A producer friend at a production company recently shared this email interchange with a writer. It painfully illustrates why most producers will only accept solicited submissions or via a reputable agent. Irrespective of the talent this writer may show in the future, this bridge is burned.
I have redacted certain details with XXXXXX’s and of course, removed the story synopsis/ titles/ treatments/ pitches etc.
First email from writer director to exec
Hello, XXXX XXXXX, we met today at XXXXXX, it was a pleasure to meet you today, I am sorry I didn’t get the chance to talk with you more. I gave you my card with a few of my details, including 3 scripts that I have just put up on XXXX, check them out if you get time.
I am currently looking for a production company who can take my scripts and career to the next level. I have heard good things about you and XXXX and I hope my details interest one of the producers there enough to find out more.
I am a produced and optioned writer.
I have 3 ready to go, high concept, highly marketable scripts.
I am a writer, director; actor and producer who wants to mainly concentrate on writing only at this time.
I have made several short films, including best short XXXXXXX at the XXXXX film festival.
I have written, produced and directed low budget flick ‘XXXXXXXXX’.
I hope this gives me some creditability in your eyes and you take a look at the 3 great scripts that I have written.
You have recently worked with an actor called XXX XXXXX (edit: named star), whose profile would fit as the lead actor for XXXXXX.
EDIT: Part redacted as too much information was shared as well as three one page outlines of the three projects.
I can be reached directly via the contact details listed below should you be interested, or if you prefer, via the XXXX website.
Thanks once again for the talk today and it was good to meet you.
Kind regards, XXXXXX XXXXXXX, writer/director
First response by exec
I have run through the concepts with our development team but at this stage we are so busy with our existing material that none of them jumped out at them sufficiently to want to take things forward. Best of luck with them in the meantime, and kind regards.
Second email from writer director to exec
Thank you XXXXXX, I appreciate you putting them forward for me. Unfortunately for me, I’ve always had trouble writing loglines/brief synopsises. Unlike screenplays. I suppose as I should concentrate more on getting that side right because it’s stopping me getting the scripts into people’s hands. I know that they would feel totally different about the scripts had we just jumped to them? They are 3 great, and I mean superb, highly commercial, easily sellable/marketable scripts.
I really feel that you would all change your minds if you requested and read just one script. Any one of them. Just request it, read it and if it’s a no, I’ll bow out gracefully and thank you for your time. But, I know, you will feel totally different once you have read one.
It was good meeting with you XXXX, I hope you have great success there at xxx regardless
Kind regards, XXXX XXXXXX
Second response by exec
Happy to take a look at one (you pick your most commercial one), though I just wanted to make sure you are aware that right now we are unlikely to pick up anything new unless we are absolutely blown away by it.
Third email from writer director to exec
Cheers XXXX, it’s much appreciated. It’s no time for false modesty, I think you will be blown away by all of them. But if I were to pick one, it would be purely on the grounds of the steps that we were talking about the other day. Start with the one that I think could get made first – then the others. So, because I believe budget wise ‘XXXXXX’, would be more affordable to make, I will choose that.
Think XXXX, XXXXXX (edit: two popular movies mentioned in a Batman meets Titanic sort of way).
Good luck. And thank you XXXX.
Kind regards, XXXX XXXXX
Third response by exec
Hi XXXXX, We’ve now reviewed the script, and I’m afraid that it didn’t deliver to the level you had promised and, in fact, both my head of development and I found it pretty derivative and not fully convincing.
It’s a pass for us on this basis, but best of luck in placing it elsewhere.
Fourth email from writer director to exec
I’ve got to say my first inclination was that you didn’t read it yourself, but passed it on to someone else to read on your behalf, because what you say in you’re email makes no sense?
To say it doesn’t deliver as I promised, or that you found it pretty derivative and not fully convincing is completely unfounded and quite frankly, insulting?
It delivers high originality, powerfully and cinematically, it would make an absolutely fantastic and highly marketable film.
If it is ‘pretty derivative’ as you say, please name the films, the content or subject matter that it is ripped off from? Or, even similar too? Name them and email them back to me?
I’ll tell you the answer now. Nothing. Absolutely, nothing. It’s not an imitation of anything that’s ever been made. Why? Because it’s from my own mind, my own writing skills and none other. Unlike, a lot of the tosh regurgitated round and round by unskilled interns with a penchant for writing and real derivative writing at that.
Sorry XXXXX, but if you accuse me of something like that, you really should back it up.
Because you’re judgement is so out of whack, I don’t think you read it.
Best, XXXXX XXXXXX
Fourth response by exec
I can assure you that I read the script myself, and if this is the way in which you take any kind of criticism of your work then you are going to have one hell of a time in this industry. In any event, your original email promised that “if it’s a no, I’ll bow out gracefully and thank you for your time.” – so let’s leave it at that.
Fifth email from writer director to exec
You are correct, I did say that if it’s a no I’d bow out gracefully and leave it at that, but what I didn’t expect from you was a complete disrespect of my character. You could have said many things that I would have accepted, including genuine criticism of the script, but basically calling my work ‘pretty derivative’ is bringing my reputation into dispute. By saying that, you are basically saying that I have plagiarised other works and I take umbrage to that.
I asked you to back up this claim of ‘pretty derivative’ by referencing other works, themes, concepts, that XXXXX XXXXXX was similar too? You have come back with nothing? I’ll go further, how about coming up with events, scenes or even characters who are similar? You will still come up with nothing? Another reason why I believe that you haven’t read the script or you would be able to back up your own criticism and judgement? You won’t even be able to compare it in style to anything else that you’ve seen, or read? Because it is that rarity amongst a sea of sameness, it’s unique. And, for that very reason, it is open to someone who reads it, to rewrite it, and kill it’s uniqueness. Mess it up completely.
And, don’t be going all jack-the-lad on me and making threats about how I won’t go far in the industry if that’s how I take criticism? Lets be clear, I am already in the industry and I always conduct myself with good grace, I can take criticism all day long, I’ve got skin like a rhino. It is you that seems to take criticism badly and has acted unprofessionally by virtually slandering me?
I don’t really take too kindly to that kind of talk, from anyone, whoever they are. And, I still stick by my belief that you did not read it and you have taken what someone else has said as gospel and repeated it back to me. And I know this because, the script was everything that I promised and more and you can’t possibly be where you are, and passing on a script that good and yet being so condescending about it? And, disrespectful about me in the process, for no valid reason? I gave you no call to talk like that? In fact, you came across at face value as an okay kind of guy, who I could do business with and I would have been happy to sing your praises even if you didn’t take/like the script I sent you? Or, it wasn’t for you, for a number of other different reasons? But, ‘pretty derivative’? Really?
So, I’ll bow out, but not gracefully. You owe me an apology for the slanderous comments you made about my work and therefore implied about my character. An abuse of the powerful position you hold within XXXXXXXX and the industry, as I see it? I hope you understand the seriousness of what you have accused me of, in black and white?
And I’m really, really pissed off about it. I want you to back up what you have said, or apologise to me. There is no doubt in my mind our paths will cross again. A simple apology will suffice and be accepted, now, rather than leave it hanging.
Back to me… Sadly, even if this writer had submitted the most extraordinary screenplay, their attitude has made them impossible to work with.
And so next time you wonder why producers will not accept unsolicited work, remember this email chain.
And to the writer in question, as the producer said to him, ‘best of luck in placing it elsewhere’.
Onwards and upwards!