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It’s time for another edition of “Didn’t Get Picked.” It’s often debated how much query letters matter. I’m here to tell you that THEY DEFINITELY MATTER. As someone who receives a ton of queries (for Amateur Offerings, for The Scriptshadow 250), I  assure you, I can determine a lot from a query. In fact, I have an unofficial checklist of how I go from e-mail to full script read. It starts with me opening the e-mail. This is what happens next.

1) Can the writer put together basic sentences without any errors? If so, go to 2.
2) Is the query well-written? Does it display thought, care, passion? If so, go to 3.
3) Does the writer know how to write a proper logline? If so, go to 4.
4) Is the idea a good one? If so, go to 5.
5) Read the first page of the script. Does it pull you in? If so, go to 6.
6) Read until page 5. Is the script still keeping you interested? If so, go to 7.
7) Read until you get bored. If you’ve done your job, I will not want to put your script down until the last page.

Obviously, you can’t get to number 7 without first getting through numbers 1-4. I’d say about 50% of the queries I read don’t get past number 2. But if you get past number 2, there’s a good chance you know a good idea from a bad one. Or that you can at least craft a solid logline. So, many who get past 2 at least get me to read their first page. Of the people who get that first-page read, I’d say 25% of them get past number 6 (read at least five pages). Of those who get that far, I’d say I finish about 5% of those scripts. And I’m guessing the industry average is similar.

The lesson here being that nobody even touches your script unless your query letter and logline are solid. The frustrating thing about this is that writers don’t receive queries. So they have little reference for what it’s like to read a query letter. How can you get good at something if you can’t study it? Well, that’s what today is about. I’m going to put up some real-life queries that were sent to me and explain why they didn’t make the cut. We’re not here to bash people or to tell them they suck. We’re here to help each other learn. Let’s get started!

SOCCERROCK by xxxx xxxxxx

A retired pro soccer player from the United States has his career
resurrected to help the British Secret Service capture an elusive
terrorist cell and Kris Sanderson is also reunited with Dead Egypt,
the world’s most famous heavy metal band.

The world’s most popular sport is soccer. More countries are
registered with soccer’s governing body, FIFA (Federation
International Football Association), than in the United Nations.
From the slums of Argentina, to the sub zero temperatures in Siberia,
someone is playing soccer as you read this. Since the days of Elvis
Presley, to the sold out stadiums featuring Metallica, rock & roll
music is a global phenomenon. When you combine these two genres, the
results are electric and this is truly an original concept. Almost
every soccer movie ever made involves kids and cute animals, and is
usually a G-RATED affair. Every other sport has films of a more adult
nature. Hockey has “SLAP SHOT”, baseball has “MAJOR LEAGUE”, football
has “THE LONGEST YARD”, and golf has “TIN CUP”, just to name a few
examples. Where is the great adult soccer movie?? Using my experiences
as a professional soccer player for twelve years, as well as being a
sports writer and roadie for rock bands, SOCCERROCK is an
action/adventure story that is void of all the corny formulas that
exist in every Hollywood soccer production.

You want to start out a query letter by introducing yourself. Even if it’s a quick introduction. To jump right into your logline without saying anything is jarring. I’ll excuse this if the writer uses my format preference (genre, title, logline, why you should read), but as you can see, that wasn’t the case here.  As it turns out, I didn’t have to read any further to know that the script was in trouble. As passionately as the writer pitches his project, the logline indicates a story so unfocused as to be unreadable. From my experience, if a one-sentence logline is unfocused, the script will be extremely unfocused. There are three separate ideas here. A soccer idea. A heavy metal band idea. And a British Secret Service idea. True, the mixing of these elements is what makes the idea unique, but that doesn’t matter if the script sounds all over the place. I’d encourage the writer to focus on one subject with his next script.

Hi,

thanks for taking the time to read this email (and hopefully the script). I’m a Welsh based writer working in the tv industry as an assistant director. For the past two years I’ve placed in the quarter finals of the Nicholls with this script, and have used the notes from them to improve the script to get it to a stage where I think its ready to be pushed out into the industry.

This is where you come in Mr. Reeves. Hopefully you’ll agree and feature this script on your website and offer some good notes. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Title: Big Red
Genre: Sci-Fi / Family
Logline: Erin is a child orphan who runs away with a fugitive robot to find a new home.

Okay, so this time we have someone who greets me! That’s good! Unfortunately, the first letter of the opening paragraph isn’t capitalized. That tells me the writer hastily sent this query out and therefore doesn’t care enough about the craft. Later I also see an “its” instead of the correct, “it’s,” and that pretty much ensures the submission won’t make the cut. I’m looking for writers who care, who take this seriously, and who put effort into the written word – ALL the written words. Finally, the logline doesn’t introduce any conflict into the story. Someone runs away with a robot. But then what happens to ruin their plan? You need to include the key conflict in your logline.

Carson,

Hope your weekend was productive. I’ve been a fan of your site for nearly five years. It’s been a huge part of my screenwriting education. Below are the details of my Amateur Offerings Weekend submission.

-MAQ

Title: Page Turn Her
Genre: Drama/Comedy

Logline: A love-struck ad writer finds a magical journal that controls his unrequited crush’s actions, but he hesitates using it because the men who get close to her have a tendency to die.

Why you should read: I’m a longtime Scriptshadow reader whose last script, “King of Matrimony,” made it into Amateur Offerings Weekend. Based on the comments, I thought it would have been selected. Regardless, this new script is better in every way.

I have to give it to Michael. The man is persistent! He consistently submits his script every week, so I feel like the least I can do is explain why I haven’t chosen him. This is actually a pretty strong query. Michael keeps the introduction brief and catches my attention with flattery (been a fan of the site for five years). He can obviously write a clean sentence. There isn’t anything wrong with the query itself. It’s when I get to the logline that I have a problem. The logline starts out as a sort of magical What Women Want type film (ad writer who finds a magical journal that allows him access to his crush) but then becomes something much darker at the end (people are dying??). Put simply, it feels like a confused idea. Making matters worse is that it’s listed as a “Drama/Comedy.” So in addition to the comedy element (magic journal) and thriller element (people dying who get too close), there’s also a dramatic element? I don’t know if this idea needs to be scrapped or Michael just needs someone to help him focus it. But for future reference, you want your idea to be clean and easy to understand. If it results in even the slightest bit of confusion, rethink it. Hopefully this helps, Michael. And keep writing!

Title: The Psycho Sweethearts Reality Show

Genre: Dark Comedy/Satire

Logline: A reality show follows newly wed husband and wife serial killers as they try to keep their sanity as their celebrity increases.

Writer: Writer’s Anonymous

Why You Should Read: I was chatting with a group of friends when reality shows came up. I watch NOT ONE currently and never will again which I’m extremely proud about when a idea hit me.

Hey, maybe, I would watch a reality show if it were on street gangs, mafia, drug cartels, serial killers, spies, banksters or even the Illuminati. That idea thoroughly cemented in my head, I decided to try this idea for my next script. Finished the first draft in a month and rewrote it a month or two later. I believe I have something “SPECIAL” for the Scriptshadow community though I readily admit may be a draft or two away.

Scriptshadow community, you’re happy to run with the other ideas if you want.

This is a superficial script on superficial couple in a superficial world and I need all the constructive criticism you can give me.

I tried to keep the formatting of the e-mail to show that it had 2-3 line spaces between each section but it wouldn’t stick. Wonky formatting is an easy way to dismiss a writer. If you want to know how your e-mail is being seen, open up another e-mail account (if you’re on gmail, get a Hotmail account) and send your query to that e-mail. It’s an easy way to see how your query looks.

There are some other red flags here as well. How are you going to write about something you know nothing about? Just about the only way to give us an authentic story is to know as much about your subject matter as possible. Case in point: I think there ARE reality shows for all the subjects he mentions but because he doesn’t know anything about reality shows, he doesn’t know that. This said to me this was more of an experiment than a script the writer actually cared about. The last sentence also has an error in it: “This is a superficial script on superficial couple in a superficial world…” Writers have to remember that this is a PROFESSION they’re trying to break into. So you have to present yourself and your script professionally. If you didn’t put 100% effort into a 200 word e-mail, there’s no way you put it into a 20,000 word screenplay.

Title of script: HIT YOURSELF

Genre: Thriller / Dark comedy

Logline: When a retired hitman is hunted by his former employers for refusing to kill a homeless witness, they murder his best friend, causing him to seek revenge by writing a book, exposing their secrets to the public. But when it fails to sell, he is forced to pick up the gun, one last time.

Why you should read my screenplay:
This being my very first attempt at screenwriting, I feel it is a good example of just how much one can learn within a six month period. While the story itself went through several changes, the characters do not let their fictional roots ruin their ability to feel real.
The ghetto / drug area setting is very real, as I used real life experiences for my backdrop.
My style differs from the everyday writer, as I tried to take risks which I knew could either lose the reader, or keep them interested.
The main story and subplot blend together nicely, with some great twists. The further you read, the more things make sense, and things you thought seemed pointless become clear, up to the final image.
Finally, while it is a fairly simple story, showing how karma really can be a bitch, no matter how guilty you feel for your actions, it still manages to challenge you, as you keep track of timeline jumps and plot points that make you realize that what you thought you knew, was wrong. Not everything is what it seems.
Thanks for your time!!
Phil Golub

This isn’t a bad query. But there are a few reasons I didn’t pick it. First, the logline is more summary than logline. A logline sets up your concept, your main character, and the main conflict. It’s very succinct.  This one rambles.  You can also spot some story issues within it. Everything seems okay when we’re talking about a hitman being hunted, but then all of a sudden someone is writing a book? And we have to wait for that book to be released before the real story can begin? Writing and releasing a book takes, what? 6-12 months? What are we doing in the story during that time? Watching the character write? That’s not going to sell any tickets. You could do a time jump over this period, of course, but then you have a big weird time jump in the middle of your movie. Hitmen movies shouldn’t have time jumps. They should happen within a contained time frame.  Imagine if Taken had a 1 year jump at the midpoint.  It wouldn’t be Taken.  As if to confirm my fears, the writer than tells me this is his first screenplay. I get that some people use Amateur Friday to learn. But you don’t want to tell anyone this is your first script in a query. Everybody in the business knows that first scripts are terrible (with the rare exception – usually from writers who have written in other mediums). So the query reader immediately loses faith in you. Finally, the “why you should read” reads too formal (“I feel it is a good example of just how…). There’s a lack of freedom to the writing that tells me the script will feel the same. Writing should feel effortless to the reader, not like you’re proving a point in a senior thesis.

