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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

Updated every Monday, one selected e-mail will be posted and answered here each week. With many years of experience in the film and television business, I look forward to providing answers to your questions (often with a humorous eye) about screenwriting or the entertainment industry in general.  Please send your e-mailed questions to: Script Advisor.  You may also wish to visit our Screenwriting Help E-Mails - The Archives.

This week's question: 

There must be so many scripts that come in when a producer is looking for a certain type of one.  How would I have any chance at all? Do you have any suggestions on how to at least get my script asked for and read?

Telford in Virginia

This week's answer: 

The Three W's Of Getting Your Script Read

Having been and still being at times on the “other end” of the script submission, working with producers, assisting them in finding the “perfect script” (which, by the way, doesn’t exist), I have had to move quickly through titles, loglines, and, often synopses, and eventually – yes, I must say – even quickly through scripts.  (I’m not saying I’ve ever rushed through one, but there is a kind of “readers’ pace” that is necessary if one is “looking for a needle in a haystack” (or a script in a pile of screenplays).

Because time is the essence often, a producer or her or her readers have developed an eye for good material.  It isn’t always easy to get a script read and the best way to reach that level is to know how to present it.

I’m sure every reader or producer’s eye is different, but, in general, when I need to move rapidly (but smoothly and keeping in mind what I learned in school about reader’s comprehension – which I had no idea I would be so glad I did well in because I’d be needing that very skill so many years later), I look at how the screenwriter is presenting his work.  If there’s a query letter, do I react well to it?  Or do I already feel that there’s something about the personality of the screenwriter that might not be the best “match,” as they say.  (If you can’t get along with a letter, chances are it’s going to be uphill all along the way with the writer.)

Much can be discerned by a query letter (and not a “queery letter.” Although, those kind of letters can also reveal much about the writer, too.  Like he can’t spell very well.) Just state a little about yourself, if you’d like (not so much your favorite color; more like your experiences in your screenwriting career) and, if at all possible, don’t try to enlist the producer in your personal fan club.  If you praise yourself too much, there won’t be any need to receive any from anybody else, including the one who could be integral in you receiving not only praise, but also pay

Many writers make the mistake of sending in general loglines that do not tell me what the story is really about.  Here’s a made-up example: 

logline:  Teresa sets the world on fire, but the world isn't ready for what she's going to have to go through to make it to the top.

My first reactions are:  Who is Teresa?  Why is she a pyro?  What world isn’t ready for her? What is she going to have to go through? and, What top?

A logline like that doesn’t exactly compel me to want to read the synopsis, fearing that I’ll be caught up in worlds and fire and tops... with Teresa.

You want a logline that as briefly as possible tells what the story is about.  Who is the hero and what is she or he up against?  That’s pretty much it.  And if you can throw in some well-placed words to stir the emotions and thoughts of the logline reader, so much the better.  But remember:  Your words can be impacting, but they need to be specific.


"A specific guy has an encounter with an extremely specific nemesis who is trying to stop him at all costs from doing a very specific thing." 

.... is not what I mean.

The synopsis needs to economically tell what happens in the script.  (I don’t mean “financially tell.” I mean “efficiently tell.” Although, if it was a story about a financial empire, actually it could be told financially, I guess.  I’ll get off that subject now, speaking of being specific.) It doesn’t have to be dry as toast (without butter or jelly on the toast) and can embody the screenwriter’s voice and style, but be careful that you don’t editorialize in your synopsis. Usually avoid words like “hilarious” “quirky,” “edgy” and the like.  Allow your reader or producer to decide how he or she sees your storyline.  And try to hold yourself back from saying that “this is the next Rocky” and things of that nature.  (Unless it is the next “Rocky.”  Wouldn’t that make it “Rocky 27”?)

Think “bare bones with just a little flesh” (which could work very well when you submit a horror).  Mostly show the skeleton of your work while presenting it in your inimitable way.  After reading so many synopses, I can usually get an idea of how good the screenplay is going to be by not only what the synopsis offers, but by HOW it is written.

So, let’s review, shall we? (I don’t mean to sound as if we’re in a classroom. Although, many screenwriters could benefit from a short class in...


A little crude, but it gets the logline of it across.

Here’s that review, I mentioned:

1) Write a succinct, humble and sincere query. 

2) Write a clear, entertaining, but not self-aggrandizing synopsis, presenting your style and voice.  And you’re all set.  Oh.  One more thing.

3) Write a script.

The third one will especially help in case a producer wants to read it.


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