After the surprise twist ending to the Oscars, I asked James how I could write about La La Land in this week’s column. Because after it won, and then didn’t win, Best Film, I wanted to talk about a movie that has quickly slid its way into my top 5 movies of all time.
So we came up with a couple of options, but none of them were really speaking to me. That sounds weird. But when I’m preparing this column week to week, I will reject several ideas because they just don’t feel right. Then, occasionally, I’ll use them a couple of weeks later.
Last night, I found a topic that spoke to me and let me talk a bit about La La Land. So a slight spoiler warning for the movie. Though if you haven’t seen it yet, go Google showtimes and go see it now.
I was scrolling through Facebook last week, when I saw an article about La La Land that made me think about it from an angle that I hadn’t considered. Not when I had watched it through the first time.
Then, the same subject was brought to my attention a second time last night. And when that happens, I often realize there’s a topic for this blog in there somewhere.
Through a large part of the movie, we see Mia writing, producing, and then later performing her one woman show, So Long, Boulder City.
To promote it, she sends an email out to everyone who is everyone in Hollywood. And we see the email in question on her screen for a second. In fact, I’m not the first to hit on this topic and someone else grabbed a screenshot of the email in question. (Despite that, James insisted on making his own, higher-definiton screenshot. Some people.)
There are several problems with this email. First off, if she insists on sending a form letter to advertise her play—instead of taking the time to personalize each response to whoever is getting it. At the very least she needs to BCC them so that everyone doesn’t see everyone else receiving it.
Yes, I know there are times where I’m getting an email along with several other people, but at least the sender BCCs it so that I’m not stuck seeing however many other people are also getting it.
Another problem is in the first line of the email. “Dear Sir/Madam.”
Seriously, she couldn’t take two seconds to customize it. Yes, it would have taken her a lot longer to send all these people an email, but by doing that she would have had a chance to have more people come to her show.
No offense, but if I see an email (or a snail mail letter) that starts with “Dear Sir/Madam,” I will delete it or throw it away.
People want to feel like you took the time to find out who they are.
Even if it’s bad news, like, “I’m sorry but your story isn’t quite what I’m looking for in this anthology,” people appreciate that you took the time to acknowledge that they are a person.
It’s beginning advice that you hear all the time when you look into contacting agents and publishers. It’s one of the first things they’ll say when people ask for advice.
Don’t submit a form letter.
So what can you do?
Every year, Writer’s Digest puts out a Writer’s Market. They do a general one and they also do some specialty editions.
Get it, and look at the options. At least page through it at your local bookstore. Some of these Writer’s Market volumes even provide tips for contacting specific markets and agents. This book does your research for you. Make sure your book is relevant to the agent or publishing house. If you’re trying to go directly to a publisher, make sure they take unsolicited submissions.
That was one of Mia’s problems. She knew all these people where the Who’s Who of Hollywood. But she didn’t know what they all looked for in their submissions. She didn’t do her research, and she paid for it.
Most if not all of those emails ended up either in their spam folders or went straight into the trash.
Because like So Long, Boulder City, your work is very much a labor of love. And it deserves its best chance at making it out into the world.
So do your homework so that you can give it its best shot.
Otherwise, you could end up like the end of La La Land. Think about it—the beginnings of that infamous ending start right in the scene where Mia does not observe the basic rules of professional email.