To all the writers whose queries I featured today: Don’t let any of this discourage you. You’re now armed with more knowledge so that your next script and  next query will be better. As long as you love screenwriting and dedicate yourself to it, you’ll eventually write something great and pitch it perfectly. But you need these speed bumps along the way to learn how to do it right.

  • klmn

    So you’re saying we should feary our screenplay queries?

  • Matthew Garry

    “Unfortunately, the first letter of the opening paragraph isn’t capitalized.”

    Could someone in the know provide me with a quote from a somewhat authoritative resource on that?

  • Malibo Jackk

    My vote this week goes to SOCCER ROCK.
    Somehow I could see Jack Black playing both leads.
    Sounds like it would target a world wide demographic.

    (Did not read the script. Couldn’t find the link.)

    • romer6

      The logline seems all over the place, but it definitely caught my attention. Two passions of mine combined? Sign me in. I´d probably read the first pages of this one. That alone raises a question: does the reader’s personal preferences play a part on choosing what to read? What do you think?

      • S.C.

        Some people are practically BEGGING you to read their screenplays.

        Should be opposite way ’round.

        People should be begging YOU to read YOUR screenplay.

        Think about screenplays you would like to read based on loglines ALONE.

        That’s what a pitch should be like.

        • romer6

          Great way to put things, S.C.

    • Randy Williams

      Like this idea too, has an animation feel to me. I don’t know about heavy metal though. Of all the soccer fans I know, and they are many. I subscribe to Fox Soccer because friends watch games here. NONE are heavy metal fans.

    • Randy Williams

      I have it. (found it on another site) if you want it. I also have “Hit Yourself”.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Reminds me of when a producer (or studio) comes up with a crazy idea.
      Becomes up to the writer to make it work.

  • carsonreeves1

    Hmm, interesting. I never knew that.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      It’s a misconception, C, see my comment to One Eyed Writer below.

      • Buddy

        seems to be more Europeans than I thought here, where are you from guys ?

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          Originally from Denmark, am now living in Belgium after having lived in France for 25 years :)

          • Buddy

            i’m from France !!

          • S.C.

            England, just outside London.

        • Magga

          Norway

        • Awescillot

          Belgium atm

        • Midnight Luck

          Nowhere, just outside BFE.

  • Lucid Walk

    PAGE TURN HER would get my vote.

    Runner-up would be THE PSYCHO SWEETHEART’S REALITY SHOW

    • S.C.

      Both are well-written, but I agree with Carson that the tonal switch in PAGE TURN HER (not keen on the title, either) isn’t great.

      THE PSYCHO SWEETHEART’S REALITY SHOW (cumbersome title) is non-believable. I know there was BEHIND THE MASK: THE LESLIE VERNON STORY and MAN BITES DOG, but I (personally) believe satire should have verisimilitude.

      Also references to the Illuminati or New World Order or other conspiracy theories put me off. I like to think the writer is grounded in reality.

      • S.C.

        I meant the loglines are well-written. Not read either script.

    • MichaelAQ

      I appreciate it that. I’m going to work on the logline. I think if someone reads the first page, they’ll want to finish the script.

  • Marija ZombiGirl

    No, that is not true :)
    Granted, the greeting ends with a comma but the following sentence starting on the next line is considered as a sentence on its own, hence starting with a capital letter. I am European and I haver once in my life seen a letter or email starting with a lower case. I have never been taught to write like that either.

  • S.C.

    I’m European and I tend to start formal letters/e-mail with a capital.

    It’s tempting to think of Carson as a friend, ’cause he’s a friendly guy. But if you’re submitting to AOW or Scriptshadow 250, Carson is a professional script reader.

  • S.C.

    I’ve been having problems lately – I think relating to the medication I take, otherwise I’m not sure – with spelling errors or writing the wrong words when posting comments. SEEN instead of SCENE, HEAR instead of HERE.

    I don’t always spot the error when I read back the comment first time, but I usually spot ALL the mistakes when I re-read the comment the second or third time (yes, I like to re-read my own writing).

    We ALL make mistakes. In a comments section, it’s not a problem (to most people). People accept that comments are posted quickly in order to keep a conversational tone. Query letters (and screenplays) it’s different. Cultural differences and medical problems won’t be taken into consideration, you will just be considered lazy.

    So… write your query letter in Word or whatever program you use. Then go and do something else. Then re-read it carefully. Then do it again (maybe show it other people).

    Then send it.

  • Awescillot

    I have to disagree (and I’m European). A new paragraph always starts with a capitalized letter, irregardless of how the previous sentence ended. Also, the first sentence of the first paragraph is regarded as the first sentence of any letter, whereas the greeting is just the salutation and not a part of an ongoing paragraph.

    From my experience, I’d say it’s a custom when writing business letters to follow up with capitalization. A huge no-no would be to follow up with ‘I’, which comes across as lazy and sloppy in a formal setting (but that’s my personal opinion).

    • Bifferspice

      English here, and I’ve never heard of one_eyed_writer’s rule here. It’s always a capital letter at the start of each sentence, including after the opening greeting.

      • IgorWasTaken

        The problem with you English is: Your Government don’t know the proper way to do this and that.

    • IgorWasTaken

       

      A new paragraph always starts with a capitalized letter, irregardless of how the previous sentence ended.

      “irregardless”?

      Now, in a technical sense, perhaps, that word is no longer a non-word. That is, some dictionaries now include it. But many people consider any use of “irregardless” as a sign of… Well, it’s a bad sign.

      “Irrespective” is the preferred word. (And, to many – the correct word.)
       

      • klmn

        Absofuckinglutely.

  • Joe

    “there’s no way you put it into a 20,000 word screenplay”

    Uh, screenplays have 5-6k words. Have I been doing it wrong?

    • S.C.

      Hmmmm… maybe you’re joking, but… what do people think of this?

      http://www.tameri.com/format/wordcounts.html

      7,500 words for a 90 page screenplay?

      • Gregory Mandarano

        My tv pilot, which is 69 written pages with a ton of white space and act breaks, comes out to 13.5k words.

        A 90 page script with only 7,500 words would be all dialogue.

      • Nicholas J

        Here we go again.

        • S.C.

          I’ve not found a direct link between word count and page count – it’s all over the place. However… some people are taking the piss. 15,000 words for a feature-length screenplay! Less than 90 pages! And these were not dialogue-driven indie-movies:

          http://letsschmooze.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/help-my-screenplay-is-too-short.html

          Less than 90 pages – that’s not a substantial screenplay. It reeks of laziness. My opinion. And others, just warning you all!

          • Randy Williams

            The Nicholl competition allows entries of from 70 to 160 pages.

          • S.C.

            Just out of interest, here are the 2014 Nicholl finalists.

            Moonflower: 106 pages, 18,173 words.
            Grave Hearts: 107 pages, 23,262 words.
            Arcadia: 111 pages, 24,454 words.
            Road to Oz: 114 pages, 23,041 words.
            The Death Engine: 112 pages, 25,100 words.
            The Caretaker: 113 pages, 25,960 words.
            Gagarin: 110 pages, 25,155 words.
            The Science of Love and Laughter: 119 pages, 26,099 words.
            United States of Fuckin’ Awesome: 99 pages, 18,776 words.

            Make of that what you will!

      • klmn

        Maybe for 2001 – A Space Odyssey.

    • Mike.H

      Based on past memory, I did word count on a 120 page script it came out to be about 23,000 I think.

  • carsonreeves1

    Yeah, maybe it’s just me. Anyone else want to weigh in on Page Turn Her? What do you think? Am I off base here?

    • S.C.

      No, you’re right. Logline tonal shift and… a bit creepy. Reading minds is one thing, controlling people’s actions…

      • Gregory Mandarano

        Creepy is fine. I think the logline issue is that it has no stakes, and no urgency.

        Example of including GSU

        Although everyone who gets close to a young woman dies, when a writer finds a mysterious journal which controls her actions, he finds himself tempted to discover the truth before death finds him as well.

        • S.C.

          A writer has one week to break the spell a mysterious journal has over a young woman’s actions, before he becomes the latest victim of its curse.

          A little more benevolent, less creepy. Still doesn’t sound like a comedy. Also, a writer READS a mysterious journal or a writer WRITES in a mysterious journal.

          Perhaps:

          A struggling writer discovers that the actions he gives the protagonist of his latest manuscript are magically acted out by a real woman he falls in love with.

          Bit long. I don’t know. I can see why Carson had a problem with this logline!

          • cjob3

            It’s starting to sound like a bit like Stranger Than Fiction now.

          • S.C.

            Which I suspect is not what he was going for. That’s why it’s not a bad idea to mention a movie or two movies your logline can be compared to: What Women Want meets Stranger Than Fiction, if that’s what it is. And clarify the genre.

          • MichaelAQ

            While writing, Stranger Than Fiction was on my mind a lot… making sure I didn’t write that movie.

          • MichaelAQ

            I appreciate the thoughts.

        • MichaelAQ

          Thanks for your comment.

          I thought the death would have been the stakes. And valid point on the urgency. Time is of the essence in the script, so that is something I need to try to bring out in the logline.

      • pabloamigo

        The premise reminds me of Death Note, so it piques my interest slightly.

