Thursday, March 17, 2005

When Hollywood makes me Depressed...Again

Yet another website that has recently popped up on my radar is Query Letters I Love . A blog which has been up and running for about six months now, it is run by a Hollywood insider who posts query letters that he/she receives and find so ridiculous or horrible that they've been compelled to share them with everyone over the internet. For those of you eager to learn another dreadful Hollywood fact of life, allow me to introduce you to the Query Letter. Query Letters are sent in by poor bastards (aspiring screenwriters) who have no representation (aka agent or manager) but are trying to circumvent the system by selling their script to a production company. This is one of the old catch-22 situations. You need an agent in order to shop your work around in Hollywood, but it is quite difficult to get an agent unless you've gotten some sort of recognition for your work. The Query Letter is a brief summary or "pitch" of the screenplay that the poor bastard has written. It is his attempt to pique the interest of the jaded movie executive in the hopes that the exec might call the poor bastard up and ask to see the script. This is of course a highly unlikely scenario because almost every single production company and studio has a strict policy against unsolicited materials, meaning they won't even touch something unless its been submitted through some sort of representation, be it agent, manager, or lawyer. The caveat being that this is "for the protection of everyone an their ideas" but the bottom line is that it exists so the poor bastard/aspiring screenwriter can't sue the company later on for stealing their idea.

There is a nonsensical legal document called the "submissions release form" which most companies also have, though God knows exactly why. This document ostensibly allows the poor bastards/aspiring writers who have no represention to submit their work any way, as long as they sign this legal document, which basically dissolves any power they might have over their creative property. The reason that I call this document nonsensical is because never in the six years that I have been around entertainment offices, have I ever seen an unsolicited submission that has gone anywhere, release form or no release form. What usually happens is this:

Poor Bastard/aspiring writer calls company.
PB: Hi, I'm following up on a query letter I sent?
Assistant at Company: Hold on, let me transfer you to someone who can help you.
(Assistant transfers PB to intern)
Intern: Hi, I hear you sent in some materials? What agent was it from?
PB: Oh, I don't have an agent...
Intern: Have you filled out one of our submission release forms?
PB: No, I-
Intern: Let me mail one out to you.
PB: Ok great.

The sad reality is that one of two things will ultimately occur. Either the query letter and release form will disappear into some vortex under the assistant or interns desk. Or without so much as a cursory glance, the assistant or intern will send the poor bastard a standard rejection letter from the company stating that the PB's idea does not really fit into what the company is looking for right now project wise.

I don't purport to be a seasoned industry veteran, but in my short time, I have seen enough disposed Query Letters to fill a town garbage dump. On a good day I can read these letters and laugh at how ludicrous they are. But on a bad one, I think about how some poor bastards hopes and dreams are being tossed into a trash heap. For whatever reason my mood seems to be matching the grey hazy skies of Los Angeles this morning. I find myself depressed by all the efforts of poor bastards everywhere being laughed at by thousands on the internet. I am aware that I offer my own film critiques on this blog, but generally speaking my analysis target well established and successful members of the Hollywood movie making machine. Regardless of my rambling tirades, they're doing just fine. There's something that seems excessively cynical about mocking those who have not found any measure of success, and might just remain thwarted hopefuls forever. The poor bastards are being kicked when they're down.

Perhaps the most ironic thing of all is how many of the letters could actually be Hollywood blockbusters.

For instance:

"A Navy SEAL, elite member of the world's fiercest and most highly trained force, thought he was prepared to take on any duty no matter how perilous or impossible...until he tried baby-sitting. Assigned to protect the five out-of-control children of an assassinated scientist working on vital government secrets, the Navy Seal is suddenly faced with juggling two outrageously incompatible jobs: fighting the bad guys while keeping house. Replacing his usual arsenal of wetsuits and weapons with diapers and juice boxes, he not only must battle a deceptive enemy but wrangle a teen rebel, a sullen 14-year-old, an 8-year-old Ninja-wanna-be Lulu, as well as 3 year-old and an infant. Not to mention their off-beat Romanian Nanny."

Wait a minute, this sounds awfully familiar....

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