As you know, I think you should query first, and only write the screenplay if you've had good luck with the queries.
A reader writes in: "How do I introduce my screenplay if I haven't written it yet? Your example in the book -- "I have just finished polishing blah blah blah..." -- isn't so. Do I lie, and pray they don't notice the two-month lag before I send it? (Lying is not my preference.)"
Well, that is true. Not that lying, in Hollywood, is a big mark against you, so long as you do it charmingly. But you don't have to say either way...
Dear Ms. Wise:
In my comedy, End of the World, a bicycle messenger and a pizza delivery girl find themselves in a conflict that may mean the end of civilization as we know it. May I send it to you? I'm looking for representation.
...or some variation thereof.
I suppose you could come clean and just say, here's my hook, would you like to read the screenplay. I have no idea how people would react to that. It might very well work.
On the question of email vs. paper querying: you can probably use email, provided you make very clear your email is a query, and not spam. I'd make sure the subject line is something like Query -- . If your victim, er, target, er, intended recipient is open to queries, he'll read it, and if not, no loss. If you aren't clear that the email is a query, you'll just irritate.
The drawback to email is that it is a matter of a few keystrokes to delete an email unread. Paper mail will almost certainly get opened and at least glanced at by someone.
If you can find the eddress of the hungriest young lit agent, by all means use their eddress, rather than the overall agency email.
If you're basing your screenplay on other work by yourself, it's not really worth mentioning, unless you can say it's based on your "bestselling" novel or your "hit off-Broadway play". If your book, for example, is unpublished, then you're just telling the potential reader that other people have already rejected the idea.
This makes sense to me only if you've already got several screenplays under your belt, and you know you have the ability and the time to write the screenplay if you get an interested response. If, however, you're like me with a day job and only one screenplay to date--sending out a query pre-screenplay would be akin to madness. I believe you have to pay to play--the first thing I think an aspiring screenwriter such as myself should do is write screenplays and pay for professional critiques of the same. Being able to send out query letters backed by an existing screenplay is just a side-benefit of the process of improving your writing.
I don't know maybe I'm just fooling myself.
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