i-f4f1a71d99a7c9250246d8608820f18e-arigold

There’s this old Catch-22 in Hollywood. You can’t get an agent to read your script unless you’ve sold something. And you can’t sell something unless you have an agent pushing your script. You can probably up that number to Catch-24 or 25, since most production companies and studios won’t read your script unless it’s coming from an agency. There are two reasons for this. First, nobody wants some unrepped script coming in that could end up in a lawsuit. And second (and I think this is the more likely reason), they know the script is going to be terrible and don’t want to waste their time on it.

Yes this is the dirty little not-so-secret about sending your scripts out. 95% of the time, the scripts are terrible, which means if the agents go by the odds, your script will be be terrible, too. As someone who receives and reads lots of scripts myself, I can confirm this. And you guys have seen it, too. You know those 5 scripts you tear apart for Amateur Offerings every week? Those are the good selections. There are tons of submissions that don’t even get past the query stage because of spelling, grammar, lousy concept, lousy logline, or just an inability to form a coherent query (not everybody, mind you. Sometimes we just haven’t gotten to your submission yet).

So the question for today is, how do you get an agent when the odds are so fiercely stacked against you? Well, there are a few ways to go about it, but before we get to those ways, you must first…

BE READY
Nobody likes to hear this one, but your writing has to be ready for the big time if you’re going to get a respectable agent (you can shoot for a not-so-respectable agent, but that’s another story). Most writers press for agents too early. I see this ALLLLLL the time. And the writers say to me, “Why am I not getting an agent?” And I say, very respectfully, “I don’t think you’re ready yet.”

So how do you know when you’re ready? I don’t think you should send agents anything until you’ve written at least three scripts. And the safer bet is probably six. Still, I know people who are on their tenth script who aren’t ready. So this is not a guarantee of anything other than you’ve put in the work, are serious, and know all the basics (the three-act structure, that a script probably shouldn’t be over 110 pages, what a character arc is, etc.).

From there, it gets a little tougher. I’ve found that “readiness” can be gauged fairly accurately through screenplay competitions. Say you enter four screenplay contests. You should at least get to the second round of two of them (that’s typically the top 100-250 submissions). That’s the bare minimum of “readiness.” I would say getting to at least one semi-final in a good competition is necessary (that’s roughly top 20) before querying anybody. I’ve read every type of script there is. Second rounder, quarter-finals, semi-finals, finalists, winners. From dozens of competitions. So I have a pretty good feel for this. Even the finalists scripts usually have problems. So a second-rounder’s going to have a lot of problems. However, I understand that sometimes it comes down to the right reader “getting” a script, and you might not find that reader in four contests. BUT, if you’ve entered four contests and four separate vetting processes didn’t advance you beyond the first round, I wouldn’t query agents yet. I’d read more professional scripts and I’d buy more screenwriting books. Come back when you’ve gotten stronger.

Another way to know if you’re ready is through feedback. Submitting to Scriptshadow and being graded by your peers is a great way to do this. But not everyone gets that opportunity. Feedback from writing groups is helpful, although can be misleading if you’re still in the early stages when everyone wants to be nice and no one wants to hurt anyone’s feelings. Long-term feedback is the best bet. The longer you get feedback from someone, the more honest they’ll be, and the more reactions you have to compare between. It becomes easier to figure out which of your scripts is getting the best response, and therefore which one might be ready to send out.

Okay, now let’s talk about the three ways to get your script to an agent.

WME_BeverlyHillsWilliam Morris Endeavor

COLD QUERYING
Querying is pointless. Targeted Querying is where it’s at. This means finding all the movies of the past ten years or so that are like your script. Then find out the writers of those scripts along with their representation (both agent and manager). You can find this info from places like Google, Spec Scout, The Tracking Board, IMDB Pro, and the WGA. Does this take forever? Yes. But whoever said this was easy? You’re competing for prime agent real estate against hundreds of thousands of other writers. Of course it’s going to be hard.

You’ll then write your query e-mail to these people. And guys, please check your query with a friend before you send it out to a hundred agents. Like I said before, I can knock off 60% of queries right away due to a grammatically incorrect e-mails or terribly written loglines. If you don’t know what to write, try something along the lines of: “Hi, I just wanted to say I’m a huge fan of “Terminal Cyborg.” It was one of my favorite films from last year. I understand that you represent the writer. I was wondering if you might want to read my script, “The Robot Files,” which is in the same vein. It’s about a group of robots who fight for robot rights in 2073 Mississippi.” If you have a noteworthy contest finish, bring it up. “The script recently finished in the semifinals of the Nicholl and has placed in many other contests. If you’re interested, let me know and I can send it over.” Personally, I’ve found that even quarterfinal Nicholl finishes are only “okay.” I don’t know if others feel that way too, but I’d probably only bring up semi-final or higher finishes and only in well-known competitions.

Another little trick you can do is… well… stretch the truth. You know that friend who USED to work at JJ Abrams’ “Bad Robot” as an intern for three months? The one who read your script? Well, technically, if you said that your “script is into Bad Robot and they’re considering it,” you’re not technically lying. The truth about Hollywood is, people tend to only want things when other people want them. So if there’s a way, in your query, to imply that other people are after your script, do it. I admit that I’ve been duped by this a few times myself. And while the scripts weren’t any good, they at least got me to open them.

Hearing back from an agent will depend on a lot of things. How well your query was written, how good your concept is, how big the agent is. Big agents often don’t have time to take on new writers, or even give their scripts a read. But if your concept is amazing or your query stands out in some way (it’s funny or really well written), they might read your first five pages and get hooked. The more likely scenario is that some of the mid and lower level agents will respond. That is, anyone who isn’t WME, UTA, or CAA. If Paradigm, ICM or APA responds, you’re still in good company. And then there will be smaller agencies still. Once you get down to the really small guys, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it. There’s often a good reason these guys are hanging onto the bottom rung.

Querying is all about the efforts you put in. If you half-ass it, you’re going to get half-ass results. You have to have a great concept to start with. Then you have to do all that research, finding the agents who like the material you write. Then you have to find their e-mails. Then you have to write a great query letter that passes your friend’s inspection test. Doing this takes time. But it’s the only way querying is going to work for you.

THE MANAGER
The Manager Route takes a little longer but it’s the route a lot of writers are going these days. If agents are about selling your material, managers are about managing your material. Whereas an agent might never give you a drop of feedback, most managers will read your scripts and give you notes, helping better you as a writer. Because managers are willing to work with you, they’ll usually take you on as a client when you’re a little greener. In other words, it’s easier to get a manager. Once you have a manager, it’s much easier to get an agent, since managers have a lot of relationships with agents (they’re often working as a team for their clients) and the agents trust their taste. You query managers the same way you query agents. And you should get a little better response.

NETWORKING
Writers hate this term because it’s so nebulous. There’s no A+B=C in networking. Rather you meet someone who may eventually meet someone else who a year down the line remembers your script which they give to someone else who likes it who gives it to their boss who happens to be an agent. Since it’s a lot harder to measure how all that’s going to work, writers would rather focus on the writing part. But of these three options, this is the one that will lead to the most success.  People who know you are more willing to pass your stuff on to others, or to read it themselves. Nobody wants to read something from someone they don’t know unless they’ve heard it’s amazing. The great thing is, it’s so damn easy to network in this day and age. Pick one of the many screenwriting boards on the internet, from this site to Simply Scripts to Amazon Studios to Trigger Street and be nice to people in the comments. Make friends. Trade scripts. Join a writing group. The bigger your network is, the more people you will have access to. You guys will get better together, until one of you breaks in. That person will then share his new contacts with you, and before you know it, you’ll have ins with agents who want to read your stuff. This is the slowest of the three options I’ve given, but it also results in the most success. You gotta network, guys.

IN SUMMARY
Like anything else in life, getting an agent depends on how much time you want to put into it, both on the writing side and on the looking side. You have to do a lot of research. You have to know who sells the kind of stuff you write. You have to come up with the perfect query letter. And all of this is dependent on you a) writing a concept that gets an agent excited, and b) executing that concept with a really good screenplay. Those last two things are the things that take the most time, but they’re really the only two things the agents pay attention to, so you gotta nail them first. The thing is, all the people who don’t want to do that? Who try to take short cuts? They’re the ones who get frustrated and give up. They’re the reason you’re going to make it and they aren’t. Because you’re willing to work harder and do more than they are. Getting an agent boils down to good old fashioned hard work. Either you’re willing to put in that work or you’re not.

