Querying – Who You Should Query

You can query anyone. You can query an entertainment lawyer’s dog walker if you want. But if you’re going to apply the spray and pray method to the US film industry it helps to spray in the right direction. People who may actually be receptive to unproven writers. Before getting to my list, remember one thing: No one who wants to help your career will ever ask you for money. Ever.

Literary (Lit) Managers – First on my list. Not “talent” or any other denomination of manager. Lit. Note: Managers are sometimes also producers. The ins and outs of this fact is a whole other article. Technically a manager’s job is to help guide your decisions as a writer. Their responsibilities do not include finding you writing jobs. However, if they’re worth their salt, they will know a lot of people and will set up meetings for you. This can lead to jobs. For non-LA based writers, they’re your boots on the ground. But do your homework. Literally anybody can say they’re a manager. And many unconnected, worthless wannabes do. You need someone who has credits, script sales or is just plain in the industry in Los Angeles (maaaybe New York). It’s a hard thing to judge. So set your bullshit detector to extreme prejudice. Resources online including the ones I link to on this blog can help you separate the wheat from the chaff. (In this dated metaphor wheat is still something desirable).

Production Companies – There are thousands of them. One just closed and another just opened in the time it took you to read this so track producers more than companies. Watch movies similar in genre to what you’re pitching. Take note of the producers. Observe the subtle differences between prod cos. Some are chiefly financiers, some are vanity houses for actors, many specialize. Some have dozens of employees some have only two. Yup, you have to learn stuff. This area is extremely vast. Aim high. Some small indie startup’s movie may have just killed at Sundance but they may not have a lot of room for someone new like you. Within prod cos there is a hierarchy of people who will consider scripts. Here are some job titles to look out for from top to bottom.

– Executive Producer aka EP (Often more concerned with money matters then the likes of you.)
– Producer (Don’t be intimidated, you may only hear back from their assistant, but some producers – even big producers – are quite open to the right query.)
– Development Executive aka Head or VP of Development
Creative Executives aka CE

Those last two are your best bet.

Literary (Lit) Agents – Again, “lit” specifically. And pay attention to distinctions between film and tv reps. Unlike managers, agents can not be producers. Historically this is because as the people who are supposed to find you writing jobs it would be a conflict of interest to also be a producer looking to hire you. In California this conflict of interest is prohibited by law. Presently, however, agents repping low earning writers are less likely to actively seek out writing gigs for you. They’re sales people. They look for the sure thing. That means projects that already have some heat. And there’s no heat on a cold query. That’s why agents are last on my list. Not for a lack of effectiveness, but because they’re just less likely to consider a query coming from an unknown.

Assistants – I never spent a lot of time querying assistants. Once you start a dialogue with an assistant that’s a great relationship to foster. Assistants are hired to be groomed to move up. But usually they won’t respond to cold queries because they’re not authorized to do so.

Submission Email Address – Sometimes you’ll see a query or submissions email address on a website. This is the modern day slush pile. It goes to the lowest rank. Interns, maybe assistants. No harm in trying it but why start at the bottom when with a little research you can approach the actual decision makers.

Figuring out who to query is the most important element in this soul crushing exercise. Research. Hard. You’re not just looking for a soft audience or a yes man, you’re looking for someone you want to work with. Someone who can help your career and someone to whom you will be an asset. This will take a very long time.

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