      • romer6

        Yes, I had a problem with that too. I was wondering, maybe if it wasn´t the man who dies but the girl that would change the whole thing. I mean, everytime the man tries to write a way for the girl to like him she almost dies. And then, by the end, he finds out that if he did nothing to control her she would have liked him anyway. Lesson learned: trying to control people is wrong. I don´t know, the whole “control the girl’s actions” seems a bit too much, really creepy.

        • S.C.

          The problem is, it’s too much work trying to decipher this logline. Some will say that means we must read the screenplay… but why? Why bother to read a screenplay when we can’t even make sense of the logline? Do you think the screenplay is going to be any clearer?

          I’m not attacking Michael, I just hope he moves on to other scripts (from the sounds of it, Michael’s been “flogging” this one for some time – hopefully he’s written another screenplay in that time, in which case he should start flogging that one instead).

          I don’t think he’s getting much of a response from this one.

          • MichaelAQ

            I’m always writing. This is the most recent completed project, so it’s the one I’m going to try and get read. When the next one is done, I’ll do the same.

            And I don’t take your comments as attacking. You’re providing your opinion with rationale. I think I have an entertaining script, but that doesn’t matter if I can’t someone to read page 1.

    • Linkthis83

      Made me think of So I Married An Axe Murderer…tonally.

    • romer6

      I think the biggest problem with the logline is that it presents two “magical” situations: the journal who controls the girl´s actions and the fact that everybody who gets close to the girl dies. I imagine that probably these two things are connected but as far as the logline reads I think it is too much. And I find that this “controling” thing is a bit creepy. How about changing it to tell the girl´s future? And then he finds out that in the girl´s future is his own death everytime he tries to get close to her, and the journal keeps changing the ways he dies as he tries different approaches. So he must break the curse and find a way to get the girl without dying. To control someone’s future is somewhat disturbing, in my opinion, I personally wouldn´t go there.

      • cjob3

        Good point about two magical things happening here. Blake Synder would call Double Mumbo Jumbo on that.

      • charliesb

        The creepy aspect doesn’t bother me, I would assume he’s controlling her in, show up to the same places he’s going to, dismiss potential rivals and general all around amusing shenanigans sort of way.

        But even if he (the protagonist) isn’t, I do think there is a place for darker, “edgier” romantic comedies. As long as he Dan Harmon’s it, I think it’s fine.

        • MichaelAQ

          Thanks for the comment.

      • MichaelAQ

        Valid on the control note. I THINK it plays alright in the script, but maybe shouldn’t be in the logline.

        Appreciate your thoughts.

    • charliesb

      The logline is a little clunky, but I think the premise is interesting enough that I probably would have let it through. Plus bonus points for a clever title.

      MAQ if you’re reading, you should post the script in the comments and let us take a look and give you some feedback. It’s great to be chosen for AMATEUR WEEKEND, but it’s even better to WIN and be chosen for AMATEUR FRIDAY. Some notes from Scriptshadow readers might stack the deck in your favour. :)

      • cjob3

        Really? The title pun kinda turned me off to it. It’s a bit too cutesy and I’m not sure it totally clicks. “Page turner” works as far as a story about a gripping book (the journal) but what does “Page turn her” mean? Page turn her into what? It’s a good effort but I don’t feel it quite works on both levels the way a pun title should. Maybe if her name was actually Paige Turner? Or did I just make it even cutesier?

        • S.C.

          It’s all over the place. The title is a pun, but it’s pitched as Drama/Comedy. The story starts reading like a romantic comedy, but a strange one, then goes all horror pic on us.

          If logline is that all over the place, I have little hope for the story.

        • charliesb

          For a romantic comedy PAGE TURN HER works for me. It is a little cutesy but I still like it. To me it reads as the premise, the writer/protagonist is using the pages in the journal to turn the girl of his dreams into his love interest. I do think it works better for a ROM-COM than a drama, but it sounds like a movie title to me.

          Of course as others have pointed out the log line (and maybe script) don’t exactly sell it as I’m seeing it.

        • MichaelAQ

          That might be even cutesier. =)

          I’ll entertain some other options. I just hate generic titles that could be anything.

      • MichaelAQ

        I’m here. Thanks for your comment. I appreciate you even asking.

        https://www.dropbox.com/s/aw02x5v6xbl9m58/Page%20Turn%20Her_Mar2015.pdf?dl=0

    • Nicholas J

      I think it is written clearly and succinctly enough that it would get me to at least open up to page 1. The logline seems a bit out of whack like you said, but it’s nothing too crazy. Nothing that sets off a bright red flag like some of those others. Maybe just a yellow flag, bordering on orange. So I’d be skeptical opening it up, but wouldn’t flat out reject it without taking a look.

      • MichaelAQ

        Only if Carson felt the same way. =)

        Thanks for the comments. Going to work on that logline, so I can at least get a first page read.

    • Randy Williams

      The protagonist seems passive to me. Change the ad writer to an obituary writer and the journal to a keyboard and the protagonist would have more control.

    • Howie428

      The concept of it sounds good to me, but you’re correct in thinking that the logline needs work.

      My two-minute attempt at it… “A lonely ad writer faces dangerous temptations when he finds a magical journal that allows him to manipulate the girl of his dreams.”

      The idea reminds me of “Ruby Sparks,” which was a pretty solid low budget movie from three years ago.

      • Magga

        Hah, just checked out the trailer, and lead character’s fantasy woman looks like she’s his own identical twin. That’s weird casting

      • MichaelAQ

        Thanks for taking a second to problem-solve my logline, and comment on the script. It is appreciated.

        I didn’t watch Ruby Sparks until a few months ago, after hearing once or twice the plot sounded similar. I think the stories are very different.

    • ChadStuart

      I’m not a fan of it either. It pretty much says that a guy get a magical object that he doesn’t use because it kills people.

      That’s describing a story where the central conceit DOESN’T happen. It’s an inactive logline.

      It needs to explain that although it kills people, he does it anyway and then touch on th consequences of that (i.e. the conflict).

      • Magga

        He gets cancer, maybe? That’s the big seller these days

        • klmn

          If you submit to Carson, you should give all your characters cancer. After all, he named his prodco Carsonoma Films.

    • pmlove

      It sounds a little too close to Ruby Sparks (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1839492/).

      • pmlove

        I did have a look through the comments, but missed Howie’s comment that has already mentioned this below.

      • Kirk Diggler

        Enjoyed that film quite a bit.

      • MichaelAQ

        I’ve heard that before. I had to check out the film. Definitely different.

    • JakeBarnes12

      No, man, it’s not just you.

      The title is clunky, the idea of a man magically controlling a woman is creepy, and the suggestion she’s a killer, or at least that men tend to die around her, adds an unrelated element to the concept.

      Setting aside the creep element, the two halves don’t match up.

    • IgorWasTaken

      I have a problem with the title; strikes me as some attempt at a pun on her name or a sex act. “Page Turner” “Page. Turn Her”

      “Making Her Next Page Your Last”
      “Bookmarked”
      “A Page to Die For?”

      He thinks she’s so exquisite, ‘She’s to die for’, and when he stumbles upon her journal (etc.)… he has to decide if she’s to die for – literally

      My point is, I think the logline should start with an allusion to something dark, even if it that starting bit doesn’t seem dark as you read it – only seems dark when you get the the logline’s end.

      • klmn

        Ike Turner’s first wife was named Paige. She couldn’t take a punch, so he dumped her and remarried.

    • MichaelAQ

      You could read the first 5 pages. =)

  • Awescillot

    Instead of just blurting out whatever’s on your mind, I’d say a decent structure can already make a difference. The following is something I’ve used before in formal queries (nothing screenwriting-related though).

    Salutation,

    First paragraph: Introduce yourself (be short, but be original and to the point); tell the recipient what your purpose is for writing the letter (you can expand later, but don’t turn this into a cliffhanger).

    Second paragraph: Expand on your relation with the recipient (e.g. is this a follow-up to a previous encounter, perhaps you’ve met the person during a reception?), followed by the reason why the recipient is the appropriate person to address your query letter to (you can insert flattery here, but the main focus should be on why that person qualifies to help you, based on his/her skills and experience).

    Third paragraph: Insert content here. Sell your product in four lines max. If you can’t write strong loglines, this will be quite difficult. Remember that simply praising your product has the opposite effect when you fail to sell the vision behind your product. You can’t just say your logline is unique, it has to be original and unique in itself. Be cautious with your wording, this paragraph packs the first punch (the second one being the call to action in your final paragraph).

    Fourth paragraph: Include a call to action. What do you expect the recipient to undertake after reading the letter? This way, you open up a formal conversation, because the recipient is expected to follow up on this. Don’t be too desperate or too aggressive. The reason why the recepient is best suited for your quiry has been dealt with in the first paragraph, the reason why the recipient should feel the need to help you should come forth in the final paragraph. A query is an invitation to a mutually beneficial relationship, so what’s in it for him/her? They should feel the urge to act on it. The best way is to give them a sense that there’s some personal gain.

    Greeting.

    This isn’t in any way a standard in writing a query letter, but I’ve been very happy with the results myself. Also remember that brevity, outlining and white spacing are key for a nice presentation of your letter. And spell check, obviously.

    • S.C.

      Sample query based Awescillot’s format (all stuff made up):

      ****

      Dear Patrick Producerman,

      My name is Johnny Screenwriter and I wanted to share with you a screenplay I have just finished.

      You may remember that I met you while I was working as an intern at Hollywood Standard Productions and you were visiting the office; we talked about how science-fiction movies never did well at the Academy Awards. Therefore I thought you would be the perfect person to read this screenplay.

      My screenplay is called Every Home Should Have One and I would pitch it as Twelve Years a Slave meets Chappie! In a future where the wealthiest in society have robots to do their domestic chores, the world first’s artificial-intelligence robot must escape the sadistic billionaire who has kidnapped him and return to his inventor. It’s a funny and exciting story and, while it has its dark moments, is suitable for a family audience.

      I would love to send you the PDF of my screenplay so that you can read it and give me your reaction. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it and I look forward to hearing your comments.

