Question from Josh:
I’ve recently been able to get a hold of the personal email address of one of my favorite screenwriters. I have no intention of trying to sell him an idea or get him to read my script – I just want to buy the guy a beer or a cup of coffee and chat. How would you suggest I approach this?
It helps if you can attach a bottle of virtual scotch to your email, preferably this:
Short of redefining the laws of physics by pulling that off, here is more reasonable advice:
* Write something short. This is not the time to post an autobiography. Rather offer your name, explain why you’re emailing, tell them you’re a fan, state your request, say thanks, fade out, the end.
* Write something non-threatening. I would imagine that for most stalkers, screenwriters don’t rate high enough to make it on their list of potential victims, but at least in the world of cinema, try telling screenwriters David Kahane and Joe Gillis they’re safe (20 bonus points for anyone who gets both of those references). I think the phrase you’ll want to insert is, “I just wanted to see if I could possibly ask you a few questions about the craft.” That way the writer knows you have put a limit on your own expectations. By the way, suggesting coffee or a beer in an introductory email could be taken as, if not threatening, at least too assertive. I’d hold off on that level of potential connection until you’ve swapped several emails.
* Write something laudatory. Here’s what you have going for you: Unlike actors and directors, who gets heaps of press coverage and attention, screenwriters – by and large – live rather anonymous, and some would say, disrespected lives. So if you say something like “I wanted to let you know how much I admire your work,” that’s probably a “you had me at hello” moment right there.
Note: If you do have a writer’s personal email address, that could be disquieting to them. You may have to explain how you got that information. This could be problematic depending upon who you got the email from, so be aware you could be messing with other peoples’ friendships.
But on the whole, most screenwriters I know are interesting and interested people; that is they know a lot and are innately curious. Plus writing is a lonely gig. And bottom line, we’re always looking for an excuse – any excuse – not to work. So write something short, non-threatening, and laudatory, and see how that plays out.
GITS readers, have any of you reached out to industry professionals you didn’t know to ask a few questions? How did you approach contacting them? Any further / better advice for Josh?
[Originally posted July 27, 2010]