Monthly Archives: October 2013

Querying – Genre Targeting

Researching execs and companies you may find they have tendencies toward certain genres. Take note of these but remember that they’re not always hard and fast rules.

Often information about what execs are not interest in can be more helpful. It can be a time saver. But even then people’s tastes can change. Pay attention to the dates on the sources of your information and the companies they were working with at the time. Some companies are very genre specific, even if their current employees are not.

The fringe genres evoke the most prejudice. Some people absolutely won’t look at horror. Some are only interested in family. Again, time saving info.

What I found helpful about learning someone’s genre preferences was that I could tailor my logline to suit them. If they were mostly into R comedy, I could be a little more R in my logline. If they were art house snobs I could focus on character elements over the fact that it’s a romcom.

Some of the better read requests that I got were when I queried somebody outside my expectation of their genre. I assume this is because, at the end of the day, no exec is going to turn down a concept they think they can take to the bank.

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Querying – Re-Querying

The executives you’re querying get a lot of emails every day. So many, that if your logline fails to impress you’ll likely be quickly forgotten. This is a good thing. It means you have a second chance to make a first impression. Several, if that’s what it takes.

I always waited at least three months before querying the same project to the same exec. Often this second query would include a whole new logline and/or title. Sending out a bunch of queries and not getting any responses can be a clue that something’s not working with your pitch. Sometime however, I would re-query an exec with the exact same letter a second time and receive a read request. Could be an email is dismissed because you caught someone at lunch. Could be a query was passed on because it wasn’t right for an exec at that time. As long as you don’t abuse an exec’s inbox there’s nothing wrong with giving your script another shot.

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No Further Behind

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rust. It’s no big deal without stakes.

I trusted my manager enough to turn down an option on my screenplay. To turn down meetings with top agencies. Things I would would never have dreamed of passing on even six months ago. But I trusted in his plan. I still do.

Which is uncharacteristic of me. I don’t normally trust anybody. I visually scan people for hidden weapons in convenience stores. I’m a skeptic. Not a gambler. I take the bird in the hand every time. So why is it– How is it I’m not agonizing every night over whether I made the right decision to go along with this guy’s plan? To the sacrifice of the offers of my dreams.

I think it’s because I really have given up. I don’t care like I once did. I really have lost hope.

These all sound like really, really bad things– Even writing them now, I’m second guessing how this will be perceived. But they’re kind of not.

At the top of this year I resolved to give up the dream. At least as far as making it a full time pursuit. I’ll always write, I suspect, but doing it day in day out, scraping by on freelance gigs here and there– It was enough. It was time to shift gears. Leave the writing to the nights and weekends. Focus on a new career.

I had given up. Made my peace with it.

It’s the only reason I can come up with for why I trust Manager. Because there are no stakes anymore. If he fails to deliver. If he drops off the face. If we can’t manage to raise the 20 million and I never see my script realized… I’ll be no further behind than I am right now.

It would be disappointing. I’m not gonna pretend it wouldn’t be disappointing– But I’ve been down these roads before. I’ve heard the promises. Spend the money; made the acceptance speeches  in my head. And now – finally – I’ve given all that up too.

It’s odd how good it feels. I’ll record that here, right now. Because the next time I hit a creative rut or the phone stops ringing on the freelance jobs I’ll probably be writhing in self pity– So I’ll say it right here. Now. It feels good to be at peace. To trust.

As it stands, we’re in a waiting period at the moment. Waiting on money. That’s all anybody waits on. Next week has turned into next month a couple times already. That used to be cause for insomnia. Now it’s if it happens it happens. A phone call here and there while bringing in the harvest. Chopping wood. Writing. On nights and weekends.

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The Dog Who Caught The Car

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 friend of mine wants to be famous. That is to say she wants to profit from her own popularity. Literally make a career out of simply being her. In public. It’s the new definition of fame and it’s happening all the time. Started with reality TV. Now it’s vloggers. People recording their lives on cellphones, releasing it on YouTube and cultivating a following. Sometimes a massive following. To the point where some of these vloggers have quit their cubical jobs and now earn their living simply by existing in front of a lens.