      Yours hopefully,

      Johnny Screenwriter

      ****

      I haven’t written a query letter in a long time – my very first query letters were typed on an electric typewriter! I must admit, I found some of my writing here awkward. Hmmmmmm……

      • S.C.

        world first’s should be WORLD’S FIRST… I’ve done it again!

        Damn you, citalopram!

      • Randy Williams

        The “Yours hopefully” sounds kind of sweet. Maybe too sweet. :)

        • S.C.

          Kind of old-fashioned too. Do we even still need a sign-off in the email age? How about:

          I’m sure you’ll enjoy it and I look forward to hearing your comments.

          Johnny Screenwriter

          Or maybe the old standby of Yours sincerely?

      • Howie428

        A solid effort, although if I was this producer “screenplay I’ve just finished” would be an alarm bell, since I’d be worried about it being a first draft. Also, opinion differs on the “this meets that” approach. Some people hate it, although there are times when it makes sense.

        • S.C.

          The first part is awful, so I think that should be changed (I just wrote this so that people can take it apart! It’s not a serious pitch).

          The THIS meets THAT is used by almost all loglines of spec scripts I’ve seen sold in the last year. I repeat, ALMOST ALLLLLLLLL!!!!

          Crazy, but true. And it makes sense. You want to convey tone and you can’t always do that in a logline.

          Popular choices for movies to compare to include:

          GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
          GRAVITY
          INTERSTELLAR
          INCEPTION
          AMERICAN HUSTLE
          AMERICAN SNIPER
          DIE HARD (of course)
          DRIVE

          and many more.

    • Linkthis83

      Welcome back!

      • Awescillot

        It’s been a while! Thanks!

  • Gregory Mandarano

    The Queen of England uses a comma and a capital.

    Dear Mr Subject,

    Thank you for…

    ——-

    The Office of the POTUS uses a colon and capital.

    Dear Mr Fellow American:

    Thank you for…

    ——–

    The Pope of the Catholic Church uses a comma but no capital.

    Dear Mr Believer,

    thank you for…

    ——

    By these standards, Carson would not read the Pope’s script.

    • S.C.

      Well, we know that Carson Reeves likes the first word capitalized.

      Fascinating research, Gregory!

      (Footnote: I refer to Gregory as Gregory. Mr. Mandarano is too formal for a comments section, however… I don’t know Gregory (apart from he is a very good screenwriter) and I don’t know if he is a Gregory or a Greg.

      I think it is wrong, bordering on rude, to refer to someone by an informal name unless and until they have specified that that is how they want to be referred.

      I’m not sure if this will come up in query letters, but it might: not every Nicholas is a Nick, not every Matthew is a Matt (apparently, Matthew McConaughey doesn’t like being called Matt). In query letters, keep it formal, unless you have a long-term relationship with the recipient.

      And don’t call a Richard DICK unless that is how addresses himself.

      I know it’s an odd thing to talk about, but it happens a lot in England. English people are always shortening people’s name without asking. Bit rude.).

  • Eddie Panta

    Title: Page Turn Her

    Genre: Drama/Comedy

    Logline: A love-struck ad writer finds a magical journal that
    controls his unrequited crush’s actions, but he hesitates using it
    because the men who get close to her have a tendency to die.

    Where have I read this before? Wasn’t this script on the SS site?

    Anyway, the logline is genre conflicted. There appears to be two supernatural elements, one a magical journal, and then, men who get close to the love interest die. So, that’s two strange events. I imagine magical journal works when the lead, an ad writer, writes something in the journal, thereby controlling his crush’s destiny.

    Based on the logline, I would get the feeling that the story isn’t full fleshed out, because it’s not specific enough. The verbs “finds” a magical journal and hesitates :”using” it.

    Something like inherits a magical journal would give me the impression that the plot is well though out. How does he “use” the journal. Also, magical, is too broad, too simplistic.
    Again, if it sounded more specific, I’d be more intrigued.

    The script’s theme appears to be destiny, so I’d use that phrase.
    The men around her have a tendency to die. Well, they either die or not, what about disappear, the word tendency, also makes me think some important decisions haven’t been made here.

    • Randy Williams

      The writer asked for reactions to the logline on a recent AOW or AF, I believe. That’s why it seems familiar.

      • Eddie Panta

        Oh okay… I knew I’d seen this somewhere before.
        Thanks

    • S.C.

      Writer posted it here the other day:

      http://scriptshadow.net/amateur-offerings-strike-back/

      He got no replies.

      • MichaelAQ

        I got none. =(

        Done sobbing. =)

    • Bifferspice

      genre conflicted is often touted on carson’s articles as a way to be the same but different. i don’t see that as necessarily being a problem at all.

    • MichaelAQ

      Thanks for the thoughts. Definitely going to take them into consideration. I haven’t gotten notes yet on the plot not being thought out. I think I just did a crap job of selling this in.

      I’ll be working on that logline.

      • Eddie Panta

        My comments on the plot was only a guess based solely on my experience with loglines. There have been plenty of scripts on AOW with terrific loglines that ended up being lackluster scripts. Others have had horrible loglines and brilliant scripts. Evaluating a scripts potential by the its logline is not a full proof way to judge whether or not to click open on a pdf file.

        I think the confusion may be with the tone of the script. For example if the genre said Black Comedy than that would create a different vibe to the story.
        Everyone seems to like the title btw.

        • MichaelAQ

          Don’t think everyone likes the title, but thanks.

          I think Dark Comedy fits the script better since I am playing with this idea of a woman that men die around.

          https://www.dropbox.com/s/aw02x5v6xbl9m58/Page%20Turn%20Her_Mar2015.pdf?dl=0

          • gazrow

            Hey Michael –
            Took a look at a the first twenty pages or so. Firstly, the title is confusing and perhaps not as clever as you think it is IMO. By that, I mean the protag is writing in a magic journal not reading a book so Page Turn Her doesn’t really work for me. If you called your female lead Paige Turner instead of Layla it would make more sense but I would still personally scrap the title and come up with a new one.

            I think you described the script as a drama then a dark comedy but from what I read you’ve written a Rom-Com. It’s a story about a guy trying to get with a girl. It’s a little dark granted but it’s still a Rom-Com!

            The script makes for a fast read and made me smile once or twice. I would get rid of all the annoying “CONTINUED’S”. Also, you introduce three characters working in an ad agency on page one who all happen to be the same age (28). I found that a little odd.

            I felt you were telling us the plot and exposition via the characters dialogue rather than giving us some nice, funny visuals to go with it. Maybe a MONTAGE of Layla dating various guys then attending their funerals or something would work better?

            Also, it was remarkably easy for Elijah to just simply be handed the “magic journal” at the book-store. I would try and come up with some more imaginative way of him getting his hands on it. Make him work for it rather than have it simply handed to him on a plate.

            There was nothing particularly unique about Elijah – nothing that made me want to root for him. Layla was a little more interesting but only because men seemed to die when around her.

            The costume party where she was dressed as the Grim Reaper and he as Cupid was a little too obvious.

            It’s not a bad script and I have seen weaker scripts make AOW. But it needs more work to truly shine.

          • MichaelAQ

            I appreciate the time you took to read the script and write these notes. Definitely going to take your comments into consideration when I go back in for another round of revisions.

          • charliesb

            Hi, I read up to about page 15 before I stopped. I pretty much agree with gazrow’s comments. I think some of your dialogue is a little stilted and expository, and everything is happening too easily. You need to make things harder for your protaganist (Spending time with his crush, getting and using the journal). Also I realized that I misread your logline. I thought the protaganist was a writer writer, not an ad writer, which is part of the reason I liked the title. I thought he was writing a novel not working in an agency. I also assumed he would realize his writing was affecting her by accident, not be told that the book was magic and immediately believe it.

            I think you have an interesting premise here, to me it sounds like a movie, but maybe my vision of it (ROM-COM) is not exactly the story you want to tell.

            Good luck with it!

  • jeaux

    Seems there’s a lot of folks waiting for their turn at AOF and may never get picked due to the query alone. Maybe when a writer is ready, he/she can post their query here on any given day and see if they get any attention. (I’ve seen a few people take this approach, PAGE TURN HER, I believe being the most recent) Think of it as a trial run to your AOF submission, where the SS community can give you tips on the query itself as well as your script, should they be interested enough to read it based on said query. Thoughts? Too intrusive to the AOF game itself?

    • S.C.

      Not a bad idea. We did a whole weekend of that; let’s just say you can see what Carson’s means in his seven-point plan.

      Biggest problems, off the top of my head (prepare for pronouncements!):

      * Boring, derivative, depressing, and/or offensive, generally unappealing logline.

      * Confusing logline, dubious genre description.

      * Awful title.

      * Under-confidence in Why You Should Read (“This is my first script and I think it still needs a rewrite”).

      * Over-confidence in Why You Should Read (“My writing kicks the shit out of all you maggots!).

      * Evidence the screenplay has been around the block and this is the final port of call (“Quarter-finalist Nicholl in 2012″).

      * Long-list of accolades the screenplay has won or score the screenplay got on Black List (personal issue: if the script did so well, why do you need our help with it?).

      * Short script length – for me, less than a hundred pages, but definitely an issue if it’s less than ninety! I want to tell you to cut stuff – how can you cut stuff if your screenplay is already so short? Could be the script just needs fleshing out, but why tell us your script is so short anyway?

      * Indication that the script can be made on a low-budget – unless you’re pitching to The Asylum, who cares? And if you are pitching to The Asylum, congratulations on your lack of ambition. My opinion.

      • Bifferspice

        those last two make no sense to me

        • S.C.

          Maybe gets a bit personal towards the end, so I’ll try and clarify my feelings.

          I think scripts are getting too short. Not the ones that sell or win awards, just the ones here. I wouldn’t pitch that my script was short.

          Some loglines aren’t very good. So the writer says “but it’s low-budget” and that doesn’t help. It means low-ambition or it’ll do. I suppose if you ARE pitching for low-budget I’d say that. For AOW or 250, I wouldn’t bother.

