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How to Write a Query Letter to a Screenwriting Agent

written by: Kumara Velu•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 6/27/2011

You can't just mail your completed screenplay to a producer and wait for a reply. Producers don’t entertain new screenplays unless they come through screenwriting agents. Screenwriting agents don’t entertain screenwriters who don’t write a query letter first.

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    There are many ways of writing a query letter. Whatever way you choose as a model to get started, bear in mind that it should reflect the principles listed below.

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    Brevity

    You may have many wonderful things to tell the screenwriting agent about yourself and your screenplay, but bear in mind that the agent, more often than not, would have no time for that.

    The name of the game is brevity. You would want to keep your query letter as short as possible. Your aim is to save the screenwriting agent’s precious time. If that intention shines through your letter, you have a better chance of creating an impression on the agent.

    Imagine the screenwriting agent has just three minutes to read your query letter. What would you want to include in your letter?

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    Content

    What should your query letter contain? Don’t bother discussing at length your academic credentials. Even if you’ve degrees or certificates from screenwriting or filmmaking workshops save that for discussion with your friends.

    You may want to start off straightway with what your screenplay is about. This is the place where you can introduce your carefully -crafted logline.

    Then you would want to mention any screenwriting experience you’ve had. This screenwriting experience should be on completed projects. Remember, screenwriting experience will make you stand apart from other query letters. If at all you must waste the agent’s time, do it with your screenwriting experience. If you’ve worked on a couple of projects, talk briefly about the ones you consider to be the top three.

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    No Screenwriting Experience

    If you have no screenwriting experience, don’t say you have not written anything before this or mention you’ve not written anything beyond a job application letter. That would not create the impression you need on the agent.

    If you have no screenwriting experience, you could always tell the agent about other forms of writing experience. Examples would be playwriting experience, film criticism or anything that would make the agent feel you have what it takes to write a screenplay.

    What if you’ve no writing experience? You could mention relevant experience that qualifies you to write the screenplay. If you’re writing a murder mystery, then you can mention your experience working in the homicide department. If it’s a courtroom drama, mention your experience as a district attorney. To make it short and sweet, you can say, “This screenplay is based on my experience as an industrial spy for a multinational company.”

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    Synopsis

    If you think your logline is so riveting that it would make the agent want to know more, include a synopsis. You must be careful though; agents have reported that some synopses are not as compelling as their loglines and have ignored query letters because of that. So, you need to think carefully before including a synopsis.

    If your synopsis could be half a page and still highlight the potential of your screenplay, go for it. The whole idea is to create an impression by making the agent’s life easier.