  • carsonreeves1

    Oh, feel free to share your own stories about trying to get agents or getting an agent. The more “real-world examples” we can get, the more we can learn.

  • paul

    Oooooooooooooh, finally! After months of articles on the craft….you finally delivered an article what we want to read most—the biz …. You must have opened the reader mail. Or was it just esp? My only complaint is that this article isn’t longer. :)

  • Mike.H

    For those who started querying only the past 3-4 years consider yourselves lucky — VERY LUCKY.

    Querying was done via snail mail with a 21 cent return post card attached on top of the 34 cent postage to Mr. Agent. Using mail merge program to make each letter personal, “Dear Mr. Gering”… so forth, licking stamps, a batch of 100 snail mail queries would consume minimum 2 hrs and approx 65 cents up to a dollar each [ if expensive stationary & envelopes were used instead of stock ].

    And sending scripts via hard copy, postage USPS, UPS, printing with expensive HP [ Carly Fiorina INK, I no doubt helped paid for Ms. Fiorina’s leer jet or her croc skin Michael Kors handbags then… ] oh, and don’t forget those #5 brass brads, etc. [ I could’ve spent the query money on strippers instead of querying agents instead, silly ole me!]

    Now QUERYING it’s free via email. It’s only your precious time and your feelings CRUSHED & HURT when very few to none replied — your ego crushed and dream delayed until new hope arrives next new & improved script 12 months aweigh. Signed, #Truth hurts.

    P.S. in closing, of all the money I’d spent trying to be a pro writer thru software, contests and so forth, it’s still hands down way cheaper than VEGAS or Indian Casinos. As some freckled, middle aged script guru always signs off in his correspondences: ” Keep Writing “.

    • carsonreeves1

      Yeah, the hard copy world sucked.

      • Randy Williams

        The scripts in hard copy form, I believe, however, did not. How many of us never see our scripts printed out and bound? I think you take something more seriously when it’s in that form. It feels more substantial and should be treated as such.

        I had some correspondence with an agent. Not about something I was writing, but about a screenwriting hero of mine, Ron Nyswaner. The agent sent me back in snail mail, a gift, a script that the agent had somewhere in the office or at home of Nyswaner’s “Mrs. Soffel” That meant so much to me. Much more so that the script was in physical form and not a link to the script or some pdf in an email.

        • Mike.H

          hard copy to proof edit’s for your own benefit’s a great tool, but to print 15 copies in HP ink$$ and $8 postage/bubble wrap envelope’s a wallet killer. :)

  • carsonreeves1

    I’m unsure whether this will be a good idea or not, but I suppose people can post their e-mail queries here to get feedback.

  • Gregory Mandarano

    http://www.imaginenews.com/Archive/2000/JUN_2000/Text/FEAT03.htm

    It’s an old article, but a really good one: How to submit scripts when you don’t have an agent.

    Alternatively, you can employ the same things in this article to get an agent. It mostly discusses the benefits of having an entertainment attorney make submissions for you.

  • SandbaggerOne

    I’ll weigh in here with a few thoughts. I’ve been in the
    film industry working in studios for six years, with the last three being in
    development. I’m the guy the agents and managers send scripts to and try and pitch me projects,
    so I’ve gotten to know quite a few of them over the last few years and I work
    hand-in-hand with writers and producers daily on projects through all stages of
    development. I’ll reiterate a lot of
    what Carson says above and add a few thoughts of my own. As this article is
    about getting an agent I’ll try and focus on that, rather then just trying to
    sell a script.

    First, get IMDB Pro. That should be a website you visit
    numerous times a day. You are watching a series or movie on Netflix? Look up
    the people involved. Second, read the trades, everyday, a few times a day. Look
    up all the names of people that are mentioned if they are even remotely
    involved in projects that are either similar to yours or making major moves in
    the industry. Stay informed on everything going on in the film industry, just
    like doctors stay informed on all the latest drugs and medical breakthroughs.
    If this is a career you actually want to have then you have to know your s*it
    backwards and forwards.

    Why? Because the most important thing is networking and when
    you meet industry people, a lot of what they will talk about will be the
    industry; the latest news, up-and-coming directors, cool indy films and so on.
    If you can’t have an informed conversation about all of this then they won’t
    take you seriously. Just like you were at a doctor’s convention and they are
    all talking about cancer treatments and research and all you can come up with
    is “people should wear sunscreen” they will all just ignore you. On Monday mornings, when we hop on calls with other producers and agents, the first 5 minutes is all just talk about new movies, indy films, box office numbers, and up and coming talent. it is basically industry gossip, and not the tabloid stuff about celebrities (well, not often), it is about the one thing that has brought us all into the business in the first place. Movies.

    I know, just like Carson mentions above, writers hate this, but it is a cold, hard, fact.
    Complaining about it won’t help or change anything. Honestly, if you don’t want
    to network, then either start making your own shorts, write a novel, short story
    or comic book. This is a people business. 99% of all the writers, dev people,
    producers, heck, even agents themselves, got into this business and made it because
    of knowing people. I’m not saying you have to be related to someone rich and
    famous, I’m saying you have to have friends that are also trying to make it in
    the industry. Volunteer on short films. Carry camera equipment for free on the
    weekends in the middle of winter if you have to.

    Once you have friends and connections that are already in
    the business in any position (PA, hairdresser, bookkeeper, camera operator and
    so on), then the odds of you getting an agent (or a manager) increase exponentially.
    All it takes is one friend, to pass a script on to a low level agent who is
    dating their sister to get you that read. But. But. But! Don’t burn these types
    of connections unless you are 100% sure your script is the best you are ever
    going to be able to make it on your own.

    Everything is tracked. Every name. Every title. It is the
    very first thing that happens when a script comes in, even before opening the
    pdf or possibly even reading the logline. The details get added into a database.
    If your name pops up for past projects, then they will see exactly how your
    earlier stuff was rated. A pass? Two passes? Your new script is now at the
    bottom of the “to read” list, and it might never get to the top. And if you don’t
    live in LA, New York, Toronto or Vancouver, then you can’t afford to waste any
    opportunity that comes your way (Well even if you do live in one of those
    cities you can’t afford to waste any opportunity that comes your way, but at
    least you will have a lot more chances of getting new ones). So make sure your
    script is ready. Seriously. If you don’t work in the business, have no (or
    little) connections to people in the business, and are serious about getting an
    agent and a career, you cannot afford to make a bad first impression. Whether
    with your pitch, log line, email or script.

    There are way too many scripts and writers trying to break
    into the business for you to leave anything to chance, because there are literally
    thousands of other scripts and projects out there for an agent to move on to
    and they will never look back at your submission once they open their next
    email.

    I guess I’ve rambled on far too long, so I’ll end here.

    But again, know your stuff. Keep up-to-date on the industry.
    Hone your scripts, emails, log lines to perfection. Then network, network,
    network.

    • Casper Chris

      Or do like DforVendetta:

      Just write a fucking masterpiece.

      • Occasional Guest

        Masterpiece? Do you mind telling me the name? I’d like to look it up.

    • G.S.

      Both the article and this comment are extremely helpful. Thanks!

      Just out of curiosity, have you ever felt compelled to take a screenplay you’ve stumbled upon (here or elsewhere) to your industry contacts? I sometimes wonder whether “insiders” look for opportunities to find hidden gems in these types of venues or if it’s viewed more like research – keeping a finger on the pulse of trends among unsigned amateurs.

      • kenglo

        Actually, I submitted Rose in the Darkness by Joe Marino and Keeping TIme by Nathan Zoebl to Carson, and he loved them and ran with it. It happens.

        • Acarl

          Poe is blushing some where right now…

      • J.D.

        I’ve actually contacted a writer showcased on AF and set them up with a meeting at a major prod co. Hell, it doesn’t hurt me to bring contacts solid material.

    • Dale T

      One of the best comments I’ve read on SS. I highly suggest joining small film crews too. I’ve done that myself and got regulated to working the boom. I fucking hate that thing.

      But it’s paid off, and now this experience has helped me get one of my short film screenplays passed along and currently shooting. If it gets into a couple of festivals that may open the door for me to make connections.

      • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

        Working the boom is one of the worst jobs on a set in my opinion. No one really appreciates you and your arms fucking hurt at the end of the day. At least unappreciated PAs don’t have to hold a stick up in the air all day.

        • Dale T

          Yeah :( I felt like i was the pick dog the entire time.