          The first six points we see a lot.

      • S_P_1

        Actually when a screenwriter submits to AOW and has an popular high placing contest resume, I’m impressed.
        Great storytelling is recognizable to discerning readers alike. So a contest script does have a level of merit above an uncirculated script.

  • Matthew Garry

    That’s what I’ve always thought: both are acceptable and it depends on preference. I never found something absolute that states one way or the other, but that might just be a lack of trying, as I never thought it was this important (which it turns out it is; queries get turned down because of it).

  • Howie428

    When I saw what this article was going to be, I was kinda hoping the pitch I’ve been sending in would be included!

    I’ve been pitching the same thing routinely for several months and it would be nice to know if it has never come to the top of the pile, or if it’s been rejected. Based on Carson noticing that Page Turn Her has been repeatedly submitted, those of us who have sent something in several times can probably assume we’re toast.

    I guess I’ll pitch something else or reword my spiel.

    • charliesb

      Or pitch it right here and get some feedback.

    • jeaux

      Yeah Howie, pitch away!

    • ChadStuart

      Have you been pitching it the exact same way every time? Then, yes, I suggest reworking that pitch. After the second time I’m sure Carson recognizes it and simply doesn’t read it. Start from scratch, rework your intro, and resubmit.

    • Howie428

      By popular demand, the following is the text I’ve been submitting…

      “Carson,

      Here’s an AOW submission:

      TITLE: Ex-Street
      GENRE: Comedy
      LOGLINE: Cynical newlyweds must learn the value of marriage if they’re to survive a curse that forces them to live on the same street as their bizarre exes.
      WHY YOU SHOULD READ: “I recently did that thing where you pitch stuff to people and discovered that this script is the easiest of mine to pitch. When faces went blank as I described my cannibalism animal rights sci-fi, this was the story I found myself falling back on. Eyes would light up as people reflected on their own exes and whether they’d want to live near them. I’d say things like, “This is a modern R-rated comedy with action, great dual lead roles, and lots of fun cameos.” The fact that I felt confident in describing this story and the characters in it makes me excited to find out what people think of it.”

      Thanks
      XXXXXX
      (Howie428)”

      I’ve been using the Carson format, so this isn’t a true query. I’ll be happy to hear what anyone thinks. Thanks.

      • jeaux

        While I’m no logline expert, I’m intrigued enough to want to read the first 10 to start. So if you feel like posting a link to it, I’ll take a look and perhaps get some ideas to help with your pitch or logline approach.

        • Bifferspice

          i would have a look also

        • Howie428

          Thanks. I put in a reply with a link.

          • jeaux

            Cool. I’ll take a look!

      • mulesandmud

        The presentation isn’t bad at all. A sentence or two of intro at the top might not kill you.

        The title is fine, though extremely obvious. I suspect you could find something more clever.

        The logline describes a cute but underwhelming premise. This curse doesn’t seem particularly interesting. It just makes you live near your ex? That happens in real life all the time, without help from the supernatural. No need for ghosts to justify a premise that sitcoms have used for years. Make us understand why the curse has to be there for this story to happen, or else ask yourself if your story really needs that magical element at all.

        The WYSR starts well, but loses me at: “I’d say things like, “This is a modern R-rated comedy with action, great dual lead roles, and lots of fun cameos.””

        I don’t care if you really say things like that, it sounds like you’re putting exposition in your own mouth, which doesn’t speak highly of you as a writer. You had a nice thing going talking about finding a premise that people could really connect to, and then you interrupt yourself with a quick soundbyte plug for your own project. Instead, keep going in the vein you started in, which makes you sound like a writer who is learning and growing.

        • Howie428

          Sounds fair. I guess we all have to resist the temptation to get too heavy with our sales pitches.

          I had an earlier logline draft that focused more on the curse and played up the comedy. It also explains the marriage a bit differently…

          “Selfish newlyweds who mock marriage with joke vows about being eaten by fish are cursed to live on a street with all their bizarre exes. Until the curse is broken they face a deadly gauntlet of temptations and fish!”

          That one seemed a bit too non-standard for most people.

      • Randy Williams

        Although the WYSR made me laugh which was reassuring since you are writing in comedy, the logline didn’t totally push me to want to read.
        First, I don’t completely understand what “cynical newlyweds” are. Cynical about what?
        Overall, the hijinks seem avoidable. Living on the same street is not like, say being forced to share the same cruise cabin.

        • Howie428

          Thanks. The leads are cynical about romance and marriage. They’ve both been burned in the past and for different reasons they’re happy to marry for convenience, saving themselves from romantic issues.

        • Bifferspice

          oh come on man, you think if you and your missus lived on the same road as every ex you’ve ever had, and she’s ever had, and you couldn’t move away, you wouldn’t have some issues down the line?

          • Randy Williams

            Bury your nose in your cellphone once you leave your door and you can avoid most issues with people.

            Except in traffic.

      • JakeBarnes12

        I find the logline a little strange. If your two characters don’t value marriage, why did they just get married? “Cynical newlyweds” is like writing “A depressed lottery winner.” We live in a culture where people don’t have to get married to live together. So if they’re so cynical about marriage, why do it?

        So I’m having problems with that. But okay. We got two people who need to learn the value of marriage. What is the value of marriage? I mean, the value of love, of justice, those things I get. But as I already said, we live in a society where marriage is more a legal arrangement than anything. You can live like a married couple without being married and so what?

        So I don’t see the universality of the lesson they’re supposed to learn.

        Then there’s a curse. Okay. If it sets up fun, that’s fine.

        So the curse is that they must live on the same street as their exes. Um, why? It would help to know who put the curse on them. One of the jealous exes? Is the idea that they will learn to appreciate marriage because their exes are such nightmares? But again, you don’t need marriage to have a good relationship.

        And why the same street? That’s what I call half-assed. You’re going to go for a curse that makes anything possible, why not have them forced to share the same HOUSE as their exes?

        I’d take out the marriage element, which for me doesn’t work, make it about a couple who are on the verge of breaking up and who then find themselves having to deal with sharing a house with their exes.

        Logline as it stands suggests to me problems hard-baked into the script, so I’d pick a clearer concept over this one.

        Just my dos pesos.

        • Howie428

          Both of the leads are set up as being anti-romantic for different reasons. By the end they work through their issues and see the value of romantic love. I think that’s a universal thing, but I can see that by wrapping that up with “marriage” it’s a bit unclear.
          Since both the leads have quite a few exes they wouldn’t all fit in the same house! Also, the curse traps our leads into living here, but most of the exes don’t know each other and so believe they are living their normal lives. The main reason for the curse is to stop the leads from just moving out. As it stands I don’t need to explain what’s stopping the exes from doing the same.

          • JakeBarnes12

            I’d suggest you focus on one ex for each of the couple and put them in the same house.

          • Howie428

            It’s worth thinking about, although last week there was a discussion about pushing the story beyond the mundane. For me, two people move into a house with their two exes sounds like a drama. Two people move into a street where everyone is one of their exes sounds like a comedy.
            As it stands the story focuses on specific exes, the one that got away, the teen stalker, who become important supporting characters. While there are others who are used for gags.

          • JakeBarnes12

            Awright, man.

            Good luck with your project.

          • S_P_1

            I would increase the couples to four all living in separate houses on the same block. I seriously see the film potential of this script!

      • Midnight Luck

        If you need to have a second conversation with people to explain things in more detail so people understand, then your basic logline is missing something. (Like you have done with others here)

        As far as what you have sent to Carson, I would say:

        Talk about why HE would want to read it. Not why everyone else did or didn’t.

        Talk in a positive forward manner. Much of what your wysr states is negative or unsure of yourself. No need to hit all those things. Carson will quickly judge those things for himself, you don’t need to do his thinking or judging for him.

        Ultimately that would be my suggestion.
        Slim down your discussion in the query, let him make the judgements himself, don’t add or feed your own negative perspective into it, and lastly make sure everything you are saying bolsters why he will WANT to read your script, not a mixture of maybe this, and maybe that.

        Hopefully something I have said helps you. Keep at it though, don’t give up.

        • S_P_1

          Talk about why HE would want to read it. Not why everyone else did or didn’t.

          Carson will quickly judge those things for himself, you don’t need to do his thinking or judging for him.

          Great points.
          I think in the few queries I’ve sent to prod-cos I may have been self-deprecating in my approach. There’s a very thin line of being boastful versus being confident with no film credits to back up your claims.

      • Howie428

        I’ve uploaded the script to…

        https://www.sendspace.com/file/16c97e

        Thanks to anyone who takes a look.

        • charliesb

          So I read up to page 22 before I stopped. I’m not sure if you’re a writer who outlines or believes in outlining, and while I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to create one before you write your script, I do think it can be very helpful after you’ve finished to make sure that your story stays on track. I mention this, because I find the first 20 pages of your script unfocused. I don’t feel like I’m being led from point a to b to c, it feels like scenes start and stop and I can’t figure out what I was supposed to have learned from them.

          First and foremost, your two main characters need some definition and some likability. That doesn’t mean they need to be sweet people but I need to actively care about them, check out the trailer for Trainwreck, for the kind of woman I think you’re going for but is still likeable and someone you could care about or at least enjoy watching.

          Your leads don’t even seem to like each other, which makes me question why their exes showing up on their street would even bother them? As I said I didn’t get very far, but is it both their exes? Or just one of theirs? One might work better if say it was all Bree’s exes, and Grant through hearing about her relationships with all these different guys starts to wonder why she broke up with all these guys just to end up with him, or vice versa.

          I’d either cut the first scene, and just use Bree and Grant’s wedding to show how they feel about marriage, or extend that scene and cut their own ceremony into a short joke (i.e. they both say I do, high five, he starts typing into his blackberry, she pulls a flask from the folds of her dress and takes a swig).

