WHY I SAY QUERY FIRST - Complications Ensue
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Monday, February 21, 2005

Just got a query to evaluate which had a lot of elements of a good comedy -- and fell short in many ways of what I thought would be the best comedy using those elements. In other words, just from reading the query I could see where the flaws were (IMO) and suggested a number of ways to improve the story.

This is why I believe people should send out query letters before they write the script. If this writer is on board with the changes I suggested, he's now going to have to rewrite the whole screenplay. Everyone hates polishing their screenplay to a high gloss only to have someone point out a structural flaw that means a page one rewrite. But you can't just send out the flawed script, can you?

And everyone hates writing a screenplay that no one wants to read.

If you query first, on the other hand, at least you know people will want to read the script. And if you can get some informed feedback and constructive criticism on your query first, you'll have a better screenplay once you do write it.

PS: A reader writes in:

Q. But what about lag time? Won't the agent or producer have forgotten my query?

A: They forgot your query the moment they asked to read the script. They get a lot of queries; they don't spend a lot of time debating whether to ask for your script or not.

If you query first, you might once or twice lose someone who needed a specific script at a specific time. But you haven't really lost them because you hadn't written the script yet, so no loss! In most cases, a good story is a good story. If they liked it then, they'll like it now.

If you're querying first, you don't have to hit absolutely everybody in the Hollywood Creative Director, either. Just enough to discover whether people want your script or not. If not, you've saved yourself time and effort. If they do, then you can hit them when you have the script, and hit the rest of them then, too.

PPS: another reader writes in:

Q. Once I've written the script, should I re-query?

A. No, never re-query. It can only turn a "yes" into a possible "no." Just send it in as if they asked for it last week. Don't even remind them how long ago they asked for it. Show business is so about the now, and so not about the then.

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3 Comments:

The only potential problem I see with your advice involves lag-time. If the query writer receives a request for a script that he or she has yet to write, it may be a number of months before it can be provided - costing the writer the heat that may have been generated by the query letter.

By Anonymous Marc Prey, at 12:33 PM  

You don't generate heat with a query, you generate heat with a good script.

Question for Alex. After you've queried, gotten requests, and written the screenplay, should you send it dirtectly to the folks who requested it a few months back, or should you query them again?

By Blogger Dave Fogerson, at 11:20 AM  

Query again? And turn a definite "yes" into a possible "no"? Oy, no. Just send it in as if they asked about it last week. Don't even remind them how long ago they asked for it. Show business is so about the now, and so not about the then.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 11:30 AM  

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