        • carsonreeves1

          I operated a boom once not knowing anything about the job other than “you hold it near the person’s head.” I figured, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Within 45 minutes my arms were shaking like a mega-quake and everyone was staring at me like, “What’s your problem, man?” I was in good shape too. Never have I felt so inadequate!

      • Ryan Sasinowski

        I’ve read of a boom operator technique where they hold it behind their heads, (sort of) resting it on their shoulders. Did you try that? And if so, did that help?

        • Dale T

          I actually did that a couple of times, one because it was a 12 hour shoot and I needed to find new creative ways of relieving myself from the boom. Didn’t realize it was a boom operator technique lol.

          I stopped after a while because I had little control over it and it got in the shot twice, which pissed off the director a lot.

          • Ryan Sasinowski

            Sorry to hear that. But thanks for the info!

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      Thanks for weighing in, this is great info and advice!

    • carsonreeves1

      This is a super awesome post. Thanks Sandbagger. :)

    • Stevetmp

      Great post sandbagger! What are the best trades to read?

  • paul

    How do you network?

    I’m not talking about networking in terms of being able to get someone to pass on your script. I’m talking about networking in advancing your career to get the next writing assignment, take the next step. Isn’t that something your rep helps you with by setting up general meetings for you?

    • mulesandmud

      General meetings (and pitch meetings too) are part of the networking process, but they’re not enough on their own. You need to be out in the world meeting people relevant to what you do, and those people need to be meeting other people who will vouch for you. In the most basic sense, you’re just trying to get as many people to like you as possible. Sort of like high school.

      This is one of many reasons that it helps so much to move to LA. You get to be surrounded by the industry, and so meeting relevant people becomes exponentially easier. Sure, projects happen in studio offices, but they also happen at premiere parties or wrap parties or WGA events or awards ceremonies or poolside or at a random bar where a friend of a friend brought a friend who’s friend is friends with an assistant to the lady who directed your favorite movie. And if you make friends with all of those people all the way down that line, you could get in the room with that director. More importantly though, all of those other friends will be doing what you’re doing, and if just one or two of them get into positions of power, now you’ve got friends in power. Networking is a long game; it’s not just who you know, it’s you’ll know years from now, and who they’ll know, etc.

      If this all sounds exhausting, it is. And it also gets results if you put in the time and do the work, just like with writing.

      • paul

        Thanks. It all sounds little daunting. I wish there was a book on this subject. I enjoy meeting people, but I think I’m just normal….not the special social butterfly that will suddenly be pulling in all these friends on rolodexes.

        • mulesandmud

          Normal is plenty. There are lots of book on the subject, I’m sure, just not screenwriting books. Something like ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ is probably chock full of networking tips. You don’t have to read up or be a social butterfly to do this, though, you just have to 1) get yourself into useful situations, 2) recognize opportunity when it comes to you, and 3) find common ground with people. And when you talk, know from whence you speak. That’s it! If it feels like you’re not making any progress, that’s okay too; networking takes time. This isn’t a silver bullet; it’s a continental shift.

          • paul

            Thanks.

  • andyjaxfl

    I work as an investigator for a financial company and derivations of the Nigerian prince scam have been around for decades — “Send me $10,000 so I can access my money in a secret account and I’ll get you $80,000 within two weeks.” Unfortunately, I experienced something similar when I queried agents in 2002 after graduating college with three scripts I thought were great (fyi.. they were not).

    I avoided the big agencies at the time for obvious reasons, so I did a lot of research and developed a list of what I assumed to be entry-level agents. They had repped a writer or two on a B-movie or DTV movie. I don’t think I got a response from 95% of the agents. The other 4.95% were kind enough to say “thanks, but not no thanks”.

    Then came two scammers I dealt with who wanted $2K wired to an account and they would “guarantee” a script option within 6 months. I didn’t take the bait, and I don’t know if anyone did, but I’ve tried email queries in the past two years and have received similar responses from scummy agents looking to hustle a few grand out of some poor writer with stars in his eyes. In other words, these people are still using the scam because it works, much like the Nigerian prince scam.

    So anyways, for all of the new writers out there, it sounds like common sense to avoid sending $2K to someone you’ve never met to read your work and whom makes outlandish guarantees for sales and options, but people are falling for it! Take that money and invest in some quality notes from Carson or the other folks listed under services.

    • mulesandmud

      This is so important! Never pay an agent. NEVER! If they ask for anything, even a dollar, they’re not for real. Agents work via commission: they get paid when you get paid, and not before. If they ask for payment up front then it’s because they know they can’t get things done, and if they don’t trust themselves, you shouldn’t trust them either.

      They should pick up the check at a lunch meeting, too. And no, I’m not joking. There are little bits of industry etiquette that tell you who knows the rules and who doesn’t. They may be outdated or petty, but they’re still a litmus test. Reps buy. Producers buy. The writer never buys unless you’re talking to another writer or someone who’s giving you feedback.

  • S_P_1

    To Carson Reeves,
    I’m inquiring as to the open availability of an AOW slot. I’ve included a logline, short synopsis, and artistic statement to garner your interest. If you’re interested I have the most recent draft revision available upon request.
    Sincerely Sean Price

    LOGLINE
    SANGRIA 35:19 is a action noir sci-fi feature film. A schism
    is created between friends due to unforeseen circumstances.
    The fractured friendship must endure to contain collateral
    damage.

    SYNOPSIS
    The year is 3040 A.D. Two astronauts JILLISSA and DECONTE
    become accidentally infected by an alien life form. They
    unknowingly bring the infection back to Earth. Alarms go off
    alerting everyone to the alien life form presence. NAES
    WELLIS company CEO gives the override to land in spite of the
    warning.
    DECONTE informs NAES he discovered an alien life form. NAES
    will proceed with the discovery once its been officially
    confirmed.
    The alarm again goes off. The chief company scientist LYCIA
    MCDYER goes straight to NAES to understand why the ship was
    brought to Earth to begin with.
    The Chinese government immediately finds out what transpired.
    All the highest ranking heads of state pressure the Chinese
    President to take military action.
    JILLISSA and DECONTE are coming to the realization something
    is wrong. JILLISSA wants to get help. DECONTE wants to see
    where the infection leads. They discover they have super
    strength, extreme regenerative abilities, and a telepathic
    link to each other.
    JILLISSA and DECONTE have consciously or unconsciously become
    psychotic. There’s no turning back at this point.
    Society is now visibly shaken upon hearing the news of
    multiple homicides committed by JILLISSA and DECONTE.
    NAES, NIMROD, and MARKALA discuss the political fallout of
    the entirety of recent events.
    JILLISSA makes a mistake and is finally captured. NAES,
    NIMROD, and WUYUN interrogate her as to the location of
    DECONTE. JILLISSA offers nothing.
    DECONTE discovers JILLISSA’s captors are NAES, WUYUN, and
    NIMROD. DECONTE stages a surprise attack. NAES calls in the
    last line of defense. DECONTE is finally subdued and
    captured.
    DECONTE’s imprisonment doesn’t last long. He comes to the
    realization NAES intends to kill him and JILLISSA.
    NAES manages to put distance between himself and them. NAES
    finally gets revenge by burning them to death.
    The Chinese government positions its forces over the North
    American continent. THE END.

    ARTISTIC STATEMENT
    The inclusiveness of this fictional story borrows from the
    STAR TREK universe of cultural diversity. Men and women are
    equally developed as fully dimensional characters. This isn’t
    an attempt to rewrite well known sci-fi properties with
    ethnic characters. These characters inhabit their own
    original universe. The underlying basis of the story is
    friendship. This is rare territory to cover in the sci-fi
    genre.
    Friendship is a universal experience. This opens the door to
    a wider audience diversity. The futuristic technology within
    the story is grounded. The sci-fi elements aren’t
    superfluous. The fictional technology is written in a
    believable manner. This isn’t to say the fictional universe
    is bland and ordinary. The story high points are cradled by
    genuine emotional responses. The flow of the story allows for
    an easy suspension of disbelief.
    The science behind the science fiction uses current
    terminology in the proper context. Most of the high tech
    jargon moves the story along without weighing it down with
    unnecessary details. The story flows without a higher degree
    of understanding other than what is presented. The audience
    and characters are always at a one to one pace. This straight
    ahead story telling ties up with a circular ending.
    The character portrayal will shine with stellar actor/actress
    performances. No scenes are throwaway scenes. No character is
    insignificant. All characters have memorable lines in the
    screenplay.
    Many of the scene settings are used multiple times within the
    spec script. This cuts down on potential production costs.
    The scene settings in which a high degree of action that
    takes place are contained within tight confines. The exterior
    action scenes quickly move to a smaller scene setting saving
    on potential production costs as well.
    Due to the current world climate we live in, the high degree
    of graphic violence within the screenplay may seem
    insensitive. The violence serves the story line. It isn’t a
    plot gimmick to attract a certain type of audience. Saving
    Private Ryan is analogous to the violence you would expect in
    this genre. The artistic direction of the director ultimately
    determines whether the violence is gratuitous or not.
    This screenplay has the proper balance of elements to allow
    for commercial success. The only thing that remains is the
    opportunity to be shown.