To the envy of my friend. The career of simply existing. As far as she’s concerned, the fame – that is to say the public life – is inconsequential.

To this end, she began vlogging her life well over a year ago. Her spouse’s life. The lives of their children. Day and night. Inside the house, outside running errands. Everything. The monotony of American existence. For your viewing pleasure.

But here’s the thing: My friend’s life – the lives of her family – were just that. Monotonous. Ordinary. Boring. What’s more is she was editing out even the notion of conflict. Of drama. Anything that was too real. Too private. She wanted reality television style fame without giving anything up. A year later and the video view counter was still in the single digits.

But I had to admire her. She stuck to it. Camera always there. Always rolling. A webisode every day for over a year. Filtered and self-censored as it was. Emotionally devoid of any empathy. She kept at it. Thinking if she just put in the time, the public would grow to love her and her family. Thinking she’d eventually be rewarded with the massive following she so desperately wanted. Like; share; follow.

It was never, ever going to happen.

Then her brother in law shot a cop and locked himself in his house with an arsenal of guns.

The stand off lasted two days. The drama much longer. There was a media frenzy. The gun debate reignited. Controversy. Anger. Fear– It ended in tragedy.

My friend didn’t need to carry around her own camera anymore. They were being thrust in her face. Her family’s faces. That mass of followers? They were right outside her door. Finally interested in her mere existence.

How many people are ever personally affected by such a spectacular event? An event so pertinent to the socio-political climate? So charged with controversy? A few. True. No doubt. But how many of them just spent 18 months video taping their lives 24 hours a day? The lives of their family– My friend was suddenly sitting on a case study in the breakdown of modern western civilization! What seemingly innocuous comment could be found on that cutting room floor? What background action at some family picnic would shed light on the ticking time bomb that was the gun nut who finally snapped? This was so much more than a vlog now. This was fascinating. An unprecedented look into the lives of the family of a shooter before, during and after a shooting. The spin off potential was incredible: Books, talks, guest appearances. All the fame you’ve wanted times a thousand. Do you realize just what an incredible opportunity you’ve been handed?

She did. In fact, she stopped vlogging. Put away the cameras altogether. Stopped cold.

See, what she’d wanted more than anything was something she’d never truly understood. Something too big for her to handle. She’d been chasing the car to chase the car. Didn’t know what to do with it once she caught it.

I’ve been chasing cars a lot longer than her. I’d be lying if I said this story didn’t make me reflect on whether or not I’d balk given the ultimate opportunity. (And make no mistake, crisis is opportunity if you can keep a clear head). I have confidence that I wouldn’t flinch. I wouldn’t freeze. But it’s impossible to say. Until it happens.

The dust has settled. The story cooled. Society has moved on to the next shooting. Scratching our heads about the latest gun nut next door. My friend’s now putting together a fashion vlog.

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It’s October now. The killing frost will be along soon. Every night, a little closer. And the plants in my vegetable garden know it. But while they wither – succumb to disease and pests; literally in the autumn of their lives – they also make one final run at life. They grab all the stored up energy they can and push out their late blossoms. Flowers. Seeds that will never fully develop this late. But they try– Know they’re done. Annuals. There won’t be any spring for them. But they give it their all. Try. Just in case there’s a warm spurt. They try. Just to leave something that will live on. Leave their mark on the world. Good for them. They remind me to never stop.

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October 18, 2013 · 7:39 pm

Querying – Finding Contact Information

Some of this is going to sound a lot like stalking. Because it’s a lot like stalking.

As you may have noticed – if you’ve visited a few Hollywood agency or management company websites – there’s not a lot of information there. This means to query them you not only have to figure out the individual you want to contact, you have to figure out that individual’s email address.

Chew your pride well, this is going to be hard to swallow.

