The Query Letter

You’ve brainstormed a concept, you’ve outlined and rearranged, you’ve written, rewritten, and then rewritten again, and you’ve got yourself a daggum screenplay. Congratulations! First, take a second to pat yourself on the back. Everyone’s got an idea for a movie, but very few people actually finish what they start. Once you’re done being proud of yourself, that sinking feeling sets in and you ask yourself this horrifying question: “what do I do now?”

There are countless ways to “break into the business” which can somehow make it seem more difficult to accomplish. But if you’re starting from scratch, the next best step is to get your query letter together.

A query letter in today’s world is an email with a casual introduction, a killer logline, and a polite sign off. That’s it. Take a look at this helpful article from ScreenCraft about how to construct the perfect query letter.

Free Access to Great Resources

Here’s a pretty neat opportunity for anyone eager to improve their writing skills. The Script Lab is offering a weekend of free access to over 40 of Hollywood’s top screenwriters, studio executives, managers, agents, producers, and world-renowned screenwriting instructors.

The weekend of September 22-23, check out The Script Lab’s Virtual Screenwriting Summit for some pretty exclusive and potentially craft changing information. There are a lot of great resources out there to help, and it’s even better when they’re free!

 

The Power of Rejection

As screenwriters, we get rejected a lot. If you haven’t, you’re either very lucky, or very new at this. Submitting your work and having it ignored (if you’re lucky) or ripped apart (if you’re not), doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Learning from rejection is a time-honored rite of passage for all aspiring creators. Harry Potter was rejected by publishers a solid twelve times, sometimes with harsh words, before our favorite boy wizard inspired seven books, eight films, and three theme parks.

If your pitch, story, or screenplay is turned down, congratulations! You thought of something, made it, and showed it to someone else. That is something to be commended and celebrated. Use this time to pat yourself on the back for being brave, but also use it as a time to see where you went wrong. Improve your structure, take another look at the dialogue, tweak and tighten, so that when you submit it again (which you definitely will), it’ll be that much harder to turn down.

And while you may be discouraged, take heart in the fact that some of our favorite movies of all time were passed over before finding their way to the big screen. See some shocking examples here, watch Brian Grazer’s words of encouragement here, and share in the comments something you’ve learned from rejection.

Giving Feedback

I was once told that to be a good writer, you have to read twice as much as you write. To be a good screenwriter, I think the rules are the same. Reading other scripts, and especially giving constructive feedback, is a skill that will not only help other writers, but can help us find the flaws and mistakes in our own work.

For those of us who are a little timid when it comes to confrontation, telling others what we honestly think of their work can be intimidating, but don’t let it stop you. Whether someone is resistant or grateful, honesty is the best policy and a necessary step for the betterment of all screenwriters.

Here’s a concise and spot-on guide for How to Give Feedback on Someone Else’s Work without losing friends and acting like a jerk.

Any additional tips or tricks you’ve picked up? Opinions on feedback in general? Any notes about this post? Share them in the comments.

Handing Over the Reigns

All good things must come to an end, and so it is with Amanda’s tenure as the official Hollins’ Screenwriting Blogger. She is off to bigger and better things, like agonizing over her thesis and job hunting with her fancy degree. She has kindly handed off the login info to me and trusted me with her baby. Ha! Fool!

Hi, I’m Amy. And I am a filmaholic.

At this passing of the torch, I was inspired to write about giving up control of our own babies: our screenplays. Our stories and characters are often things we’ve thought about for years. We feel a strong connection and sense of ownership over the tales that we tell and the progress of our protagonists. Sometimes, we guard these stories too much and they live out their lives in a folder on our laptops, never seeing the light of day. While it’s imperative that we have such passion for our work, it’s equally as important that we learn when to let go.

Writer’s groups, thoughtful professors, or just trusted friends are all important elements to creating a good screenplay. But collaboration isn’t the only reason to share your work with a trusted critic or observer. Here are three reasons why your creative work needs an audience.

What insights have you gained by sharing your screenplay with others? Share in the comments below.