Mike from Raleigh, NC asks:
I am a writer living outside of L.A.– way outside– and would like some advice on how to get a script read.
Some ‘experts’ pooh-pooh the query letter calling them a waste of time. Others claim it is the ONLY way for a first-timer to get his/her work noticed.
Very confusing. Very disheartening.
What is a good/better/best strategy for getting a script read? Query agents? Query managers? Query producers? Win a contest? Buy a full page add in Variety?
In answer, I have a question for you. Why should someone here in Los Angeles read your script when there are thousands upon thousands of aspiring writers all of whom are committed enough to uproot their lives and move out here just so they can be where the people who read screenplays need them to be even though most of them have almost no shot in hell of actually becoming a working writer?
The answer better be, because your work offers something no one else’s work does or ever will: your own very compelling and unique voice. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to get anyone here to pay attention to another run-of-the-mill long distance wannabe. Harsh? Maybe, but this is a very competitive game and the players who actually work regularly are very, very good at it.
Okay. So let’s say your writing actually does reflect a special, unique voice. Now what? The answer is easy – try everything. I’ve said this before and I’m probably not the first to say it, but everyone in the world is only a few degrees of separation from an agent whether they know it or not. Quality writing gets noticed – but the writing really must shine, really must be something special. If it is, you’ll eventually get the attention of someone who can make a difference.
Here are some places to start:
1. Show your writing to people in your own community that can support you in your writing: teachers, retired screenwriters, actors, whoever. If they are excited by your writing, see who they might know that can help.
2. If you respect a screenwriter a great deal, write to him or her and ask him to serve as a long-distance mentor. If he or she agrees, be sure to actually listen to his or her advice and follow it. As a relationship builds, this working writer might just pass your work on to someone who can make a difference.
3. Travel to screenwriting events around the country and make friends with the speakers. It might take a long time before this bears fruit, but it’s another tool in your box.
4. Ask all your friends if they know anyone in Los Angeles. Strike up a relationship with as many people here as you can – even an email relationship. If one of these people reads and gets excited about your writing, or just likes you, they might refer you to an agent, manager, producer, actor or who knows who that can help.
5. Don’t forget about independent film. If your script is appropriate for a low budget quality picture, approach filmmakers in your own community or other communities outside of Los Angeles.
6. Brainstorm and come up with thirty more ideas on how to get your script read and execute on every single idea. It will take that much drive and determination to move forward.
While you’re doing all these things, don’t stop writing. You need a body of excellent work, not just one or two scripts. Finally, every writer gets through the door differently. Keep writing and holding yourself out as a writer until you make something happen.