There are two ways to pitch your scripts to Hollywood: the verbal pitch and the written query letter. But unless you’re a working screenwriter, or pay the high fees and travel costs associated with live pitch events, you might not get the chance to pitch your scripts to Hollywood folks in person. No big deal though, as these days, most Hollywood Pros prefer the luxury of reading pitches rather than hearing them anyway! This is because as a buyer, it’s nice to have something to look at, refer back to, and confer with others on. And that’s why we came up with Virtual Pitch Fest, where you can pitch to Industry Pros online with the assurance of a guaranteed response back!
Assuming you’re ready to pitch – congrats! Now it’s time to find out what companies are best suited for your material by researching their recent credits and current needs. Fortunately, VPF has compiled this information on all of our Industry Pros! To view our complete list of Pros and their bios, please click here.
Once you’ve found your matches and are ready to write a killer query letter, keep in mind that the goal of a successful pitch is not to sell your project, but to get it read. Step-by-step suggestions on how to accomplish this are as follows:
Take me on a journey in a sentence or two.Susan Johnston - Select Service Films
Start off with a well-crafted hook or logline. Keep your query succinct and write as if you’re describing your film’s movie trailer. Entertain your reader with the story.Margery Walshaw - Evatopia Entertainment
Spelling, grammar & syntax, etc., are just as important in your query letter as they are in your script. When someone sends a poorly written, un-proofread query letter, it’s hard not to imagine the script will look the same…and no one wants to deal with 100-120 pages of typos and sentence fragments. Remember that your query letter is the first example you’re giving someone of your writing, so take the time to show them you do it well.John Yarincik - Eclectic Pictures
The most successful query letters (the ones I most often request) are the shorter ones – those that confidently present their central conceit without giving away the entire plot. I don’t really pay attention to awards and other projects that have been optioned - it’s all about THIS idea and the writer’s ability to hook me in.Jesse Singer - Act 4 Entertainment
Brevity. Less is more. They should read it through and over a couple times, and then eliminate anything that isn’t part of the critical path. If they feel there is info they’d like to add, at least attach this as a second, or follow up paragraph, so that at least there is clear separation from actual story synopsis.Andrew Hersh - Thrive Entertainment
Be short and concise. The idea is everything and I need to know about it. Just a logline or one or two sentences won’t do it. Then a little bit about the writer and their experience. Don’t need to know how great YOU think it is. Don’t ask me any "What if?" questions in your synopsis. Keep in mind what we’re looking for and not looking for.Myke Friscia - Gallagher Literary Management
Keep it as short as possible. While you want to include all important elements of the screenplay, ANY time you can say it with less words - it’s a stronger pitch. I do appreciate a little info at the top about you, and I think it’s good when the pitch ends with something which denotes the resolution of the main character’s emotional-spiritual life journey in the film.Steven Nash - Contemporary Talent Partners
Prove you’re not an idiot.
You’d be surprised how many query letters fail to spell the name of the person they are addressed to correctly. I’m not just saying this because my name is a challenge - I’ve seen it across the board. Not to mention the letters that are clearly generic form letters: insert “your cool company name here.” Or are simply poorly written letters. You’re a writer – you should be able to churn out a few concise and well-formed sentences without any grammatical errors or typos.
Prove you’re a talented writer by telling us that other people think you are a talented writer.
Have you won contests? Have you ever been paid for writing – even if it’s in another field? Do you have published articles, nonfiction books or even restaurant reviews?
Prove you know how to pitch.
Remember the old saying, “There’s a fine line between comedy and tragedy?” There’s a reason it’s an old saying. It’s true. So the very first thing you should tell us is the genre of your movie. If we don’t know the tone right off the bat, there’s no way to interpret what follows. And we definitely won’t be in the movie that’s in your head.
Prove you have something the letter receiver wants either to make (prodco) or to sell (rep) - based on all that research you’ve been doing.
Write that letter to the right person in the first place. Otherwise you look like an idiot. Blanketing the town with queries just wastes your time and energy - and ours.
Don’t attempt to prove that your idea will be a big success.Barri Evins - BE Movies
No one can predict that, not even the most talented studio marketing execs.
