Sunday, March 22, 2009

Query Letter


I just got my new letterhead, all five hundred sheets of it. And now I’ll do my best to compose a catchy letter and try to synopsize my brilliant new script in twenty words or less to generate some interest, create a buzz, and hope that some assistant reads it, likes it and passes it on to their boss who reads it, likes it and signs me. It all starts with the query letter. That’s the first impression you make with a potential new agency. Sometimes, if you’re lucky and if you’ve enclosed a self addressed stamped envelope, you’ll get a request for the script. More frequently you get no response or a scribbled note on your letter stating they are too busy to deal with a nobody such as yourself. And on a rare occasion you have one of those absurd things happen that seem very Monty Python. This was the case when I had my opened query letter returned to me with a letter stating that my letter was not read because they don’t accept unsolicited material. This left my brain spinning because obviously someone had to have opened the letter and read it to know it was a letter they didn’t want to respond to. I know that agencies don’t respond to unsolicited scripts, but this was the first time I’d had my query letter rejected. I mean, that’s the whole point of the query letter, to introduce your script and hope they request it. But if they’re rejecting query letters, what
are you left to do? While I was pondering the absurdity of it all, I started thinking how I could apply this policy to my own life. Maybe I could try that on the bills I receive, I’ll just tell the electric company that unless I request the bill, I will not be reading it or responding to it. Suddenly, the elitist mentality was appealing to me.

With literary agencies, even though I don’t like it, I can understand the policy that many agents have about only reading people upon referral. So, before I had my agent I pursued hiring an entertainment attorney to submit my scripts for me. But, unlike the snappy commercials, there are some places that don’t take cash, American Express or even Visa unless you have the right contacts. I was told by one Avenue of the Stars address that I needed to be referred to an attorney through one of their clients. I was shocked. Apparently I incorrectly assumed that an attorney was someone you hired, and if you had the money for their services, they handled what you paid them for. This rejection seemed un-American and discriminatory. Was this a violation of my civil rights? Maybe the ACLU would get involved. The Supreme Court would hear the case of the unknown writer who was denied an attorney because she didn’t have a referral. Didn’t I have the right to an attorney as long as I could pay for one? Hell, if I were a criminal I’d be appointed one for free. Did I have to resort to a life of entertainment crime to obtain an entertainment attorney?

That whole eye-opening experience made me grateful for all the plumbers, mechanics and hairdressers who will take any new client, no questions asked. I’d still have that leaky pipe under my house, the grinding in my engine and dark roots if I had to find a referral in order to pay those people to provide me with a service that I hire them to do.

Those incidents made it clear to me just how different Hollywood is from the rest of American cities, and how show business operates on it’s own rules, however quirky they may be. It still hasn’t discouraged me from trying, and I hate to admit it, but I can’t say that if I were lucky enough to get ‘in’, that I wouldn’t become one of those people who tries to keep the people like me ‘out’.

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