    In closing thank you in advance for reading and giving me the opportunity to submit my script.

    • Matthew Garry

      Hi Sean,

      At the top of every Amateur Friday the following blurb is posted at the top:

      “Get Your Script Reviewed On Scriptshadow!: To
      submit your script for an Amateur Review, send in a PDF of your script,
      along with the title, genre, logline, and finally, something interesting
      about yourself and/or your script that you’d like us to post along with
      the script if reviewed. Use my submission address please:
      Carsonreeves3@gmail.com. Remember that your script will be posted. If
      you’re nervous about the effects of a bad review, feel free to use an
      alias name and/or title. It’s a good idea to resubmit every couple of
      weeks so your submission stays near the top.”

      Unless I’m very much mistaken, those submissions are the pool the AOW slots are filled from.

      • S_P_1

        Thanks Matthew. I was taking Carson up on his offer to post inquiries and to get feedback as to the professionalism or inappropriateness of my inquiry.

        • Matthew Garry

          Ah! My bad.

          The specific mentioning of AOW threw me off I guess. Sorry for the noise.

          • S_P_1

            No offense taken. Plus I was trying to jump through the door since Carson cracked it open.

    • Gregory Mandarano

      First and foremost your logline needs work. Like a script a good logline has goals, stakes, and urgency. Also your query letter is far too long. Generally a short synopsis is not included in a query letter, but I think that needs work too. The capitalization of characters threw me off and looks awkward. I think the problem is the names. Try writing a synopsis that makes sense without having a single character name, and then incorporate names when necessary to add clarity. Also an artistic statement is cool, but not for a query letter. Brevity is the soul of wit, and you don’t want to give anyone any excuse to dislike your writing. The more you write the greater the liklihood the reader will get bored, and assume your script is boring as well. Start with short and sweet and build up from there.

      • S_P_1

        Hey Gregory. Thanks for the feedback. This is the first time I wrote a query in this manner. Generally any query I sent ended in 4 sentences. At the end of my query was my blacklist index number. When I went to check my blacklist account (after a substantial period of time) neither my downloads or views increased. I no longer reference my blacklist index number.

        The logline, synopsis, and artistic statement I posted here was one of the contest requirements I entered. I posted it here to gauge its effectiveness towards a potential party interest in my script.

        The logline I posted probably sounds pedantic but its highly accurate. The other logline I’ve been recently using is all flash I crafted it to generate interest and it might alienate viewers even more.

        Actually I do have a synopsis without names but due to the terms of agreement with the Weinstein Company I’m not allowed to use it. Its theirs at this point.

        Thanks for reading all the way through. I know brevity isn’t my strong suit.

        • Gregory Mandarano

          Scriptshadow held a logline contest a couple years ago. If you go through the archives I’m sure you can find some helpful tips on crafting a better logline.

          • S_P_1

            Actually I might start posting the script title and genre above the start of the query. Thanks.

            I know a good logline is very important. I tend to prioritize it after I write a script.

    • Citizen M

      Way, way too much information. Here are two examples from Alex Epstein of Crafty Screnwriting: http://www.craftyscreenwriting.com/query.html

      Here is a good query letter [actual letter]:

      “Dear Mr. Epstein:

      I have just finished polishing MYTHIC, a thriller about a dragon that attacks an isolated Alaska oil rig community; the drilling has roused it from ancient sleep. Without help from the mainland, the island’s fire chief must stop it before he destroys the town.

      Please let me know if you’d like to read the script. I would be happy to sign a release form if you have one, or I can have my agent send you the script.

      Thank you.

      Yours very truly…”

      Here’s another good letter, only slightly longer. [made-up letter]

      Dear Mr. Epstein:

      Michael Eisner suggested I contact you about my new screenplay, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. It’s a bittersweet drama about a Jewish man in 1943 Italy who tries to hide the horrors of the Nazi occupation from his young son by pretending it’s all a big game. Although the historical events are sorrowful, the story is uplifting and even comedic.

      My grandfather survived the Holocaust himself, and I wanted to bring to life some of the almost unbelievable stories he told me.

      If you are interested in taking a look at the screenplay, please let me know. Thank you for your consideration.

      Very truly yours…”

      • S_P_1

        The very first example is what I generally send out. I was experimenting this time around. I wonder does keeping the same format cause individuals to glaze over your query when it looks like a form letter.

      • ChadStuart

        One thing I try to add is a personal nod to the person you’re sending it to. “I just watched X movie, and really enjoyed it, blah, blah,” Everyone likes to hear good things about their work. A little ass kissing can go a long way.

    • Casper Chris

      Reading that synopsis was a bit like watching one of those trailers that reveal too much. Except worse. This “trailer” even spoiled the ending.

      I would get rid of it.

      • S_P_1

        I read a few synopsis to learn how to craft my own. All the examples I read gave up the ending. The only thing I’ll say is this, you know the bad guy/gal is killed. Knowing everything you now know I guarantee reading the script will fill in the details and still surprise you. ;)

        This might be a first, I gave everyone an opportunity to proceed ahead or be intrigued, without ever reading the script.

        • Casper Chris

          I think the trick is to just tease enough to make them crack open the script. Not make them feel like they’ve already read the script before even opening it. I’m not an expert though.

          • S_P_1

            I re-read the synopsis just to make sure I didn’t throw out the baby with the water. There are multiple blanks left for an entertaining read. I will agree the Artistic Statement is more than what’s needed. Think of it as my own press packet release. Also I needed to hear the board member opinions what was absolutely TMI. Trust me no details were given only broad strokes.

    • Midnight Luck

      Just one nit-picky thing that might hurt you. (depending on the reader, maybe not)

      The first sentence in the logline has an error:

      “SANGRIA 35:19 is a[n] action noir sci-fi feature film.”

      it should read AN not A.

      Just in case you are interested.

      • S_P_1

        Corrected and thanks.

    • wlubake

      If you cannot convey your logline in a single sentence, you likely don’t have a great handle on your hook. Here:

      Two astronauts experiencing radical physical and psychological changes arising from their infection by an alien life form must fight for survival against government entities which seek to exploit and eventually terminate them.

      This still isn’t great, because the protagonists lack a true active goal (and are only running away). However, it is an example of how to wrap your concept into a direct statement about the situation, characters, stakes and (to a lesser extent) goals.

      Also, seriously reevaluate your character names. It was maddening just to read the synopsis. Jilissa belongs in an episode of Bad Girls Club, not in a sci-fi thriller.

      • wlubake

        Rereading this, it sounds harsher than I intended it. I’d restate that if you cannot convey your logline in a single sentence, you will be viewed as not having a great handle on your script/hook.

        • S_P_1

          I have to take all forms of critique in order to tighten my script. The lesson learned today is 4 line template, be thankful and wait for response. I’m already a subscriber to the 4 line template query. I was trying something new with the board members.

      • Citizen M

        It’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. My attempt:

        A CEO brings two astronauts infected by an alien life form back to earth for further study despite international condemnation, and must neutralize them when they turn psychotic and develop super powers.

        • S_P_1

          That would be an accurate logline.

    • Wes Mantooth

      My first impression: Sangria 35:19 sounds like a drink, not a sci-fi. Your log only gives vague info about a friendship breaking, without any real reference to your story, the hook, or even the fact that it’s a sci-fi. Your synopsis, on the other hand, gives everything away and then some. It reads more like a collection of beats rather than a flowing narrative of the screenplay. Just tell them enough to entice, don’t give them a reason to say no right off the bat. And that “artistic statement”, well I don’t see too many industry folk reading that. Just mention a couple things about yourself(contest wins, industry experience) and definitely leave out stuff like “The artistic direction of the director ultimately determines whether the violence is gratuitous or not.”

      • S_P_1

        9 outta 10 coverages I paid for mention that sangria is a fruity drink. Major spoiler by telling you this. BUT this a trilogy and all the titles play off the Latin root sangui.

        Believe me when I state the detail and element of surprise is still present within the script. Think of it like this, when you pick up a Steven King novel you already know people are going to be killed. The same situation here. But you have to read to find out HOW.

