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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Assistant Files

Some assistants read query letters and some don't. Unfortunately you really don't know which type of assistant your letter is going to land in front of. (And trust me, it will almost definitely be an assistant who opens any mail you send.) But I'd venture to say that more are read than aren't. Because, as I've blathered on about before, it's good for an assistant's career to find that next great script. Hoping to do so, we go to the pitch fests, we see who's winning which contests, and we read queries.

Of course by "read" I mean "skim with about 8% of my attention span while I also roll calls with my boss."

I started thinking about this topic because Blake Snyder posted about it last week on his blog. He encourages querying, but also writes, "But what actually do we put into those communiques to elicit the best possible response?"

Um… let me preface this by saying that this is just one assistant's opinion. Okay? But for me the answer is SO SIMPLE I almost can't believe there might be people out there pondering the existence of other answers.

The first thing I look at? The thing that better be SO GOOD it commands 100% of my attention? The logline, obviously.

Because it's all about the idea for the movie. I mean, your letter could be witty or brilliant or fascinating in some other way, but if I'm going to go to the effort of REQUESTING and then READING yet another script, it's only because your logline made me say, "Now THAT'S a movie!" So make sure it's an amazing, wish-I'd-thought-of-it idea.

Once you have that, make it easy for me: put your logline right there in its very own paragraph, indent it, make it bold. It's the VERY FIRST THING I'm going to look for, so you may as well direct my eyes to it.

And that's about it! Sounds easy, right?

However, even AFTER you've dazzled me with your logline there are still many, many things you can do in your letter to make me hesitate about requesting your script. They include but are not limited to:

*misspelling pretty much anything
*sounding like an amateur
*sounding crazy and/or desperate
*telling me how much your friends, family, or anyone else I don't know
from Adam liked your script
*including photos of you and your dog dressed as characters from your story

I'm not saying any one of these things on its own would make me turn away from a great logline ( ...possibly the last one), but enough of them together might add up to make me think, "I don't know if I want to deal with this person." Because you have to remember, A LOT of query letters come in. That's a lot of potential projects, and I have to figure out a way to weed through them somehow.

Simple, professional, and AWESOME. That's pretty much what you're shooting for with a query letter.

Andy Sachs

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kahapeterson said...

Any suggestions for a word limit?

E.C. Henry said...

Thanks for the tips, Andy Sachs. Last week I sent a Hollywood agent I was tipped to being receptive, so I've my fingers crossed.

Wish you would have made this post a week earlier, Andy. Why can you be 100% in sync with what's going on in my life?

Recently I wrote a romantic comedy, and I think I'm going to try to query Lynda Obst again. I'll use your tips then. BUT I've queeried her several times, BUT never got a responce back. DID meet one of her assistants at a Screenwriting Expo pitch event once, but once again left without a cupcake (permission to send my script for consideration)

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

Anonymous said...

Re: word limit--

I'd hate to give you a hard and fast rule, but I will say definitely no more than one page and, just like in your script, white space is good!

All I'm looking for is your logline-pitch and then some indication that I can trust you not to send me a script that will make me want to beat my head on my desk. Some examples: a BRIEF mention of your writing track record (contests you've placed in, places you've been published, or blogs you write, etc), your experience in the entertainment industry, or a sentence about what you do for a living if it relates in some way to your script. The best query letters I've seen are three short paragraphs, and if you look at the sample query letter in Final Draft, that one is probably the limit on how wordy you want to be.


Anonymous said...

Hey Julie,

Sorry for being late.

But who is Andy Sachs?

Does he write scripts on the side?

Or is just a reader and assistant?