Why, you ask? Because a good query letter can at least get a producer interested in a script...even if the script stinks. Whereas bad query letter can... well, you could have written the next GONE WITH THE WIND for all we know, but I doubt people would be lining up to read it.
So...let us dissect the elusive art of "The Query Letter." Here is one example from a recent email I received; its author and title I shall keep anonymous.
A group of teenagers try to quit smoking. Told in the style of St. Elmo's Fire.
Sounds gripping, doesn't it? Already I can feel my fingers tingling in excitement, eager to curiously flip through each and every one of the script's pages.
Hey, I don't want to sound mean about all this, but honestly...this is not a query that exactly whets one's appetite. (Though I am mildly curious to see how that St. Elmo's Fire comparison ties into such material.)
Compare that to Dwight Star's submitted query for THE LIST, which ended up being my first screenplay selection for this blog:
Most people have one, the list of things they want to do...or people they want to get before they die. Harvey is the man who can make it happen for you, for the right price. When an old man tries to make amends for the wrongs he's committed, and get out of a business that tore his family apart, he calls on Harvey to get the job done. Harvey may not be the most professional person, but he has one guarantee: the list will be completed.
Harvey doesn't want to be known as the man who takes care of hit lists at whatever cost. That was the old man's business -- when you're cleaning money for terrorists and mobsters alike, you make a few enemies along the way.
But when the old man is on his death bed, Harvey reluctantly agrees tosettle one last score for him. The target's name is Lansky, and he has awide array of foot soldiers and assassins. Trained in weaponry and martial arts, Harvey does what it takes to get the job done -- whether dropping thugs out of windows, crushing them and their motorcycles against walls, or beating them down with a staff. He thinks fast on his feet, and his methods are not always professional.
Tired of being sucked into his father's world, Harvey confronts him, and an argument ensues. Harvey decides that the list is not worth it; unfortunately he has underestimated Lansky and the repercussions are devastating. His brother is attacked and almost killed. By the time Harvey gets back to his father's house to try to make amends, he finds the mansion burnt to the ground and he narrowly survives several attempts on his own life. Harvey and his brother decide to avenge their father and finish the list.
Now THIS query is interesting, not because it's long but because it's well written. Intriguing. I can get a sense of the writer's style, and I like it. It's catchy, and I want to find out more.
With a query letter, you're not just trying to tell the gist of your story, but the style of your storytelling. Therefore, if your script is a thriller, make the query thrilling... If it's a comedy, make the query comic... You get the idea.
Good luck, and keep 'em coming.
And by the way, HAPPY NEW YEAR!