        • gonzorama

          If 9 out of 10 people flag an issue with your title and you don’t fix it, that’s on you. It’s going to be a problem until you do fix it. And, after all, why pay for notes if you’re not going to change anything?

          Go with another blood related word, like exsanguious

          , for example, that doesn’t confuse the reader with something they’d want to drink.
          The easier you make things for your reader the more positive your reviews will be.

          • S_P_1

            It wasn’t a problem only something that was noted. Say if you did a true life story on Jimmy Buffett. And you called it Margaritaville. And 15 people told you, hey you know a margarita is a drink. Did I just tell you something you were highly unaware of????

            Trust the author to know exactly why every choice made served the script to the fullest.

    • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/chrismulligan/lunch-meat?ref=live Chris Mulligan

      Your log line is rather vague to me. Also, I find the tense of the synopsis to be strange. What examples are you basing it off as this may just be me.

  • ripleyy

    A really great article. I think Scriptshadow is a perfect way to gauge how good you are as a writer before jumping into agents and managers (I know personally, I’ve been gauging how good I am via Scriptshadow). Other sites such as Trigger Street (which I remembering registering on and never went back) are good places to get feedback and network as well.

    Alternatively, you can always get a manager through Amateur Friday. Write a masterpiece, get Carson to love it so SO much he puts it into his Top 25 and get repped that way. Easy peasy! Well… I mean, kind of. But it’s always an option worth investing in.

  • hickeyyy

    OT slightly: Has anyone tried the new-ish Blacklist review option? My screenplay which was up here a couple weeks back (Monty) was rated a 6. They provided some pretty quality advice but I feel like they were overly nice in the review. Compared it FAVORABLY to Fight Club? Not so sure about that!

    Anyway, anyone else give this a whirl?

    • ChadStuart

      Not for what they’re charging, no. Free criticism is easy to find.

    • S_P_1

      Unfortunately I stopped hosting my script on blacklist due to no traction. The negative about all of these fellowships are you have to score an extremely high paid review to be considered. I’m sure somebody has benefited.

  • ChadStuart

    I say don’t be afraid to query anyone. Producers are open to queries just the same as agents and managers. Just so long as you do your research and query the right genre to the right person, you’re halfway there.

    Another tip I have? Don’t be scared off by the whole “Will not accept unsolicited queries” warning they have posted on their website. I’ve had plenty of producers with that warning read the logline and ask for the script. In reality, whenever you query a producer with a good track record, their assistant is reading their emails first. That’s who you have to impress first, and the producer will take that person’s recommendation. And then, your script is being read by that person or a similar person.

    Final piece of advice: keep he query short. Five sentences at most, which makes most writers cringe. But there have been studies done with CEOs about the types of emails they write and read, and five sentences is the magic mark. Their time is valuable, and if they see a long email, they tune out.

  • Howie428

    For my most recent round of querying I decided to deformalize things and went with the text below. I got a few bites, although the one that seemed most promising turned out to have misunderstood my pitch and requested it believing it was a TV pilot!

    “Name,

    I’m a Nicholl Semi-Finalist screenwriter who intermittently becomes bored with sci-fi and drama, and feels the need to burden the world with my British style comedy!

    On this occasion, I hit on a fun high concept that gives comedic actors room to play, while also having a tight story with pace and drama.

    Let me know if you’d like to see the script. The title and logline are:

    EX-STREET
    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.

    Thanks,
    Howie”

    • S_P_1

      I read that logline before. Where else have you posted it.

      • Howie428

        I had a much wackier logline for this that I entered in a MoviePoet contest. Other than that, I don’t recall sharing this around.

    • carsonreeves1

      I don’t think you should say you’re “bored.” I know you don’t mean it in a negative way, but it’s a negative word, and on the first reading, I thought “he’s bored with writing? That’s not a good pitch.” I say keep it all positive. :)

      • Howie428

        You’re right. It’s probably a bit too contrarian. I’ll change “becomes bored with” to “steers away from” if I take another go at this query.

  • Brainiac138

    I second the folks who are saying read the trades. I have worked for a few different management companies, and I can say it is very advantageous for new writers to hit up assistants who have been bumped up to managers, especially if they were at a desk of a manager that took on material that is in anyway similar to what you are writing. More than likely the new manager is going to be taking on a few of their previous boss’s clients, which is why they were bumped up, but that manager really wants to make a name, and to be the one who brings the next big script to the table, so they are much more likely to take meetings with unrepped writers, and bring them on. When I tell people this, almost automatically the writer asks if a baby manager is going to actually help their career, but the thing is that assistants know pretty much everyone, at least if their boss is doing good work, and they definitely know all the agents, and are probably on friendly terms with the agents’ assistants, who schedule the meetings anyway. If you are willing to work hard and are just starting off, definitely surround yourself with other like-minded people.

  • mulesandmud

    My own situation, in case it’s helpful to people:

    Over the last two years, I’ve gotten a film produced, landed an agent, and sold a project, in that order. Prior to that, I’d never queried, never entered a contest, didn’t have any serious industry connections, didn’t live in LA (and still don’t). My strategy consisted of only two goals, both of which I pursued very aggressively:

    1. Write.
    2. Look for people as serious about their own work as I am about mine.

    The first is mandatory. The second was a very specific version of networking: I wasn’t looking for established industry types to cling to, I was looking for people to break in with. People I could trust to do great work. The process was the same as any targeted networking search: get yourself out there, show people you know what you’re talking about, figure out who you’re talking to, and back it up with solid writing. Meanwhile, I studied up on the business, but didn’t make any moves yet, mostly because I’m a perfectionist and wanted to be sure I was ready. (Note: I’m still not ready.)

    This version of breaking in, like most others, demanded patience, luck, and lots of help. Slowly but surely I connected with great people, some of whom I’ve worked with since, some not yet. One connection was with a director. We made an indy movie together, it got respect, and the rest happened extremely fast. Through another connection I’d already found a manager, who later found me my agent. The agency wanted me mostly because I’d gotten a movie made already. The movie was small and artsy and dark, but it still meant that I was ‘proven’ and thus marketable for other jobs, which set me apart from 99% of other prospects.

    That’s critical: setting yourself apart. Agencies need to have a reason to believe you’re better (or at least different) than everyone else at their door. You can use traditional strategies, but you need to put some kind of spin on them or else even very strong writing can get lost in the industry stacks.

    Also, when you get your chance to talk to serious reps, you need to nail that first impression. If they decide that you’re ‘good in the room’, i.e. you know how to read a conversation, respond well to people comments, and generally inspire confidence, then they’ll want to do business with you. Because remember, for them it’s a business, and you’re an investment. In the room, the writing is secondary to your ability to act like a professional, an equally important and entirely different skill set.

    The biggest piece of advice I can give is this: find people you trust. It’s hard to begin with, but only gets harder once you break in, since everyone in Hollywood is by definition a good liar. Whether it’s a writing partner, a collaborator, or just a general circle of like-minded folks, you need people to challenge you and keep you honest, people whose shoulders you can stand on, and who will let you stand on theirs. Once you have that, you can leapfrog all the way to the top.

    • S_P_1

      If you have a stage 32 account I’ll add you to my network.

      • mulesandmud

        I’d never heard of Stage 32 until now. So much for knowing the business!

  • Rzwan Cabani

    My story starts with the first script I wrote, and the second, both winning Hollywoodscript.com’s screenplay competiton — ran by Craig Kellem, an ex-development exec at Paramount and Fox — this garnered a lot of interest and led to me signing with my first manager and going on to option 4 scripts.
    Since then I’ve been hired to pen a true life story, my sci-fi horror THE EVOLVED placed as one of five international finalists in Timur Bekmembetov’s Astana Film Festival, my pilot THE UNDERTAKING placed in the top ten of it’s category in The Page, my pilot THE ROMAN placed in the top ten of it’s category in Final Draft’s BB Contest — which led to interest from a producer in LA and we signed a development agreement on a TV show we’re developing, and this same producer brought me on to a feature with a director already in play. We just wrapped the sizzle video and I submitted draft one of the script — we’re hoping to have the package ready for studios this summer.
    Placing/winning contests has worked immensely for me. But that doesn’t always work. I saw what Amazon was doing for authors and it was truly inspiring — they gave power to the writer — self-publishing has been monumental in changing the lives of writers. I took my TV pilot THE UNDERTAKING and turned it into a book re-titled THE CLIENTELE — I merged screenwriting with that of a novel and basically wrote a trilogy working out close to six episodes. They aren’t selling like I’d like, but I’m busy with current projects and haven’t had the time to devote to marketing — which is key.
    My advice, from my experience, WRITE YOUR ASS OFF — enter contests, think of other avenues — evolve and know that to make it — you have to be ALL IN — I still haven’t made it — I still have a 9-5. But I won’t stop until my name is up there when the lights go down.
    We’re all just one script away from everything changing.
    -Rz

    • Linkthis83

      Dig this.