          Whatever you decide you need to make it clear what the rules of this marriage are upfront. Marriage of convenience, marriage to get a promotion, marriage to get the rents off their backs. Whatever it is set it up before the exes start to show up.

          Somersby made a great comment in this weeks Amateur weekend’s offering that might help. “revisit each scene and reduce it to its essence.”

          I hope some others are able to give it a read and give you some feedback.

          Good luck with it!

  • mulesandmud

    Howard Hawks had a simple way of judging movies, which I think is also helpful for thinking about queries:

    “A good movies has three great scenes and no bad ones.”

    A damn fine way to think about quality in general, if you ask me.

    The actual numbers aren’t the issue. If you disagree with Hawks’ ratio, or want to debate the subjective nature of ‘good’ and ‘great’, you’re missing the point.

    (If you don’t know who Howard Hawks is, that’s your first problem right there. If you googled him just now and decided you don’t need to watch any of his movies, the problem is more serious than we thought. If you think that you can get by in this game without cultivating a deep and varied understanding of film history because, hey, most other people haven’t heard of this stuff either, then the situation is approaching hopelessness.)

    What Hawks is doing here is highlighting the two distinct but equally important elements of quality craftsmanship.

    1.) YOU DID CERTAIN THINGS REALLY REALLY WELL.

    2.) YOU DIDN’T FUCK ANYTHING UP.

    The first part suggests that you know how to harness your creativity in a way that feels unique or exciting or otherwise impressive. The second part suggests that you care about what you do enough not to deliver shoddy work. The first is the mark of the artist. The second is the mark of the professional.

    As you write your query, and your script, consider this the absolute minimum you are expected to deliver.

    Don’t send anything to anyone until you have impressed yourself with more than one element of your own presentation. And don’t send until you’re sure there are zero mistakes. If you aren’t sure which mistakes to even look for, for the love of god, find out.

    Will you do this perfectly every time? Probably not. Hawks didn’t.

    Chances are that something you consider great will fall flat with the reader. And chances are that you missed some minor error, even in a document as short as a query.

    The good news is, if you genuinely impress Carson once or twice in your query (fun opener, quality logline), he’ll probably overlook an uncapitalized letter or two and take a peek at your script, because overall you’re batting well above average.

    The bad news is, you should never, ever expect it to be that easy. Ever.

    However hard you are working at this, work harder. It’ll show.

    • S.C.

      The “three good scenes, no bad” quote is often attributed to Jack Nicholson, so thanks for clarifying that Hawks said it first. I’ve seen some Hawks stuff but – a bit like spicy food and smelly cheese – the older I get, the more I’m getting into watching the old stuff.

      Good advice is to write a LONG first draft, full of good stuff, then cut all the stuff you don’t absolutely need. Result: tight screenplay.

    • Poe_Serling

      Whether you’re just a casual movie watcher or a true student of cinema, you can’t go wrong with adding a few of Hawks’ best films to your to-watch list.

      One of my favorite Howard Hawks’ stories. From an interview that he did at the Chicago Film Festival in the late ’60s:

      “I made “Rio Bravo” with John Wayne,” he remembered. “It worked out pretty well and we both liked it, so a few years later we decided to make it again. Worked out pretty good that time, too. So now I’m preparing “Rio Lobo”.

      I called up Duke and asked him if he wanted to be in it. Sure, he said, he’d do it with me. I asked him if he wanted me to send the script over. ‘Hell, Howard,’ he said, ‘I’ve already done the goddamned script two times’.”

      • brenkilco

        I have read that Wayne asked, “Do I get to play the drunk this time?”

    • brenkilco

      Since you could make an argument that he directed the best gangster movie, the best comedy, the best western, the best private eye picture and the best adventure film ever to come out of Hollywood, yeah, those unacquainted ought to check him out.

      • Poe_Serling

        When John Carpenter was asked what films he would pick for a film festival, he said, “I’d program Howard Hawks movies or pornography.”

        • Levres de Sang

          I’m not overly familiar with Hawks’ work (I’d never associated him with Bringing Up Baby, for instance!), but his influence looms large in one of my favourite pics — Targets, the debut feature from Peter Bogdanovich. The director’s love of movie history is very much in evidence and we get to see Boris Karloff watching his younger self in Hawks’ The Criminal Code — with the script acknowledging that it was Hawks who gave Karloff his first significant role.

          • Poe_Serling

            I’m a big fan of Karloff’s anthology television series Thriller – a fine mix of horror/suspense stories. It aired for a couple of years in the early ’60s during the same time as The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

            Slowly but surely I’ve been working my way through all 67 episodes. My favorite episode so far:

            The Grim Reaper – “Celebrity author Beatrice Graves purchases a cursed painting of the Grim Reaper; her nephew Paul warns her that most of its previous owners have died violently but she scoffs-until blood appears on the Reaper’s blade.”

            It stars William Shatner and Natalie ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Schafer.

          • Levres de Sang

            Thank you so much for drawing my attention to Thriller! I was aware that Karloff had been the fireside host of a supernatural TV series, but had forgotten all about it. My interest, however, was piqued by that outline to your favourite episode — being that it shares a similar theme to my own new project! I was really pleased then to discover the existence of a “Fan Favorites” DVD that includes this episode alongside nine others (the complete set is beyond my means at present). It just sounds perfect and so I ordered without hesitation!

            ** With cursed paintings in mind allow me to recommend a fantastic 1970s giallo: The Night Child [aka. The Cursed Medallion]: “When a documentarian delves into the dark world of satanic art for a new film, he unearths a disturbing painting that leads him into a world of post-Exorcist Italo-Horror where cursed medallions, possessed children and the overwhelming power of the dark lord converge to create a visually stunning and wildly eccentric exploitation classic.” It’s available at a very reasonable price via Arrow Films.

            *** I also suspect De Palma saw this while working on Obsession because there’s an almost identical scene in both films!

          • Poe_Serling

            You won’t be disappointed with The Fan Favorites DVD of Thriller – I’ve seen a few of the episodes listed and they’re all excellent.

            I’ve never heard of the film The Night Child/The Cursed Medallion – so I’ll definitely have to check it!!

            “It’s available at a very reasonable price via Arrow Films.”

            That’s good to know. There’s also a hole-in-the-hole DVD store nearby where I live – the store specializes in hard-to-find and foreign films. I wouldn’t be surprised that the film is sitting on of their dusty shelves.

            ” I also suspect De Palma saw this while working on Obsession because there’s an almost identical scene in both films.”

            De Palma steal from other filmmakers?! That’s just plain crazy talk. ;-)

            Thanks again for the recommendation.

          • Levres de Sang

            Just to clarify: The Night Child should be easily obtainable via Amazon…

          • Poe_Serling

            Got it. I was just saying I probably could rent a copy for a couple dollars from the local DVD store rather than buy it.

            Again, thanks for the info and recommendation. ;-)

          • Levres de Sang

            Ah, I’m with you. I’d not heard of hole-in-the-hole and kind of forget that physical DVD rental still exists! A great option… :)

          • Poe_Serling

            lol. My mistake – I meant to type hole-in-the-wall. It’s a great little DVD store and the only one really left in the area.

          • Levres de Sang

            I do miss the rental stores, so great that you’re still supporting your last one by browsing those “dusty shelves”.

  • Poe_Serling

    Another fine Thursday article, Carson. The only thing I might add to the discussion…

    Take a bit of time to research the production company that you’re planning to pitch your script to and then craft a query letter with just their production needs/requirements in mind:

    So, if I were pitching a film project to Blumhouse Productions, I wouldn’t hit them with my Gothic haunted house/ghost story Crimson Peak:

    ‘When her heart is stolen by a seductive stranger, a young woman is swept away to a house atop a mountain of blood-red clay: a place filled with secrets that will haunt her forever.”

    Potential downside for a company like Blumhouse: Too costly. Period piece. Too costly. Would this type of story appeal to a younger movie viewing audience or would it skew older. Too costly.

    However, if I pitched my story for It Follows:

    “A young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force after getting involved in a sexual confrontation.”

    Potential upside for a company like Blumhouse: Modest budget. Possibly appealing to their target age group. Modest budget. Etc.

    Just my two cents. :-)

    • S.C.

      Yes, don’t BLAST the same e-mail to lots of different people.

      Carson Reeves, too, you have to tailor a pitch to him. I suspect (strongly suspect) that many people who submit loglines to Carson do not know who he is or what he dislikes.

      But for those people, now you do.

    • Tom

      Doing your homework on companies is definitely a good idea. If nothing else, it forces you to research the industry and build a knowledge base on who’s doing what.

      But I would hesitate to try to guess what people are looking for. Because ultimately, we don’t know. Even the execs at the company might not know until they see it.

      With the Blumhouse example, they’re now the company to whom everyone is pitching low-budget supernatural horror projects. Their slate is probably full of those scripts for the next half-decade. For all we know, they might want something slightly different. Maybe that slightly different script is what will make the writer stand out from all those other low-budget supernatural scripts. I wouldn’t send them a family comedy, but I wouldn’t worry about querying off-brand horror to them.

      Again, I 100% agree with your main point – “Knowledge is power.”

      But since a query doesn’t cost postage, I would err toward casting a wide net. The worst that happens is they delete it and you’re forgotten.

      • Poe_Serling

        “But I would hesitate to try to guess what people are looking for. Because ultimately, we don’t know. Even the execs at the company might not know until they see it.”

        True, you never know what might spark an individual’s interest in your specific project.. I once made a great connection with a film executive, not based on the project I was pitching to him, but through the school that we both graduated from.

        “But since a query doesn’t cost postage, I would err toward casting a wide net.”

        Definitely. But I still would do my homework and target the prodcos looking for the genre(s) I feel represents my best work. One way I’ve found for identifying what certain studios/prod. companies/agencies/mgmt cos. are looking for at the moment – pitch festivals, etc. Often these events will provide a list of the participating companies and specify the genres that they are most interested in.

  • S.C.

    Also on that particular, there’s its vs. it’s, Welsh based instead of Welsh-based. Probably there are other things about the email’s presentation.

