Just Effing Ask Julie Gray: How NOT to Query Your Screenplay

Script consultant Julie Gray is a veteran story analyst of some of the biggest production companies in Hollywood. The author of Just Effing Entertain Me: A Screenwriter’s Atlas, Julie has taught story at Warner Bros. Studios, The Great American PitchFest and Oxford University. Contact Julie here.

Dear readers, the following is taken directly from an experience I had earlier this week. Only the names have been changed.

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Dear Julie,

My name is XXX and I wrote an action/thriller/crime script. Here is the summary:

[INSERT AN ENTIRE PAGE OF BLOW-BY-BLOW WAY TOO MUCH BLACK SYNOPSIS].

Signed, XXX.

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Dear XXX,

So – sounds good but what are you asking of me?

Dear Julie,

Aren’t you a producer?

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*eye twitch*

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Dear XXX,

Can I give you some free advice? When you query your material, be sure to research who you are querying. If you look at my site, which you did in order to get my email address, you may have noticed that I am a blogger and screenwriting consultant. Nowhere on my site does it indicate that I produce. So there’s that.

locked_gateSecond piece of advice, when querying effectively, there are some simple steps that really make sense.

You want to write your query in such a way that it is a very simple, easy to read request. Something like this:

Dear Producer/Agent/Manager (whom I totally looked up and know who you are),

My name is Juliette LaWriter and I am a big fan of x-movie-client-project of yours! I particularly enjoyed ABC movie! (I am politely and authentically bonding with you right now! I am demonstrating why I chose to query you, specifically! This is not a form letter!)

I am an award-winning screenwriter (or a paramedic, or a crime novelist – or name your area of expertise here) and have written a script that I think might interest you. It is a (genre here) script called AWESOME SCRIPT and here is the logline:

SIMPLE, SHORT, 50-75 WORD LOG LINE HERE. LOGLINE INDICATES MAIN CHARACTER, CENTRAL CONFLICT, ANTAGONIST AND CLIMATIC CHOICE OR SACRIFICE.

If you would like to read the script, please do let me know and I am happy to send a PDF or hard copy to your offices. Thank you very much for your time. (I am being considerate and acknowledging your time constraints, and I really appreciate the fact that you read this query at all!)

All the best,

Juliette LaWriter
email address
website
phone number

That is a query that may get a “yes” or a “no” (in Hollywood: “no” often comes in the form of “ignore”). But it is a decent query that is written in such a way that who you are, what you want, and what your script is about is clear and easy to understand. Nobody has time to read your synopsis. Only send that if it is requested. I am of the belief that in general, when a synopsis is requested, you are experiencing a possible “soft no” because the logline wasn’t enough to generate an actual read request. But never you mind, send that synopsis if requested – you never know.

The cardinal sin you can commit when querying is to just vomit up a bunch of information about you and your script without an awareness that you are taking up the time of a person who receives many queries daily and weekly.

So keep it short. Get the recipient’s attention by showing them that you did your research and know how to query the right way. Whether you get a “yes” or an “ignore” your query will be seen. Queries of the first kind usually wind up in the circular post haste. If you cannot query professionally, if you did not take the time to learn how it is done, why should I trust that your script is good either?

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2 thoughts on “Just Effing Ask Julie Gray: How NOT to Query Your Screenplay

  1. Julie GrayJulie Gray Post author

    Hey Derek – it sounds like you know exactly HOW to query but not WHO to query. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger and more awesome the producer – the less likely they accept unsolicited submissions. Think about it – why should they? They have their pick of material and often have projects lined up years in advance.

    Why the Hollywood Screenwriting Directory’s listing was incorrect I do not know.

    Again, bear in mind that major producers, especially ones with studio relationships or deals almost never accept unsolicited material. The main reason being they have no need to accept work that has not been vetted or personally recommended.

    Release forms, by the way, are not about a not fear of plagiarism, it’s about protecting a production company in case they have or might have a project which bears any similarity to yours. This is boilerplate, standard Hollywood agreement that any producer would ask you to sign.

  2. derekshort

    Hi Julie. No offense, but this article doesn’t help me. I followed the rules and mailed letters to Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Creative Artists Agency, but received letters back saying that they don’t accept unsolicited material because fear of plagiarism. However, according to the 2012 Hollywood Screenwriting Directory, Jerry Bruckheimer Films DOES accept unsolicited material from unrepresented writers. (P.S. – I mailed a letter back, with proof, explaining my confusion and the book’s error.) Please help me, Julie. I would appreciate it. Thanks!

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