  • Mike.H

    BREAKING NEWS:

    Sorry, this is off topic but I think Stephen Colbert being named as Letterman’s replacement is wise, sensible and an excellent choice. Even though I’m not a die hard super Colbert fan, but I would watch the CBS show once it’s on after David “Gapped tooth” steps down.

    Congrats, to Stephen Colbert and CBS.
    We will return to regular programming…

    • paul

      Does Craig Ferguson stay at his spot? I’d rather replace him with Conan. Getting sick of the manufactured “awkward pauses.”

    • carsonreeves1

      What’s strange about this though is that he’ll be doing it as a “normal” person and not in the character he’s created. Has anyone even seen the real Stephen Colbert? Know what he’s like? I think this is a huge gamble.

  • Maggie Clancy

    Annnnd I know what I am doing today during the slow hours at work. Researching, researching, researching. Thanks, Carson!

  • Midnight Luck

    my rebel story:

    I am not good in a room. (whatever that means)
    I don’t talk shit.
    I am not a (good) liar.
    I don’t have a poker face.

    I don’t play by anyone’s rules.

    I don’t take any shit.
    I tell it like it is.

    Since everyone gives similar advice and all are in agreement that you have to be:
    a talky chatty blabbering dipshit, sparkly awesome and dazzling, and a ginormous assbag; while you lie, cheat and steal to make it, well….

    I’ll be over here, continuing my quiet revolution.

    ok, maybe another time I will tell my actual REBEL STORY. But this works. For now.

    • mulesandmud

      In my experience, even in Hollywood, people respond well to honesty, if for no other reason then it tends to save everyone time and confusion. Sure, it can get you in trouble sometimes too, but so can being a bullshitting (assbag?) yes man.

      I know you’re using hyperbole to prove a point, but it doesn’t help anyone to rage against the idea of collaboration. This a collaborative medium. At some point you’re going to have to deal with other people’s (bad) ideas; best deal with them well. You don’t have to sacrifice your principles, just be able to have a grown-up conversation.

      I want the revolution as much as you do, but the revolution needs good communicators, or else it will be a quiet little revolution indeed.

      • Midnight Luck

        Agreed.
        Honesty is hard to come by, harder to find others who value it.
        Collaboration is great and solid communication is definitely necessary to make this revolution a monster.

    • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/chrismulligan/lunch-meat?ref=live Chris Mulligan

      Not being openly hostile is a good place to start. Maybe try that.

      • Midnight Luck

        Hostile?

        I said nothing hostile.
        I was explaining how I feel about the overall understanding of how a writer should be, how they should act, and most of that was talking about me, not being hostile to anyone else.

        Though, you may be right, I might need to look at not being so hostile toward myself.

        • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/chrismulligan/lunch-meat?ref=live Chris Mulligan

          I read the quote below as hostile, whether it’s directed inward or outward is for you to decide.

          “I don’t take any shit.
          I tell it like it is.

          Since everyone gives similar advice and all are in agreement that you have to be:
          a talky chatty blabbering dipshit, sparkly awesome and dazzling, and a ginormous assbag; while you lie, cheat and steal to make it, well….”

          I did like your follow up post and think you’re a talent.

          And you’re right, writers don’t need to be good in a room, and most people who think they are good in a room are typically exhausting.

          • Midnight Luck

            It wasn’t hostile, and if it sounded directed at Carson or someone on here in particular, it wasn’t.
            I was speaking from years of reading what people write or posting in various places, from everything that is talked about Hollywood and how you are supposed to act in various situations; from professors, classes, and my own personal experience and the fact that most of all those people giving guidance are speaking out of their asses. One out of a thousand of those people have actually “been in a room” in their lives, yet dish out advice that they heard or read, from someone who heard or read it somewhere that someone heard or read it.
            Each time this game of telephone moves on to the next person the advice gets more mutilated and extreme.
            I want those Charlie Kaufman’s of the world to know there are all types of people who can make it. The ones who sweat profusely and stutter when at a meeting, yet that person sitting across from you might feel exactly like you do and will understand and back you. Ultimately though, like Charlie, the WRITING will capture them, not whatever personality comes from you in a room. If your writing is strong enough, it will carry you through.
            And you are absolutely right, those people who think they are the ones good in a room are usually just plain exhausting.

    • astranger2

      Oh, come on. You can’t do that. A teaser? What’s the “actual” REBEL STORY? Don’t have the patience to wait for the film to come out.

      • Midnight Luck

        but can’t a teaser be even better than the real thing?

        I’ll give you a bit more: it has

        Love, Loss
        Sex, Murder
        Death, Life
        Redemption
        Failure
        Nature
        Miscommunication
        Anger, Hurt
        Animals, People
        Cigarettes, Drinking
        Pool and Drugs
        all with
        Killer CGI

        A story of being on the verge of breaking through, of everything coming together, fame and riches, love and life, happiness no one has ever imagined, when

        Life had another idea

        And took that life away
        One minute here
        Then gone

        But, in the end, came back to life and survived, all by a bunch of slim and freakish miracles (not really the right word, but can’t think of another one now)

        Life began again,
        Climbing up through the rubble to find air and sky like it was the first time.

        fought and fought, no matter how hard the struggles,

        and still stands today

        • Citizen M

          You’re Charlie Sheen?

          • Midnight Luck

            We are all Carlos Estevez

          • astranger2

            hmmmm… that could mean so many different things…

        • astranger2

          Sounds like Prometheus meets Genesis… you capture moods quite eloquently… place all those elements into your next screenplay… the GSU will runneth over… Very nicely done.

    • carsonreeves1

      You don’t have to be “good in a room” to make it. It just really really helps. If you can write something clearly better than the guys who are “good in a room,” it won’t matter. Just be one of those guys. :)

      • Midnight Luck

        yes, i do actually know what being good in a room means, but i think most times it is used incorrectly.

        Which is why I am trying to make a point here.
        There are more ways to be than just one way. The world anymore says we all need to be a bunch of super happy, excited, full of energy, go,go,go all the time over caffeinated cheerleaders, with a permanent grin on. We all need to take a slew of Tony Robbins courses so we can be super optimistic and positively uppity. To me that is just fake and bullshit. The world is a big, complicated, and hard place. I am a realist. So, the “being good in a room” mantra usually means, people think you need to be good at this ^^^^ which I just explained. It doesn’t take into account that there are all kinds of people with all kinds of strengths, and not everyone is good at walking into a room, captivating them with their showmanship skills, dancing a jig, knocking them out with their humor, tying a bow around it and walking out while singing the star spangled banner a cappella. That ain’t me. I want other people who might be quiet introverts, who have no interest or skill, or are even terrified (i’m not, but many are) of going into a room to talk and dazzle others, to know that isn’t the only way. There are many ways to go about life, and that maybe, just maybe, being whomever you are, is just as good as being that loud mouthed extrovert who seems (“seems” being the operative word) to be good in a room.

        My writing is what speaks. Not me.

  • paul

    Since no one has asked these questions, I’ll ask them.

    What are the expectations of the manager (say hypothetically) when you sign with them? You might have to hit the ground running….not sure how patient he/she will be with a writer not making them money.

    Have you considered what kind of rep is best? One that’s a great salesman….or one that’s a great developer of material. Some want you to turn in your ideas, every single outline and determine what you can or can’t write.

    • Brainiac138

      In a perfect world, your manager is developing great material with you, and your agent is selling it.

      • paul

        yeah, unfortunately some managers are not great at giving notes and are more salesman. One manager even admitted in an interview that he doesn’t like doing that—if you don’t know how to write, he can’t teach you.

        • Brainiac138

          Lines are most definitely blurring more and more between the exact role of the manager. You just have to make sure that everyone is on the same page as to what you want. Also, be on the lookout for managers who want to use potential projects for them to make big leaps and bounds into the studio system, there are no regulations on managers being producers of films like there are for agents, and I have seen quite a few managers take a film out, put their name on as a producer and then leave the writer out of in the cold after their initial heat cooled down.