    And Carson didn’t like the logline. If the logline was terrific, I’m sure he’d bypass his capitals rule.

    • S.C.

      meant that “particular query”, BIG RED.

  • S.C.
  • okaygustave

    This another great article, Carson! Thank you! Writing a query letter doesn’t have to be a tedious or fearsome task. If you are genuinely excited and passionate about your script, then you should have no problem injecting the same excitement and passion into your query letter. I agree that grammar, punctuation, and formatting are all very important elements to nail. Remember, first impressions count! But, I would say to just write from your heart at first. Write with the same sort of energy and intensity that you wrote your first draft. Just get it down on paper or on the screen. Once you have conveyed everything that you feel you needed to, then you can make use of Carson’s template and shape a query that is sure to get your script read (or, at least, the first few pages of it anyway).

  • Bifferspice

    this is a great and unfortunately necessary article.

    query letters. genuinely the most depressing part of the entire screenwriting experience. it feels like begging on the street.

    who the hell actually wants to promote themselves? jesus. the whole thing is so grubby i feel like washing my hands midway through the first sentence. outside of scriptshadow, which i applied to a few times, i have managed to send a grand total of eight query emails in my entire screenwriting ‘career’. and had to build myself up in order to send every single one of them. i feel grubby just thinking about it.

    anyone else daydream about making it big and having people crawling around you, and going “hang on, let me check my list. seems you didn’t reply to my email. i’m afraid you’re out of the bidding for this script” and they’re going “no! I’ll get fired if you don’t at least come in for talks. we’ll double the highest offer”, and you hang up to the sound of their wails…

  • Bifferspice

    won’t affect you if you have people proof read it before you show it to people. it should never stop someone with something great to share, as long as they are aware of the problem. and the finished product doesn’t determine what you really had at all. the script and the film are different things. one is not a definite reflection of the quality of the other.

  • charliesb

    OT: Just found out that my Scriptshadow 250 script has the same premise as the Mark Millar comic Jupter’s Legacy and has been sold. Dammit!! Back to the drawing board.

    We’ve still got four months right?

    • LV426

      Is it EXACTLY the same, or merely similar?

      Someone commented the other day on how they were ready to drop their spec pilot because it had some elements similar to the upcoming TV series Blindspot. He gave us a summary of his spec’s premise and several of us chimed in saying how we liked the premise and thought it shouldn’t be thrown away.

      It is bound to happen that your spec script or spec pilot is going to have elements similar to someone else’s spec, or similar to a recent spec sale or adaptation pitched to a studio.

      Maybe if you posted a logline and a brief summary we could help you determine what your options are. What is it you feel makes your script too similar? Are there any elements that are unique enough from Jupiter’s Legacy that you could expand upon? I understand your frustration, but maybe it’s not wise to haphazardly throw away your work in this case? Maybe a new angle can be found for your spec. At least give it some time to percolate in the mind before discarding it and moving onto the next project.

      Look on the bright side. At least you aren’t stuck with the title Jupiter’s Legacy right after the box office bombing of Jupiter Ascending.

      • charliesb

        You’re right it’s not exactly the same, but sometimes I think when an unique (and I use the term loosely) take on an idea is done, it’s harder to get people to look at your version. So while many people can write scripts about broader subjects, like cancer, or divorce or murder, a film about the children of superhero’s is a little more specific.

        I’m not going to completely give up on it. I’ve never read Millar’s Jupiter comic and while the starting premise is similar, the story is different. But it did knock a bit of wind out of my sails, and I think I’ll try to work on something new for a bit and see if it calls me back.

        Thx for the encouragement though!

    • S.C.

      It’s unlikely your story is EXACTLY the same as Millar’s.

      Anecdote: I watched GRAVITY and afterwards had an idea. The president’s plane, Air Force One, crashes. The first female President of the United States has to fend for herself in the wilderness against hunger, wild animals, terrorists, all the while waiting to be rescued.

      GRAVITY meets AIR FORCE ONE! I even had a title, which I won’t tell you because I still might be able to use it.

      I was aware of this script…

      http://www.darkhorizons.com/news/22402/tom-hanks-takes-a-patriot-down

      … but I wasn’t too bothered. My script sounded different enough. I worked on it on and off. It wasn’t terrific, but I was interested. Then I saw this poster.

      http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-p3YYKuLJ8vQ/VN4MnEnPIMI/AAAAAAAAEiM/1ut0HWq2Tqk/s1600/big_game_poster2.jpg

      So that was that. And, to be honest, mine wasn’t much of an idea. I’ve got better, more original things to work on. I eventually read the PATRIOT DOWN script – I wasn’t that impressed. I could have done it better. Then a few weeks ago I saw this.

      http://deadline.com/2015/02/hunt-capture-kill-gregory-allen-howard-millennium-films-1201377206/

      I hope you see my point. From PATRIOT DOWN, to BIG GAME, to HUNT, CAPTURE, KILL, you – say after me – CAN’T COPYRIGHT AN IDEA. There’s nothing new under the sun – that’s from The Bible.

      Don’t give up just yet, unless it’s just a premise and you think you can up with something else in time.

      Four months is plenty of time to write a script and have it ready for 250.

      • LV426

        What if you added a sci-fi element?

        The President of the USN (Union of Stellar Nations) is en route via Starforce One to a peace summit to hopefully broker the end of a long war against a powerful alien empire, but never makes it after being shot down over a hostile unsettled planet teeming with deadly alien flora and fauna.

        The aliens send in a hit squad to take out the pres and his/her surviving colleagues while the USN military sends in a rescue squad. Maybe there was a splinter faction of aliens who are not happy with this notion of a treaty or cease fire. Perhaps the peace summit was a trap all along.

        • S.C.

          I HAVE HAD THAT IDEA!!!

          Even had a great title. Thing is, do I REALLY want to do it? That’s the most important thing.

          • LV426

            I hear ya.

            I figured I’d throw it out there in case it helped.

      • Cyarax

        Will you be submitting a script to SS 250, Scott?

        • S.C.

          Yes, either the one I’m working on now or another one. Got four months to do it. Probably submit to AOW first and, if it’s picked, I could get some notes from people.

          • Cyarax

            Long shot.

  • Bifferspice

    it’s still bullshit though. i’m sure it’s true, but what a crock. imagine tarantino’s query letter if reservoir dogs had gone nowhere, and he was query lettering the hell out of the place for pulp fiction. there’d be typos, punctuation errors, and every fucker would pass on the film of the decade just so they could read a bland piece of shit by waldo mcflurry’s romcom set in a cancer ward because he complimented them on their tie and didn’t make any typos.

    • Bifferspice

      to continue my drunken rant, :), we’re told that everyone’s crying out for great material, but finding that material means sifting through all the shit, and all trust and responsibility is placed in the hands of the lowest paid. it makes no sense. why not have a message forum, one of those where the last reply brings it to the top, and have people post their scripts, and people all read and comment, and highest rated ones sit at the top with loads of pages full of people going yeah! and the writer engages with everyone else, and then they get a deal. i think that might happen on tracking board, actually, but i’m not sure. anyone know? seems like that would take all the shit out of having to sift through stuff. if nobody comments, it ain’t worth reading. and if a bad writer got all his mates to like it, you’d still abandon it at p10 cos he couldn’t write for shit…

      • S.C.

        The truth is, there aren’t THAT many great scripts out there. I hope Carson will be lucky and get 250 great scripts to read, but I’m sure he’s factored in his own experience and knows he’ll have a few letdowns to read as well.

        I had more to say but it’s gone blank. Not drunk, just tired…

        • Bifferspice

          my idea isn’t remotely linked to the number of good scripts, or ratio of good to bad, but purely designed to let scripts that get people interested and talking to rise to the top. of course it’s not the black list, where each script earns the site a hundred dollars plus, so it probably wouldn’t be a goer, but if i was a production company, it would be a great way of letting people find good scripts without paying anyone.

        • klmn

          I’m not optimistic that he’ll find one great script.

      • S_P_1

        What’s funny is I was on a film forum website and a director had 50-60 posts positively praising his work. Nevermind these posters only commented on that particular day and never since returned. I LOL’ed at how obvious it was.

      • Midnight Luck

        This is the problem Project Greenlight had though. The voting system works like Youtube. So whichever person gets upvoted most early on, or gets the most hits, or has the most comments, moves to the top. Therefore the things new people to the site see the most and end up upvoting the most, are all the things EVERYONE else are upvoting.
        So, you just a popularity contest.
        Who ACTUALLY wants to go look at the 5,000 scripts that have no votes, no comments, no feedback? No, everyone just wants to look at which scripts have the most HAPPENING, and the most upvotes.
        That kind of system doesn’t work, and always ends up the same.
        Project Greenlight did like 3 movies and they all sucked. They chose them based on this kind of voting system.

        I agree the system doesn’t work very well. Having your lowest paid or non paid interns and assistants reading all the scripts and giving them the power to move stuff up the line seems just plain idiotic.

        ps. so you’re drunk right now? Is it nighttime where you are? Or are you drunk in L.A. in the middle of the day? no judgements, just wondering. I go on drunken RANTS all the time, but without being drunk. I guess I might be like that person on the off ramp of the highway screaming obscenities at absolutely no one and talking to invisible dogs and making friends with the meters in downtown L.A.

        • Bifferspice

          uk based. but that never stops me. midday can be a target on the right day… ;-)

          • Midnight Luck

            For some reason I find people who are drunk fascinating. I am not sure why. Maybe because I cannot seem to get drunk. Either I drink a ton and nothing happens, or I get bored quickly with drinking, or I just don’t like what I am drinking and cannot drink anymore.
            But boring and midday drunks are the most fascinating. Or drunks in Church, and drunks at Weddings and Funerals, or at well, pretty much anywhere that is considered Taboo.
            Maybe I’m a sicko.

  • S.C.

