e-queries, that is query letters via e-mail. The idea was to use a fantastic query letter to elicit a read. One-two-three Bob’s-Your-Uncle and I have someone who wants to buy my work. That was the plan. Here’s what really happened…
I picked an indie drama that I am very proud of. Timely, well-written, targeted demographic, reasonably inexpensive with great opportunities for actors. It’s ready for some love and I have to pull up my big girl pants and self-promote.
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The truly shitty thing about forging a career in the arts is that everyone has a different path. I know it sounds good, but that means there is no right way. No guidelines, no rule book to follow, no secret password that will sell your script and get you into Fortress Hollywood. No, the only correct way to emerge is the way that works for you. You could win a contest, or work the contacts you made in film school or your writers group. If you’re a young college grad there’s always the assistant route. I think people not living in New York or Los Angeles will focus on pitch fests, film festivals and writers conferences. Then there’s the old-fashioned cold query letter. In considering how long I have been surviving as an emerging screenwriter and all (and I really mean ALL) the ways I have tried to storm the fortress, I have concluded that DIY cold querying is my last best hope. As an experiment let’s see if it works.
Queries are not a highly recommended method of emerging because it’s a rookie move. Executives want to work with someone experienced and vetted. That requires a recommendation. They are too busy to nurture your little trifle when they are working on projects they’ve already acquired. However, A-list connections do not guarantee success, look at the scripts on the Blacklist each year. So in the past few years many scripts have struck lightning because the writers had a nice pedigree and a great submission. Lightning does strike, so it’s worth a shot.
Nothing to Risk, Nothing to Lose
The Hail Mary pass. If you do your research you can find a producer or company that is either looking for something you have or has produced something similar and would be interested. While it’s true you only get one chance for a first impression, if you are professional the company that passes on this project may keep you in mind for something else. In my case I have nothing to lose. It’s not like I will lose any of my TV contacts. My manager will not dump me (although it wouldn’t be a bad thing if she did). If no one responds to my queries the only thing I risk is what’s left of my pride in a script I think can find life outside of my filing cabinet.
I need a list of companies to query. That would help, right? It’s very easy. I am on record as saying e-query services do not work and please don’t waste your money. I say that because they are blasting your query to anyone regardless of who they are and what they are looking for. This is an “it’s worth a shot” pass, but still — I’m trying to be smart. Professional query services such as those offered by Melody Jackson at Smart Girls Productions are an option. I have used them twice, got my first agent and a few years ago got a meeting with another agent, but it’s pricey so this time, no can do. There are online companies like Virtual PitchFest and Stage 32 Happy Writers has a written query option to their pitch fests. Since I am doing it DIY I could either get the Writers Guild Signatory Agency list and try for a new agent or go with one of the directories. The script I am pitching is an indie so I’m thinking I’d rather find a production executive to help me develop it. I choose the Hollywood Screenwriting Directory (HSD) for my list.
The kind souls at The Writers Store have put together the HSD in the spirit of the Hollywood Creative Directory that for years has been a staple of emerging creative artists. The HSD focuses on screenwriters and what matters to us, that is submitting your spec. With the cost efficient price of $29.99 you have the option of buying the book or PDF download which saves time and shipping for anyone unable to get to the store in Burbank. In a fit of rum-influenced desperation I PayPal it at 2 am so download it is.
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