Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Advice for Screenabes 2

For query letters I notice a lot of writers include statements that carry unwanted subtext. 

For example: 

1. "If you've been tryin' for years we've already heard your song." ('Death or Glory' by The Clash. 

This is the I've written 20 screenplays and been at this for 17 years with little or no success. 

Goal of writer: To show commitment and impress them with your effort. You're in for the long haul. 

Subtext: Everyone's seen my work and hated it and I'll never make it. I'm a has been before I ever started. 

Fix: Better to be 'discovered' by someone and give them the satisfaction of finding the shiny new star. I wouldn't put anything on the resume' older than 2 years. You just dashed out this screenplay (your 2nd or 3rd) and you're a true find. 

Of course, not true. Takes on average a decade to break in and ten scripts. Never let 'em see you sweat though. 

2. The Michael Myers screenplay. This script never dies and the writer works on it only to have it show up again and again and... You get the idea. 

Query will contain something like, "This script has undergone 176 rewrites. I've been working on it 3 years. 572 people have read it including 47 consultants." 

Goal of Writer: Impress the reader with their effort. 

Subtext: I got a stale script that everyone, including my dentist, has seen. I can't do assignment work because it takes me a week to write a sentence. I'm stuck like a skip in a CD. I may only have one idea and can't even get that right. 

Fix: The script is here. They'll see the effort in the work. Here's the pitch. Read it. Less effort you appear to have done to accomplish great work implies, "Wow, some secret font of genius is there!" Michael Jordon was genius in motion because of the thousands of hours of work he put in to get there. But all we want to see is the result. 

3. The "I'm not a pro" adjectives. 

Writer will say something like, "I'm an aspiring screenwriter and I'm hoping you can help hand me a career on a silver platter. I've got an optioned feature screenplay." 

Goal of writer: Not to appear cocky. Humble and I'm nervous even writing this letter. 

Subtext: I'm a frackin' loser. 

"Aspiring" = bad. Not a real pro but a wannabe. 

"One option" -- for a dollar to your uncle. How about "Feature in pre-production"? Smile Which it is technically. 

"Placed third in Iowa Beefiest Screenplay Contest." How about... "Award-winning screenwriter..."? 

Fix: Be cocky. You're a pro. They need you. You're the one that they make money off of -- YOU'RE the talent and creator. You ARE a screenwriter. 

You are moving forward and the train has left the station. Hop on but I'm rolling down the tracks with you or without your sorry ass and you'll feel like a schmuck when you blew your chance cashing in. 

A healthy dose -- not total prickdom -- of self-confidence is a sign of a professional in any field. Focus on the material -- just read this script. It'll say the rest. 

4. Shotgunning. 

"I have seven screenplays and here are the loglines..." BLAM BLAM BLAM! Game over. 

Writer's goal: I have no idea what they want. Who knows? Fuck it. Try them all. 

Subtext: I have all kinds of crap here -- all shapes and sizes -- and have no clue which you may want. I didn't go my research to know you already have a thriller about circus clowns in pre-production. Plus, I've been at it ten years and have a huge stack here. Read them all. Please! 

Fix: Target ONE script with each letter. Don't want to have a dozen unsold scripts. They know you got 'em but don't say. 

If other people have additional suggestions post them under COMMENTS.

1 comment:

  1. Free book on the subject: