Tuesday, November 1, 2011

They Already Know You

Last week, I mentioned that I've got my scripts into the hands of producers, managers, a director, and a distributor. Some of you have asked How? Well let me tell you:

First, stop waiting to be discovered. Stop it. If I haven't done it for you already, allow me to Break the Myth of "Breaking In" right here. No rich producer in a power suit is going to find you typing away at your local Starbucks and ask to make your script into a blockbuster.

There's really only 3 ways emerging writers gain recognition from established filmmakers:

  1. Cold Email Queries
  2. Screenwriting Competitions
  3. They Already Know You

I bet you're probably thinking I don't know Jerry Bruckheimer, winning the Nicholl's sounds like a longshot... so I guess cold calling is my only chance, right?

Couldn't be more wrong. Let me break down my experience for you:

1. Cold Email Queries

I did my research on the Hollywood’s top management companies via IMDbPro, The Wrap, The Black List blog, and Deadline.com (generally, agents want a script they can sell TODAY, producers want a script they can greenlight TODAY, and managers are more willing to develop material first).

Within the top management companies, I looked up who represented thriller, action, and horror writers with a good selling record. Through IMDbPro and connections from friends and work, I compiled quite a few of these top/rising managers’ email addresses.

And here’s the basic query email I sent out:

Dear [Manager’s First Name],

My name is Nathan Ruegger, I’m an award-winning thriller writer seeking representation, and I have a screenplay that could be a great fit for you:


If interested, I would be happy to submit. I look forward to your response.

I sent out 30 cold email queries.

2 asked for a read. 1 passed, the other is known for never actually reading it.

I might try cold query emails with a new script, or try querying agents and producers, but you see why I’m not such a big fan…

2. Screenwriting Competitions

I sent out my two scripts to all the best screenwriting competitions and then some – Nicholl’s, Tracking B, Sundance, Austin, Page Awards, Slamdance, Scriptapalooza, Big Bear, Script Pipeline – and I got quite a few snubs, to be honest.

But I placed quite well at Page and Austin this year!

From Page, a manager emailed me with interest in my action script – asked to read my horror script – and passed on it – but he left the door open to submit my next script :)

From Austin, I had the good fortune to visit the screenwriting conference – I was visiting my wife’s family in Arlington, TX several hours away. Since I made Second Round, the conference invited me to roundtable discussions with big-time writers and producers.

I really enjoyed talking with two producers – who I approached afterwards, thanked them for their time, chatted briefly about their films, and asked if they’d be interested in my horror script that brought me to Austin -- and they both said yes!

So, in my experience, screenwriting competitions helped me stand out from the pack and gain recognition among producers as an up-and-coming writer.

In fact, I’ll be applying to more competitions this year with new scripts!

3. They Already Know You

Before sending off my scripts to that manager, I asked some of my USC Film School friends to read my scripts and give me notes – all friends who are also out here in L.A. working in Hollywood as emerging writers, directors, etc. -- and all their notes were very helpful.

Weeks later, I got a call back from one such friend (paraphrasing):

“Hey Nate, are you planning on directing Furious Angels?”

“I’d love to, but it’s such a big budget movie, I’d rather sell it, like that would ever –

“Because I know this director XXXXXXXXXX, he’s got a few studio credits under his belt, and he’s looking to direct thrillers. Do you mind if I send him your scripts?”

I paused, pretending that I needed a moment to consider this, then tried to say in a level tone that Yes, it would be perfectly all right if he sent over my scripts to this big director.


Pleasantly and persistently ask everyone you trust and whose taste you admire to read your scripts and beg for their notes – again, and again, and again.

Make up reasons to get new people to read your scripts:

  • I'm applying to Nicholl's -- can you read my script?
  • A manager rejected my script -- can you take a look and help me out?
  • It's November already. What's up with that? Read my script pretty please.

The only way people in Hollywood will know that you’re a great writer is because you are actively getting your best material in front of people in Hollywood, who now know you as a great writer and -- fingers crossed -- will recommend you too.

Remember, no one fails in Hollywood -- you only fail if you give up.

Don’t give up.


  1. Good post, Nate. Keep at 'em!

  2. I work in development and I don't agree with cold pitches - most will get trashed, if for legal as opposed to creative reasons. Meet people. Take them out for informational interviews. Send them your scripts once the rapport is set. Seek out digital opportunities. Produce your own material.