You have to dig. Through the dumpster that is the internet. Through other people’s garbage like the desperate, shameless, lowest rung on the ladder that you are. I’ve linked to many websites on this blog that are good starting points. Industry trades where you can familiarize yourself with the reoccurring names. Start building your contact list. I built three lists: Managers, Production Cos, Agents. I alphabetized. I used a four star rating system to denote which companies were the biggies and which were not. Within those companies who were the juniors and who were the seniors. Lots of notes about genre preferences, approachability, and any useful news I could find. There’s no escaping it. No avoiding that side of the business at this stage. This is work. Ongoing work since things change constantly.

Film company names are terrible. Usually some terrible pun like In Motion Pictures. Either that or something so generic that a dozen other companies exist that can confuse Google. Cross reference your company names with the names of employees who work there. That way you’ll know whether you’ve found the right company.

Learn about search engine operators. How to use quotation marks, the + and – symbols, etc.

Often there won’t be a Google result for a given company or even a website. But this doesn’t mean a domain name hasn’t been registered. Or that email accounts don’t exist. You can search registered domain names at Network SolutionsGodaddy or other registrars. Just watch out you don’t go too deep down the rabbit hole. Business email addresses are fair game, but stumble upon someone’s potentially private Gmail address and you may want to think twice about using it.

Ditto places like Facebook and even Twitter. Agents and managers are just people. People who don’t understand Facebook’s privacy settings any more than the rest of us. Don’t think you’ve won the lottery because you found a top agents FB profile. There’s a line there you don’t want to cross.

Back to data mining on the less creepy side of the spectrum: You will soon find that most companies have an email structure. A uniform way all employees are issued email addresses. Ex: jane.doe@bigagency.com or jdoe@bigagency.com. This means once you know the name of the person you’d like to query at that agency, you just need to figure out that agency’s email structure. And there are only so many permutations. Google can also help in this department.

You can subscribe to IMDb Pro or other websites that have this type of information. Those will probably go a long way to helping you get started. But remember they’re only as current as their last update.

Sadly, I’m not going to walk you through every horrible soul crushing, what-the-hell-am-I-doing? tactic. I think there’s more than enough here to get you started and / or thrown in jail. And that’s more than I had when I began. This is not for the faint of heart. It’s got nothing to do with writing or filmmaking. But then so little of what we have to do to earn our stripes in this business does. I started and gave up compiling my contact list many times. Swore I’d never waste my life on such a degrading task. Tried every other way to scale the wall. But in the end, the dumpster is where I had to start paying my dues. It’s also where things eventually paid off.

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This is What Freelancing Feels Like

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t’s a beautiful day for driving. One of those crystal clear autumn afternoons that make you forget for a moment that you’re destroying the planet. I pull up to a light. Flick on my turn signal.

Tick-teck tick-teck…

A song comes on. Drum beat. Falls into synch perfectly with the tempo of the song. One of those magical moments. Like seeing a double rainbow.

I’m tapping my foot in time with the beat. Beat of the song. Beat of my car’s metronome. The world in synchrony!

Then I look at the clock. The little colon blinks between the numbers– Out of synch with our cosmic drum circle. Damn it. Then the turn signal falls out– It was never lined up as perfectly as it seemed. A 118 bpm to the song’s 120. The ticks fall away from the snare drum. The whole thing wobbles. I try to keep my foot taping but it’s a mess– I’m stomping like an idiot. What was so harmonious just seconds ago is a cacophony. Just  before I can be soured on the whole experience, the light changes– Tire squeaks as I hook it around the corner. Turn signal off. Song plays on. I keep moving. Look forward to the next time things will fall into place. Maybe next time for real. A true synch. Something that lasts.

It occurs to me: This is what freelancing feels like. How my days and weeks feel right now while I wait for things with my screenplay to ramp back up. Moving along. Lining up gigs. Hoping everything synchs up long enough to keep me happy for a little bit.

… And looking at the clock only ever screws it all up.

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