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12 Tips for Writing Cold Query Letters Using IMDbPro

How to be a screenwriter

by Liam Kavanagh.

For those of you who like to cold query, here are some tips that I’ve accrued in a few months of doing so on IMDbPro.

Not cast-iron, just what I’ve seen results from. I’ll be starting with a few obvious ones.

1) Check the filmography. Make sure you’re emailing someone who makes the type of stuff you write.

2) Make sure they at least seem able to make what you’ve got. If they’ve only made 2 shorts in 10 years, they’re not likely to be much help.

3) Make sure they’re active. If their last produced work was in 2000, they might not be in the market for something new.

4) Narrow your search by the CompanyMeter rating. It reduces the potential for duplicate queries and helps sort the wheat from the chaff budget-wise.

5) Set targets to finish on. I go by CompanyMeter rating again, eg, from 1000-900 in a given session. This is another way to avoid double posts and seeing the same entries again. Of course, ratings change so be careful of this.

6) As you go through the list, look for entries with branch details or main office addresses under the name. These are the ones more likely to have useful contact info. Blank ones are usually dead ends.

7) Avoid using the company email where possible, unless there’s a name or an assistant handle on it. If It just says info@bigassfilms.com or similar your query is very likely to end up in a spam folder.

8 ) Where possible, get the email of an individual on the staff list. If it’s company-specific okay. Personal is better, but in all cases be sure to mention where you got it from. It seems to soothe a person’s mind that you’re not stalking them or someone else for an in that way.

9) Be sure to email the BEST ACCESSIBLE individual. Some cases there will be only one entry in the staff list and so your hands are tied. But if there are more, the Head of Development or Creative Executive is more likely to reply than the CEO or actor/company founder. These are also more likely to have individual emails on their page, since the higher up the chain you go, the fewer information honchos who don’t want to be bothered will give out. Assistants might be worth it on occasion if the company is big or if theirs is the only contact, but mostly they’re in no better position than you to get stuff seen.

10) When opening a page, do so in a new tab. Opening in your current window shoots you back to the top of the list when you click back, meaning lots of useless scrolling (you may be able to change this in settings, but I don’t know how and this way works fine.)

11) In your query, I’ve found you get a better response if you sell yourself first rather than the project. I sent many emails with a single project logline along with my details and got nada. Read requests came only after I removed the logline and asked if they would like to see some work, followed by my accomplishments.

12) This is most important: THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS TO ALL OF THESE. As I said above, none of this is cast-iron. There will be times when a good rating yields no details. Where a CEO has their personal deets up. Where a company is inactive but is looking for what you have. Or where you make a judgment call and throw a letter to a company for the hell of it. All I can tell you for sure is that the things described above yielded responses for me.

Happy Querying!

Liam Kavanagh is a freelance writer from Ireland. A 2017 Austin Film Festival Script Contest Semifinalist for his feature thriller LOCKED IN, Liam has most recently written for Irish children’s’ series MYA GO, produced by Piranha Bar Studios and broadcast on RTÈ Television. He has also contributed articles to Bang2Write and Writesofluid.

You can follow Liam on Twitter: @LiamKavanagh17