    • S_P_1

      Download the pdf from this article.
      http://scriptshadow.net/free-2013-spec-tracking-book-and-tracking-board-special-deal/

      It will help you in how to choose which rep is best.

    • Jaco

      Paul – dig around on this site: http://bambookillers.blogspot.com/ Emily recently had some blog posts where writers mused on questions regarding reps.

      As far as manager expectations go – it’s different with each manager and you should always ask that Q to a rep that’s interested in signing you.

  • grendl

    When you have the world handed to you on a silver platter, you get full of yourself.

    When you get full of yourself, you bad mouth people who helped you get that silver platter.

    When you bad mouth people in power, you lose jobs.

    When you lose jobs, you end up on Indiegogo trying to scare up 150, 000 dollars for the soundtrack to your movie about a lesbian wedding and suing a company for Tweeting your photo ( and maybe me for posting this.)

    Don’t end up on Indiegogo trying to scare up 150,000 dollars for soundtrack money for you lesbian wedding movie and suing a company for tweeting. Get Direct TV.

    ( this is in no way an endorsement for Direct TV )

    Oh, and mules, another few metaphors for Hollywood gatekeepers. Ruby slippers probably won’t get you past the security at CAA however.

    • astranger2

      That KNOCKED UP scene tore me up. Never saw the movie, but that is a great reversal.

    • mulesandmud

      Those are two of the more sympathetic portraits of Hollywood you’ve ever painted. Tough at first, but softies on the inside.

      Are you sure you didn’t mean…

      The dude with the teeth is based on Ari Emanuel, I think.

  • Zadora

    Excellent article! AND excellent comments from several people! :)

  • klmn

    OT:

    Saturday, April 12:

    Just added! Jerry Lewis Marathon!

    In honor of legendary actor, filmmaker and humanitarian Jerry Lewis’s foot-printing ceremony at theChinese Theatre, conducted as part of the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival Tribute, Quentin Tarantino is hosting a public four-film screening series at the New Beverly Cinema on Saturday, April 12.

    All 4 films are presented from 35mm prints from Tarantino’s personal collection, and admission is free of charge!

    “Jerry is a Hollywood treasure. It’s a privilege to host a film tribute at the New Beverly and share my prints of his amazing work with the public.”

    – Quentin Tarantino

    Free admission!

    Don’t Give Up the Ship

    1959, USA, 89 minutes, 35mm, Paramount Pictures

    Directed by Norman Taurog

    Screenplay by Herbert Baker and Edmund Belion & Henry Garson

    Starring Jerry Lewis, Dina Merrill, Diana Spencer, Claude Akins, Robert Middleton, Gale Gordon, Mickey Shaughnessy

    Sat: 10:00 am

    Free admission!

    Boeing Boeing

    1965, USA, 102 minutes, 35mm, Paramount Pictures

    Directed by John Rich

    Screenplay by Edward Anhalt; based on Marc Camoletti’s play

    Starring Jerry Lewis, Tony Curtis, Thelma Ritter, Christiane Schmidtmer, Dany Saval, Suzanna LeighSat: 12:00 pm

    Free admission!At War with the Army

    1950, USA, 93 minutes, 35mm

    Directed by Hal Walker

    Screenplay by Fred Finklehoffe; based on James Allardice’s play

    Starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Polly Bergen, Mike Kellin Sat: 2:00 pm

    Free admission!Hollywood or Bust

    1956, USA, 95 minutes, 35mm,

    Paramount Pictures

    Directed by Frank Tashlin

    Screenplay by Erna Lazarus

    Starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Pat Crowley, ‘Slapsie’ Maxie Rosenbloom, Anita EkbergSat: 4:00 pm

    Just thought I’d give you a heads-up. I’d go myself if

    1) I was in California.

    and

    2) I could stand Jerry Lewis.

  • S_P_1

    I’m posting my original blacklist logline. Its only a one sentence difference. I don’t exactly remember but I think there was a word count I had to be under for that particular logline posted below. Also for those who felt I told everything I have an ultra detailed synopsis that breaks down the script in three acts and a synopsis that uses only pronouns to describe the characters. I’m not at liberty to post either.

    SANGRIA 35:19 is a noir action sci-fi feature film. A schism
    is created between friends due to unforeseen circumstances.
    The circumstances entail global ramifications. The fractured
    friendship must endure to contain collateral damage.

    • Kirk Diggler

      This could literally be about anything. It’s a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. A good logline will indicate the genre without you having to tell us.

      • S_P_1

        Maybe I kinda see your point BUT I respectfully disagree.

        Imagine if your circle of friends were Warren Buffet, General Pinochet, Michio Kaku, Secretary Madeleine Albright, Carlos Slim, and Benjamin Netanyahu. Now keep in mind the company you keep and re-read the logline.

        • Kirk Diggler

          Yeah but you just gave me a bunch of additional information that i didn’t have before and then asking me to re-read something while bearing this new info in mind. I know you think you are telling us a lot, but I don’t think you are at all. I understand the need to keep spoilers out of loglines, but yours is much too vague.

          Can you write a logline using this template?

          On the verge of (stasis =death) a (flawed protagonist) ____ (breaks into Act 2) but when (the mid-point shift happens) he/she must learn (The THEME) before (All is Lost end of Act 2 low point).

          • S_P_1

            On the eve of learning he was H.I.V positive Magic Johnson must come to grips with his new reality. Despite the negative connotation involved with H.I.V he still has the drive to play professional basketball. Due to pressure from his peers and wife he learns to be a spokesperson for AIDS awareness. His continuous crusade is a source of inspiration for millions worldwide.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            Like I said before your sangria logline sucks. It needs goals, stakes, and urgency, and at the moment it has none of those things. Dont defend it. Rewrite it.

      • astranger2

        A Russian logline.

    • Jaco

      The title makes me think this is some sort of light-hearted screwball comedy.

      And the logline? I’m going to be honest – and I’m only one person and could be dead wrong – but there is nothing remotely interesting about it at all.

      “A schism is created between friends due to unforeseen circumstances” . . . you could literally be talking about 1000s of buddy movies or rom-coms or virtually any two-hander where a conflict arises between two main characters. What’s unique about your story – tell us that.

      “The circumstances entail global ramifications.” Is this supposed to be a scintillating explanation? It’s not. What are the global ramifications? Is the world going to blow up? Is there war on the horizon? Mystery is doing you a big disservice. Also, for whatever reason, this sentence just reads confusing.

      “The fractured friendship must endure to contain collateral damage” I don’t even really get what you are trying to say. The buddies must stay friends, even though they can’t because if they don’t then other people will get hurt?

      To be honest – it feels like you went to the thesaurus one too many times on this one when you didn’t need to. Couple that with some really vague ideas and the logline is a non-starter from the get go.

      Suggestion: Tell us what your script is about. Give us a logline that is compelling and sets your story apart from the ocean of crap that surrounds Hollywood.

      Or – do your thing and come back and tell us all we were wrong and George Lucas is on Line 2.

      Regardless – good luck and hope you find some help in people’s suggestions.

      • S_P_1

        I think you went to far left to make an exaggerated point. Kirk Diggler brings up a valid point. I believe I’m telling much more information than is presented while not giving any specifics. He’s right I am making an assumption that the logline is self explanatory. If one of the main tenets of this board is don’t be on the nose. Then I as one writer to another trust your intelligence to make a reasonable attempt at what is presented. I don’t think anything can be remotely misconstrued as being humorous. The weight of each word choice implies a more serious gravity is at stake.

        • Jaco

          OK – now I’m starting to think this whole thing was one big joke – well played, if so.

          If not, then maybe you need to read the post that’s been circulated about: “Why producers will not read my script” — http://gointothestory.blcklst.com/2014/04/why-producers-will-not-read-your-script.html

          Also – and I ask this in all sincerity – is English your first language? Because, if not, then I think maybe there are some translation issues that you just aren’t seeing with your word choices.

          • astranger2

            Great point. A good logline is difficult to create because it needs to impart so much info in so few words. And if you add too many adjectives or dreaded adverbs it becomes cluttered. But while you may want subtext in your logline, you definitely want it to directly convey the tone and story line.

    • Citizen M

      Wasn’t that the plot of Crimson Tide?

      • S_P_1

        I don’t know if I would classify Hackman and Washington as friends. But the high stakes of the global situation would be similar.

    • MaliboJackk

      Psalm 35:19 (King James Version)

      19 Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause.

      • S_P_1

        You’re the first person without reading the script to realize those numbers represented chapter and verse in the bible.
        Congratulations.