A query letter is your first introduction to whatever company, producer or rep you are trying to contact. So it's crucial that it be a great first impression. We can tell a great deal about your writing ability and style from your query letter, because often a bad query letter or one that does not express the point or hook of your story, makes us believe that either you don't have one or you don't know what it is -- which is even worse. Your query letter will show us what kind of instincts you have as a writer.Danny Manus - Clifford Werber Productions
Never start a query letter by saying you’ve taken a Blake Snyder or Syd Field class. That doesn't mean anything to us, so don't include it in your query. And always make sure that there isn't ONE typo or grammatical error in it. A couple of typos in a script is okay, but typos in a one or two paragraph pitch tells us you don't care enough and that you're a bit sloppy. And that we can expect the same from the script.
I think one good way to begin your letter is by listing your writing accomplishments, such as any produced credits you might have, options with other companies, or scripts that have placed well (semi-finalist or better) in national, or well-known contests. The first line in your query letter should not be a question, like ‘Have you ever had one of those days where everything went wrong?’ or ‘Was there ever a moment in your life where you knew you were in love?’ You don't need to ask us personal questions to make your story connect for us. And what if our answer is ‘no’? Then you have alienated us instead of selling us on your script.
Just tell your story. A query letter is not a logline. It should CONTAIN a logline, but it should also have a paragraph about your story and its main character or characters. I'm not going to read a script based solely on a logline from a new, unknown writer. I've got to know more. Also, put your own voice in the query, but don't drown out your story. Make it shine!
In my version of a perfect query letter, you have your logline first, then your intro statement with your name, accomplishments, the script's genre, and maybe a comparison like ‘my script is in the vein of _____’or ‘it's written in the vein of _____ meets ______.’Then you should have one solid paragraph (five to ten lines) of your story and character. That's your HOOK! It's what's going to make me read this script. It should answer this question: What is it about this script that is going to set it apart and scream ORIGINAL? And if it's a hilarious comedy that you're trying to sell, then something in your query should make me laugh. And that's all you really need. Make sure you get across the most commercial and original parts of your story, so that we can practically see the movie in our heads. I know it's hard to do in six sentences, but if you do it well, your script will get read.
A good query letter should contain a little information about the writer. Not a lot, just a little to know about who you are. Also, what is your story about? Tell me who the lead character is, what happens to them and what’s at stake. Do this is in about three to five sentences.Victoria Slater - Minor Distractions Entertainment
I like three paragraphs, three sentences each. The first paragraph tells me who I’m rooting for and the incident/issue that sends me to the second act. The second paragraph includes the second act action, controversy or misconception that comes to light and then the twist that gets me to the third act; and the third paragraph is the climax.Marlo Brawer - Ruthrich Productions
For me a good pitch gives me an idea and flavor of the story in a very concise and clear manner. Sometimes less is more. Detail is unimportant unless it’s required for understanding. You also don't need to impress me with ‘big’ words. Descriptive words are much more powerful and effective. And finally, leave me wanting more. I want to be excited and compelled to want to read the script.Paul Salamoff - Rat Bastard Productions
From my own point of view, I find that many query letters fail not because of the text but because of the subtext, when the writers reveal that they are not experienced, professional storytellers who would be interesting and fun to work with. I love when I get a query letter that reveals the writer to be talented, mature, confident, and easy going. The tone of bad query letters can fall into two extremes -- either they are painfully deferential, bowing and scraping, coming to us with hat in hand in the hopes that we will wave our magic wands and elevate them into being Rich and Famous Movie Writers…or they are abrasive and abrupt, trying to prove that they’re not intimidated by us snooty movie people. A common combination of both extremes is the query letter that’s both deferential and abrupt -- it’s like they feel they’re only allowed fifteen words to get their point across, so the letter sounds like a telegram in an old Western: ‘Have loveable rom-com STOP Santa helps orphans STOP But they’re VAMPIRES! STOP’Steve Barr - SMASHfilms
Query letters aren’t as difficult as many gurus make them out to be. If I could tell all of the query writers just one thing, it would be to relax. Don’t get too wound up with this. Writing a good screenplay is several orders of magnitude more difficult than writing a good query letter, so if you managed the first you shouldn’t get too freaked out by the second.
