Emerging screenwriters often feel like desert nomads struggling, stranded for years at a time hoping for a little relief be it a sip of water or a refreshing spring rain. When the sun beats down and the mind goes off on it own it plays tricks. You start to imagine the kind of cool, nourishing oasis that will revitalize your energy and allow you to continue on. That’s how I imagine sites like Virtual PitchFest. They are food, shelter, a pit stop on my journey to success. That is what the success stories on the site will lead you to believe. Caveat emptor, people. Buyer beware – before you spend your hard-earned money, know the possibility exists that this oasis in the desert is nothing but a mirage. A fantasy creation of your desire to succeed that drives you to take extreme and reckless actions. In short, a waste of time, money and your most precious commodity, hope.
Several months ago I ranted about Ellen Sadler’s “The Great Query Letter Hoax” and came down on the side of “It can’t hurt” rather than “Don’t waste the time and money.” Putting my money where my blog post is I signed up with Virtual PitchFest. Owner David Kohner Zuckerman has worked out a tidy little system of connecting scripts to agents, managers and producers that satisfies a basic need for cosmic justice. Let me explain: many still emerging screenwriters like myself who have been there, done that, come so close so many times to have a foot in the door only to have it slammed again feel there is not a level playing ground. Virtual PitchFest solves that problem. A good query yields a read. A great read makes a much needed connection. You get what you deserve. Nirvana for the emerging.
The rules of the game are simple:
Send your script to someone who likes it …
And they recommend it to someone who really likes it …
And they send it to someone who wants to see it produced…
And they send it to someone who agrees to produce it.
And you get paid for your original work. Then the negotiation begins to keep your name on the work, but that’s Stage II. Most emerging writers can’t get past Stage I.
So how to take the first step and get your prized script to someone who likes it enough to recommend it becomes perhaps the most important step after getting your script in its best shape. I have tried every conceivable way: classes, a graduate degree, coveted diversity programs, writers groups, agents, manager, career consultants, pitching events, conferences, mentors, online analysis with recommendations, contests and query blasts. Shockingly, I am still emerging. I don’t believe it is the work. My confidence in my work is not a delusion, I have had too much one on one success for that. I think it’s because I have yet to make the right connection. I have trouble finding social groups for self-promotion. Finding the right connection makes or breaks us. A needle in a haystack. That’s why I support whatever works for you — do it. I didn’t make enough connections in my umpteen attempts with umpteen scripts, now I am querying just one script over and over and over. This is it.
That’s where Virtual PitchFest comes in. Money is tight. I am not on a budget, I am broke. Being an emerging screenwriter is not an inexpensive career condition. So with finances at risk I need to use the cheapest, fastest way to get this script exposed. At @ $10 a pop with package deals that provide a couple of extra submissions, VPF is really an affordable option. I could try the other online services such as InkTip but I like the guarantee of a response Yes, No, or otherwise. And VPF has sample query letters that make writing your own much easier as well as a deal with Zuckerman’s company to assist if you need it.
On the plus side, cosmic justice, remember? You submit to a company or agency that claims to be interested in the genre you’re pitching. You should do your own research to make sure they are a suitable fit. If this is a match they’ll request the script. And here’s where you better bring it. Who knows what tips the scale — it is about taste and what the reader is looking for. If all is right in the world, the connection is made and the emerging writer is on their way. Yes, this is a baby step, but a step forward is better than standing still. Oasis, I don’t know, but a place to stop for a toast to your belief in your work, definitely.
The negatives speak for themselves. Some of the information, is out of date in that a company who has one hour TV listed as one of the genres they’ll buy is really not into TV at all.
Most agencies and production companies regardless of what they say, are not open to over the transom solicitations from unknown writers. Everyone prefers a recommendation. And let’s face it, most of the queries suck. Sorry, but they do. The Pros are looking for a needle in the haystack, too which is why they agree to read queries in the first place. However, the truth is they are reading your query for an excuse to say no, not an opportunity to say yes.
Even if they do request a read that is only a foot forward, not even a whole step. The reader must LOVE the script in order to recommend their company work with you. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the script. I have no clue to how high up the ladder the “Pros” on the site are, but I’d wager my meager day job earnings on them being entry-level to junior executives. Senior execs are too busy for this nonsense. And what if they do respond to the query letter? A “Send the script” does not mean they will buy it or take you on as a client. Let’s keep it real now. As with any mirage, it looks good, but when you get there the reality is sand through your fingers. I won’t get my hopes up.
HERE GOES NOTHING
I still have a great query letter for an even better script. I have to say that since they’re mine, but it’s still true. This way too long emerging has driven me insane. It’s like being trapped in a cocoon that won’t let me break out. I am ridiculous. With a script to promote. Saddle up…