Following Up On Your Industry-Bound Screenplay
f you’ve been asked to send your screenplay to someone, be it through an industry contact, a networking effort or a pitch event, congratulations! Getting your screenplay requested is always a great moment. Considering that your #1 job as an aspiring writer is getting your script read, getting your script out there is the most effective thing you can do for yourself. But once your script is out there… Don’t abandon it! It’s important that you follow it through, from initial send to the response you will – one way or another – get.
Many writers email their script out, then sit there, biting their nails, waiting for a response back as weeks and months pass. The reality is that unless your screenplay is read and liked, it is entirely possible that you will not hear back from the exec. Because of this, it’s important that you follow up on the work you sent; make it easy for Mister Executive to keep you posted, either way. If months have passed and you’ve neither heard back from the executive you sent the material to, nor followed up to make sure the material’s been received and inquire about whether it was read, it is likely to assume the executive forgot that it was ever sent, and is instead now focusing on material more pressing on their virtual desk.
So what’s the correct etiquette when getting your script out there?
When you initially send your script, remind the executive of the context within which it was requested. If the relationship is a more friendly and ongoing one, and you’ve had a number of conversations concerning the material, you need not supply a logline, but rather go with a more casual “this is the sci-fi action piece I told you I’ve been working on.” However, if the material was requested during a pitch event or more formal scenario, make sure that you include the logline in the email to effectively jog the executive’s memory. Unless the relationship is a familiar one, make sure not to send your script in on a weekend, during off hours, or on an ever-busy Monday. You want to give it the best chance you can to get read. Some executives will email to acknowledge they received the script; from others you will receive little more than crickets.
Once two weeks have passed…
Send a polite, respectful email. If the executive did not confirm that they’ve received the script, double check with them to ensure that it’s indeed in their virtual hands. If they confirmed, let them know you’re checking in to see if they’ve had a chance to review the material yet. Either way, thank them for their time and consideration, and let them know that you’ll be looking forward to hearing from them.
Two more weeks and no word?
Time to send another email, inquiring as to whether they’ve had the opportunity to review the material you sent. Whether or not the executive confirmed two weeks prior that they’ve received the work is irrelevant; operate as if they have. Send them a short, 1-2 sentence email, reminding them the date on which you originally sent the material, and inquiring whether they’ve had a chance to read it yet. If you’ve submitted to them through a pitch event, you may opt to include the logline here one more time, in the hopes that, if they’ve not read the script already, it will stimulate their interest.
And three more weeks pass yet again…
It’s now been seven weeks since you’ve sent in the material. If you’ve not gotten any response from previous communication, nothing through which the executive let you know that they’ve received the material but have not been able to get to it, chances are, I am sorry to say, your screenplay is either not going to get read, or has gotten read but failed to stimulate interest. While many wish an industry executive would give them the courtesy of a “pass”, the reality is that NO is one word people just don’t like to say. They’ve either read your work and have nothing constructive to say, but don’t want to offend you in case the next script you churn out is great, OR other material came in while your script was waiting to get read which pushed it down the priority ladder, until it fell off entirely.
If you have been receiving updates from the executive, follow up one more time, 2-3 weeks later. Hopefully, they will give you the courtesy of a response, but it is not guaranteed in any way. If 10 weeks have passed and they’ve not said anything about the material… Chances are that, regretfully, that is you answer right there. No in the industry is silence over time, as Bill Maher’s staff writer Chris Kelly said.
Important to remember
Always be as nice as possible in any communication you send. Sure, you’re getting frustrated, deflated, annoyed, but keep that under wraps. This is a professional scenario; a professional exchange. Even though the executive on the other end is not responding to the work (or to you) as you had hoped, this is a contact you likely don’t want to burn. While everyone appears eager to read in the moment, you never know what’s going on in their world: Are they wrapped up in production? Is it TV staffing time, and they’re trying to get their current writers out there? Is there something personal going on? You never known, so not making any assumptions is usually the safe bet.
The good news?
If you’ve sent your screenplay out and received response from the executive that they are so sorry for not having been able to read the material yet, they will likely communicate with you even if your screenplay is not for them. You just have to stay on top of it, sending in a check-up email every 3-4 weeks without fail.
Remember, industry executives are stretched thin. They have material and demands coming at them from every which way, which is why they don’t always have time to respond back, specifically to people with whom they don’t already have a pre-existing relationship. The important thing is to continue to appear professional and on top of things. This way, even if they don’t take time to read your current script or respond to your emails, they may just be receptive to, and proceed to respond to, the next.