    Like that one. Think I’d use my full name, but like “Regards,”

  • Bifferspice

    i think it’s good as well

  • Citizen M

    Ass Week reminds us — make sure your hero gets trapped in a tight situation.

    • S.C.

      And don’t make you lead character an ASShole.

    • LV426

      I like big buttget high concepts.

      • klmn

        Cue Sir Mixalot.

        • LV426

          Sir Scripsalot

          Off-topic: the name Sir Mixalot always reminds me of these big permanent markers we had in school, from a brand called Sir-Marks-A-Lot. They were those massive black permanent markers that gave off fumes that made me really dizzy.

          • klmn

            Wouldn’t you like to have one now?

          • LV426

            A big sniff off a toxic black marker will help me think up awesome screenplay ideas.

    • IgorWasTaken

      CM, ya know this scene in Crocodile Dundee?

      “But he has a knife!”

      “That’s not a knife. This is a knife.”

      Well…

      • IgorWasTaken

        Though, I suppose if the focus is “your hero gets trapped in a tight situation”, perhaps this would have been the better post…
         

    • Linkthis83

      Thank you. I was fearful no one would step up today.

  • klmn

  • S.C.

    Starting a logline with WHEN or AFTER is a good technique, then using a comma – as you did. Strangely, it shortens the logline to about two lines, which is how it should be.

    When a banal villain forces the world to be as lackluster as he is, a sprightly superhero has one week to overthrow him and bring joy to the world.

    If you CAN put in hero, villain, goal, conflict, timelimit and irony then fine, but it might be a bit long.

    The only RULES I would enforce in my own loglines would be:

    1. 25 words or less. 26, 27 words is fine, but not longer. And only one sentence, obviously.

    2. Whatever is original, different AND appealing MUST be in the logline. This is the HOOK. You either have one or you don’t have one, and if you don’t have one your screenplay will be indistinguishable from hundreds of others.

  • Michael

    Interesting article. “Page Turn Her” struck me as the best query, with Carson’s main objection being the logline. After reading everyone’s attempts to improve upon the logline, it’s clear there is as diverse a taste in loglines as there is for genre and other aspects of any given screenplay. That seems to point out the one hurdle you cannot get over in a query letter, and that is how much appeal the content of your script has to the person being queried. That’s obvious of course, but points out the laser focus that is needed to target the right person with your query letter.

    Here’s an alternative view on query letters:

    http://goodinaroom.com/blog/great-query-letter-hoax/

    https://thebackstoryscreenwritingstaffing.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/the-great-query-letter-hoax-thoughts-agreements-and-a-personal-rebuttal-an-interview-w-stephanie-palmer-by-screenwriting-staffing/

    If what Stephanie Palmer says is true, query letters may only have value for screenwriting competitions or internet sites like this one.

    OT: If you have access to the El Rey Network, “The Director’s Chair” series conducted by Robert Rodriguez is the most entertaining and insightful series of interviews of directors I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

    • IgorWasTaken

      So, Stephanie Palmer says query letters don’t work.

      And what does she say does work?

      Paying her to help you.

      Mm-kay.

    • S.C.

      I’m not sure I’d bother writing a query letter other than to a competition or AOW or 250. Living abroad with limited funds and family commitments, entering competitions is about the best I can do. And Carson has shown here today some tips on how to get his attention.

      But the most important – and you mention it at the beginning of your comment – is the logline. If the logline is dull or confusing, mistakes in grammar and spelling, formatting, etc. give an idea of how serious a writer this is.

      I’m hungry, gonna get something to eat.

    • MichaelAQ

      I’m the best of the worst! =)

      Thanks for the links.

    • HRV

      The old: Not what, but who. Unfortunately most of us don’t live in places where we can do Hollywood networking.

    • S_P_1

      Thanks for posting.
      That was one of the more informative interviews I’ve read. Although this was only one former executive’s take on query letters, I believe its practiced on an industry wide basis.

  • Howie428

    Thanks. There’s now a reply with a link in it.

  • S_P_1

    Honestly that logline isn’t a hard sell. The concept makes it extremely easy to cast. I can easily see this film produced for under 3 million. This is a light-hearted-comedy date movie.

  • cjob3

    edit

    • Midnight Luck

      Just a question.
      I hope when you sent him the Query that the first line wasn’t actually written this way:

      “The reason I’m trying to be funny is, I wrote just completed a whole screenplay of trying-to-be-funny.”

      If it was, he might easily have stopped right there. You are missing a few words, or a lot of misspellings and / or have included a sentence which doesn’t make sense.

      That aside, I found the whole thing Hilarious, though if someone asked me I would guess this was a spoof letter you posted for us, not a real letter you sent Carson. It seems like you are making fun of everything from writing to SS to AoW to screenwriters to well, everything.

      I think it is great, but if I got this letter and was Carson, while it might pique my interest, mostly it would seem like you were making a goof of screenwriters and scripts and possibly SS. Not that there is anything wrong with that necessarily. Much like a movie like THE PLAYER, it is always fun to riff on the ridiculousness of the film industry and writers themselves.

      And by the way, you can quote me if you want:

      “I liked the beginning pages of Unlikable, and likely will crack it open again soon. The script is unlike anything I will likely ever like or come across again. If there is another script out there remotely like Unlikable, I think like, it is unlikely I will like it anywhere near as much as I liked Unlikable.
      If I could upvote one script this year it is likely the script I would’ve, like, upvoted would be Unlikable. Mainly because it, like, was fun and has a title unlike any script I have, like, read this year.” – midnight

      • cjob3

        I saw this awhile ago but didnt’ get a chance to reply. No, you came across fine. Just so happens, as soon as I posted it, I had second thoughts about posting it. Just got paranoid as I knew Miss U was being reviewed the next day and didn’t wanna rock the boat. I had no idea you replied until long after I’d taken it down. I’m surprised you were able to read it that quick. But yeah, my taking it down was not a reaction, just a coincidence. Unfortunately, yes, I’d send that query to Carson even with those terrible typos, which I didn’t even see until you pointed them out. Which is scary because I’m sure I proofread the email before sending it then, and ten times before posting it 4 days ago. That’s why I shouldnt print a word without my editor friend checking it first.

  • MichaelAQ

    “Page Turn Her” writer here.

    I really appreciate the note, and I’m comforted in knowing that Carson actually checks his inbox. I’ll definitely re-examine the logline.

    Truth is, the script is probably a dark comedy… but when submitting to contest, this site, etc, I thought it would be a better strategy labeling it a drama. Figured it’s better people laugh more than expected than feeling like they didn’t laughing enough.

    The script is definitely an entertaining read. I’ll re-work the logline because I would love people’s thoughts on how they interpret it.

  • Levres de Sang

    Thank you Carson for another fascinating Thursday article. Great to see things from your side of the fence with that 7-step elimination process. For me the following will serve as the hidden SS 250 tip:

    “… you want your idea to be clean and easy to understand. If it results in even the slightest bit of confusion, rethink it.”

  • S.C.

    OT: I love outlines! You love GAME OF THRONES! Here’s George R.R. Martin’s original take on the books, as “outlined” in the first three pages of a letter to Harper Collins.

    http://winteriscoming.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Martin-pitch-1.jpg

    http://winteriscoming.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Martin-pitck-2.jpg

    http://winteriscoming.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Martin-pitch-3.jpg

    Here’s the whole story, if you haven’t seen it:

    http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/02/game-of-thrones-outline

    • S_P_1

      Was the last paragraph personal contact information? I don’t get it. If you’re providing a detailed synopsis of the first book why be mysterious with the second book???

      • S.C.

        I don’t know the series that well, but from what I can read, what the publisher’s redacted has to do with the forthcoming sixth book, THE WINDS OF WINTER, or possibly the seventh book.

        A lot of writers’ original plans don’t pan out:

        * Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy was supposed to be the first of maybe a dozen books pitting George Smiley against Karla. In the end, John Le Carre ended it after two books.

        * The Right Stuff was supposed to be the story of space exploration from Chuck Yeager to Apollo missions, but Tom Wolfe’s editor stopped him when he got through the Mercury missions.

        Interesting stuff, though.

    • Nicholas J

      GRRM on outlining:
      “I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.”

      • S.C.

        Why are you so opposed to outlining? And link, and Brittany. You’re always against outlining. Oh, well…

        • Nicholas J

          I’m not. I outlined my latest script scene by scene. I’m just pointing out the other side of things, and that your example of a writer using an outline is actually from a writer who says himself that he does not meticulously craft out his stories futures.

          With that said, that’s concerning his novels. He also writes for TV, and in that case, I’d guess he probably outlines at least a bit.

          I think outlining is very important for screenwriters. But I also realize it’s not the only way to do things.

  • MichaelAQ

    Thanks for the comment. I thought it was irony that raised the stakes.

    The script doesn’t read as a thriller, but I’m still going to work on improving the logline.

  • James Michael

    Just on the topic of Loglines

    I find them really hard to write and the only way to get better at them is to keep getting feedback.

    The best website I’ve found for this is Logline.it

    Post your logline and receive feedback from dozens of writers who often help to hone not only the logline but the entire story itself. Because, if you can’t write a good logline about your story then chance are the story itself isnt ready

    Hope this helps a few peope

  • Breezy

    You know, lately on Scriptshadow Ive been seeing alot of… Bitches N Hoes – the big booty edition.

    And that only means one thing — this blog’s big rap debut!

    There goes the announcement:

    Word is born, son!
    Carson just dropped his new article on a DISS TRACK
    It’s called Fuck Passive Protagonists featuring throwback Dre and Snoop d o double gizzle from “Next Episode” cause you KNOW Carson is all about dat West syYID!!

    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-mPpVFOSis7c/UbcmGOnHrSI/AAAAAAAAABo/XGZc8SMtkUA/w800-h800/photo.jpg

    yo yall go cop that shit!
    shit is DOPE!!!

    Carson loves giving shit out for free so it’s all 0 dollaz and sense, homies!
    (the markup is in his notes fee AHAHA!)

  • S.C.

    Sadly, no.