Remember, most of us aren’t looking to hire people to write formal business memoranda -- we want people who can write in an easy-to-read colloquial style without getting too cutesy about it. So just do that in your query.
Finally, you have to have some understanding of your audience. Just like you probably shouldn’t tell a dead baby joke in the middle of a neonatal intensive care ward, you also probably shouldn’t query a company looking for family films with your borderline misogynistic women-in-prison exploitation flick.
To us, a query letter must not have more than one typo, be very, very short, polite and not conceited, and be broken down into paragraphs. Also, if English is your second language, have someone with good grammar read the query letter before you send it.Sammy Montana - Trancas International Films
I look for a great idea, clearly stated in as few words as possible. I also want correctly spelled words and proper grammar. If a short paragraph selling the writing isn't good writing itself, I find that highly suspicious.Alex Daltas - Trilogy Entertainment
I look for how the query letter is written and presented. I am checking to see if the writer can form complete sentences and if all the words are spelled correctly, etc. Also, I am looking to see if they have a sense of how or where their script might fit into the industry. Writers who offer producing suggestions in their cover letters are a major turn-off for me.Steven Roche - Bridge Falls Entertainment
When in doubt, short and sweet is the answer. If you’ve won competitions or optioned a script, you want to lead with that. And make sure every word is perfect. Also, I've seen very funny cover letters before but too often the jokey queries fall very flat. Remember, we’re not hearing your vocal tone (i.e. light sarcasm can come off as harsh).Sharif Ali - Aimee Entertainment
Keep it very brief, as in no more than half a page. Also, if it’s a true story, indicate whether or not you have the exclusive rights.Christopher Eldridge - Lonetree Entertainment
I like to see short, concise query letters. The most important information for me is the genre and the logline. It's also nice to know if the story is original, or inspired by true events. And without going into great detail, it's good to know if the writer has been produced or optioned.Graham Ludlow - Colossal Entertainment
I look for someone who can describe what he or she has written briefly but with enough punch to make me want to read the script. I want to feel their passion.Billy DiMichele - Billy DiMichele Productions
All I want to see is a logline, and four to five sentences at the most on what the script is about. I'll know if I'm interested or not.Kanica Suy - Sweeney Management
A few of the things that make a query letter stand out for me are: 1) Brevity. A quick, compelling logline along with a short and sweet synopsis that’s long enough to convey the story, yet short enough to hold my attention; 2) Paragraphs. I’m far more likely to read all of the way through a pitch that breaks up the synopsis into paragraphs, versus one that piles everything into one big block of text with no breaks. The more black I see the less inviting it is to read; 3) Accolades. If a script’s received any notable attention (e.g. a contest win, etc.), I want to know about it up front; 4) Punctuation. Please check over the query for any and all spelling and grammar errors. It is so disinviting to find obvious, careless mistakes in a letter!Marton Varo, Jr. - Rockview Productions
Here are my tips for query letters: 1) Address the executive by name so it doesn't look like you’re spamming everyone; 2) Give the exec an introduction to you and your work (if you’ve been optioned and/or produced, contest wins, etc.); 3) Then, after your brief synopsis, thank the executive for their time reading your pitch.Chris Cross - Sub Rosa Productions
For me, a great query letter is clear about the genre and the logline, and gives a concise summary (no more than a few sentences) about the story.Margo Klewans - sekretagent Productions
Spelling and syntax counts...big time! You're a writer and should care enough about, and be adept enough with words to use the right ones, and spell them correctly. Also, get to the point of what your query is about promptly and succinctly. Remember: this is ‘show business,’ not ‘show art.’ Be pleasant, but also business-like in your approach, and never submit anything less than your absolute best effort.Stu Miller - The Stuart M. Miller Company
My advice is this: more emphasis on the story and less about the writer. I get queries all the time wherein the writer goes on and on about themselves and barely mention what it is they're selling.Jess Place - Braun Entertainment