  • dawriter67

    A lot of good stuff here to digest. I submitted my script, “The Alien Diaries” here. I got the “wasn’t for me” but the notes from Carson were really valuable and I have re-written the script since then. One question I wanted to ask the pros who visit here – I’m a hearing impaired writer – I’m wondering is it difficult for someone like me to venture into this field? (I’m guessing TV writing because of the rapid speed these stories are churned out) I believe in myself as a writer and know how tough the biz is (98 percent rejection rate). My goal here is to sell a spec – long shot – and that is why I work at my day job and make sure my family is fed. :-) My other goal – is to be hired to adapt a novel into a screenplay. Many folks in Hollywood expect good hard work from a writer and the many that I have corresponded with over the years have always been kind and polite.

    • SandbaggerOne

      It is hard to say if, or how much, a hearing impairment might hinder your chances with landing an agent or making a sale. As mentioned, so much of this business is based on networking so if the level of impairment is high, then it could be an issue.

      It is important to remember that agents are in this for the long haul. Yes, they may get 10% of any sales they make, but the agency they work for takes a large chunk of that, so they are interested in long term careers, and writers that can land assignments year after year. They are not especially interested in writers that only want or are trying to make one sale or sell one spec script. They will want to find writers that can work the room, create “buzz” and who will move to the LA area before, during or immediately after their first spec sale.

      But you did mention that you want to be hired to adapt a novel. If that is the case then I would actually suggest contacting the author directly. Sure, 100% of all best selling books and big named authors will already be optioned or under contract, but if the book is something not super well known then you might have a decent chance of getting the author to give you the option. You will obviously, have to send him a spec script to show that you know what you are doing and can write, so make sure your sample is ready to go before contacting the author, but it is a viable option.

      I know first hand of two projects currently in or starting production that are based off of existing novels, and in both cases the script writers contacted the novel’s author directly, hit it off with them and impressed them, and then got the option to adapt the book. I believe in both cases it was for no $$ up front, but then the author gets a way bigger cut of the proceeds if/when the script sells and gets made.

      Still, it might be the way to go.

      • carsonreeves1

        You know, I always wondered how much the agency takes from the agent. I’m guessing around 40% of their 10%?

        • SandbaggerOne

          This is all second & third hand knowledge, as any agents I deal with never really talk about what they end up making, but…

          From my understanding it can very based on the agent and the agency, the bigger the Agency, the bigger cut they take.

          In some instances the Agency takes 100% and pays the Agent a nominal salary plus bonuses based on how many sales they make over the course of the year. So that is why Agents are hungry to find writers that will make lots of sales and be looking for long term careers.

          In other cases (smaller, boutique Agencies), I believe that Agent keeps 45% of what they make, 5% goes to paying jr. Agents and support staff and 50% goes to the Agency.

          I believe as they get more and more clients and sales their commission from the Agency gets larger, as well as their bonuses.

          So, again, the Agent wants to have lots of sales and deals constantly in motion. If they are going to spend the time and effort on selling a writer’s spec script then they want to make sure it is a solid investment in their own future and will pay off years down the road, because just one average individual sale to them can mean almost nothing if it doesn’t lead to on going future assignments and sales.

        • dawriter67

          Carson – you should definitely add this article to the must read list link if you maintain one. A lot of good sobering insight into those who want to write for Hollywood. It’s a tough business to get into.

      • dawriter67

        Thanks for the response, SandBaggerOne

    • Citizen M

      I noticed The Alien Diaries on Amazon Studios. How was that experience?

      • dawriter67

        The experience was mostly positive. Over at Amazon I got to network with some amazing and fun people. One guy raised funds to get folks to buy me an iPad so that was the highlight so there were a lot of GREAT folks and some are now on my Facebook having drifted away from Amazon. I was a semi-finalist for over 9 months before landing on the finalist list but once again always the brides maid and never the bride. However, I think I came out of Amazon a much better writer in the same way I how I learned from Carson’s input on Diaries. Diaries has been re-written since then.

        No agents or producers contacted me off Amazon. I was also surprised to learn that the same applied to most of the others but I could be wrong.

        On the negative side, there have been a few instances where pro-writers have uploaded their scripts at the deadline of the monthly competition and walked away with the 20,000k prize. It did frustrated a lot of folks – the ones who are budding writers.

        Today there is a growing consensus that Amazon is catering to the pro writers as opposed to the ones like me who are trying to break in.

        All in all – it was a fun crazy ride. :-)

  • fragglewriter

    I can understand getting an agent but not a manager. By your definition, it seems the manager can lead to an agent with his connections. But if the script is right, then the agent will find you. I think you should let a script speak for itself and then after all of that legwork, maybe do an e-book. I just don’t know understand at this point why someone would want to give out another share of the pie (money) IMO.

    • Jaco

      There are deals happening these days where it’s manager and lawyer – no agent. Not sure if it’s a paradigm shift – but seems to be more common for writers than in the past.

      If you have a manager that can get your script into the right hands – and then a lawyer that can solidify the details of the contractual relationship – why bother with an agent?

      • fragglewriter

        Sounds the perfect way to me.

    • kenglo

      yeah, I believe managers are the ones who try and package the whole thing for you and get it into production. They are the ones who shop the script, agents are the ones who work your deal. I think, not sure, that’s the way I understand it.

      • fragglewriter

        Ok cause it seemed like everyone was getting a cut and the job responsibilities overlap.

  • Ryan Sasinowski

    Over the past few years, I’d been trying to query agents for damn near every project I could come up with, you name it, TV pilot, TV spec, feature. On a couple of them I got a request. I think all in all there were like three or four.

    Nothing came of them, but it was a pretty unbelievable experience. Nothing like borrowing every book the library had on the subject and taking down the addresses by hand and then the absolute overwhelming excitement every time the mailman came.

    On my latest attempt, I had queried a couple of the big fishes (CAA, Paradigm). The biggest thrill came from being at work and getting a call from my mom saying I had a big manilla envelope for me. I couldn’t believe it. My co-worker/boss kind of nudged me a bit, saying, “Dude, what if this is it for you? Can you imagine?!”

    When I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer, I had my mom drive out to my work and hand the envelope off to me. I took it back to my area and opened it. Out came a letter on CAA stationary. Thanks to their Legal Department, they had to return my letter unopened. Damn.

    It was a letdown for sure. Of course I knew better than to get my hopes up. But I did anyway. I got a few more like that soon after. I keep all the rejection letters as a reminder that I have to do better than I’d ever thought. The crown jewel of this collection is a letter I got from WME. It was from the first project I’d ever queried. It’s to date the coolest stationary I’ve ever seen.

    Even if I never make it as a professional screenwriter, I’ve still got a rejection letter from the biggest agency in town. All I see when I look at it is that I’m not ready… yet.

  • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/chrismulligan/lunch-meat?ref=live Chris Mulligan

    I worry about you Grendl, your scorn used to be the the stuff of legends, but today you’ve made a terrible post referencing a cable company commercial and this completely uninspired Wizard of Oz reference.

    Maybe it’s time to crawl back under the bridge and really get in touch with that inner-troll.

    Come back when you’ve got your forked tongue sharpened back up to the flesh flayer it was, because at this pace I’m worried you’re going to start quoting the Geico camel come next Wednesday.

  • S_P_1

    Out of my network contacts, I have an daily dialogue with a working actress, several script consultants/readers, one local producer-director, one out of state director, and a potential network showrunner. I personally reached out to these individuals. The showrunner we kinda merged on the same topic and have been bouncing ideas off each other. The NY state director expressed interest in filming my short for contest submissions. The local producer-director tentatively is trying to shoot his feature in May I expressed an interest in being part of the crew. The L.A actress has the most visibility out of all my contacts, I’m holding on to her coattails. I’ve had a few dialogue exchanges with a few producers but it appears they are only concerned with their own production slate not really looking to take on something new. Eventually I plan to contact an agent and entertainment lawyer. Does stage32 help, I guess it all depends on your expectations and whether you’re equally matched to a particular project. Outside of stage32 I keep in contact with two comic book artists to maybe potentially turn one of scripts into a e-comic or limited print comic.

    Stage32 has local job postings for film projects so depending on your determination to make it, it can happen. They do have a forum just for success stories, to keep you motivated.

    Just out of reading various topics on Stage32 Atlanta is now starting to benefit from a burgeoning film industry. So now you can pursue a legitimate career outside of Miami, N.Y, L.A .

    Hope that was useful information to you.

  • NajlaAnn

    Informative, good article. Thanks.