How To's | Screenplay Doctor | Screenwriting

Ask the Screenplay Doctor: How to Find Agents and What to Write to Them

30 Nov , 2010  

Written by Susan Kouguell | Posted by:

It’s time for some friendly holiday advice on query letter writing from Screenplay Doctor Susan Kouguell, as well as answers to your questions on agents and formatting. E-mail screenwriter@newenglandfilm.com to have your question answered in next month’s issue.

For some of you, this holiday season offers a few days of vacation time and, with that, the opportunity to send out query letters. Remember when you submit your queries, do not address the letter with “To Whom it May Concern” — this demonstrates to the letter’s recipient that you have not taken the time to research the company and the appropriate person you should be querying. It guarantees that your query will be discarded.

Query letters should contain a logline (a one-sentence pitch of your project), a paragraph introducing your project and why you are querying the company (for example: you are seeking agent representation), a one-paragraph biography highlighting any writing or film-related credentials, and a one-paragraph synopsis of your script.

Several of my previous columns address query letters and finding an agent, so, in an effort not to repeat myself, please read my earlier columns to find a more detailed discussion of these topics.

Also, please do not send me query letters; I do not accept queries and I do not recommend specific agents to readers of this column.

Now, on to this month’s questions:

Question 1: I am 26 and am a writer and actress, and in much need of an artistic agent, how can I find a good, reliable, and honest one?

I’m not sure what you mean by an ‘artistic agent’ — but if you are looking for representation for your screenplays, then the proper terminology is literary agent (seeking acting representation is not my area of expertise). My previous columns, such as the ones in March and April, offer advice on finding agents.

Question 2: I’m about to search for a new agent. About 12 years ago, I wrote a couple of screenplays that were made into movies. Then I wrote some unpublished novels, then got sucked into an eight year Deadbooks.com web project. Now I’m back at screenplays and looking for an agent. What would you mention in your query?
– The two movies?
– The web project?
– That I’m not interested in moving to LA again, but I love to visit?
– None of the above?

It’s not necessary to include that you would not be interested in moving back to LA again, but I think that you should trust your instincts on this question. I would mention the two movies that were produced, but not the two unpublished novels. If the web project received some success, then I would mention this as well, along with a brief explanation about its content.

Question 3: It seems to me that DP filmmakers should not edit out the visuals that they can already envision if they are writing a screenplay that they intend to film, but screenwriting classes are usually designed for writers, not for filmmakers. Can you explain what differences are there for filmmaker/DP’s who have to write a screenplay to convey their vision to colleagues and potential funders in order to make their own film, versus those who are writing a screenplay just to get past the development readers?

The rule of thumb for spec scripts is that the writer, even if the writer is a director of photography (DP) or DP/director, should not include camera angles or camera direction in the script. Potential investors and production companies are interested in the bottom line: Will this movie make money? They are interested in reading a well-crafted and good story. Generally, these readers are not interested in your unique vision in terms of how you intend to shoot each scene. That rule is for a spec script; the shooting script will contain camera direction and numbered scenes.

Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker Susan Kouguell teaches screenwriting and film at Tufts University, and is chairperson of Su-City Pictures, a motion picture consulting company. Visit www.su-city-pictures.com ; www.su-city-pictures.blogspot.com.

You can follow my Su-City Pictures, LLC Facebook fan page and SKouguell Twitter page to receive more Savvy Tips about how to write, structure, and sell your screenplay.


Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker Susan Kouguell teaches screenwriting and film at Tufts University, and is chairperson of Su-City Pictures, a motion picture consulting company. Visit www.su-city-pictures.com ; www.su-city-pictures.blogspot.com. You can follow my Su-City Pictures, LLC Facebook fan page and SKouguell Twitter page to receive more Savvy Tips about how to write, structure, and sell your screenplay.