Richie Cunningham – Say It Ain’t So!

My letter to Ron Howard came back marked REFUSED in bright red with red slash marks all over the envelope. Wow.

The most likely reason is that whoever saw my letter assumed it was an unsolicited screenplay query letter and sent it back unread for legal reasons. The reasoning behind it is sound. The method is abhorrent.

As I said in my earlier blog, each letter is sent with a Warning sticker on the outside, saying the letter contains a fan letter and autograph but does NOT contain a request to read my screenplay. Clearly they didn’t read the label carefully.

For legal reasons, I have had a few letters – that really were unsolicited submissions – returned as refused. NEVER in bright red slashes. This was intentionally vicious; not the work of someone simply protecting the production company from unfounded lawsuits of “stealing” screenplay ideas.

Clearly, Opie himself did not get a hold of the magic markers and start slashing away like a manic child. But you have to wonder – does he know how his secretary or whoever is responding to his mail – his FAN mail, no less? If I thought for one moment that my assistant was treating anyone, no matter how low on the Hollywood ladder, with anything other than kindness and respect, s/he would be fired faster than you can say “Go to the back of the unemployment line, be-hotch”.

Even if a production company does not (understandably) accept unsolicited material, there are much better ways to respond to a hardworking Wannabe who is only trying to break into the business. I have sent out thousands of query letters and can probably count on one hand the numbers of responses that have been mean or rude. The vast majority are kind and respectful. One company sent me a form letter regretting that they are unable to read unsolicited material, wishing me all the best, and hoping that I would soon find another company to represent my work that would make their company seem shortsighted. Thus, this company protected themselves from any legal repercussions, while still treating me with dignity and respect.

I looked at the Imagine Entertainment website, and there seems to be no contact info. Some companies are just so big and so important, that they don’t need anyone to contact them, I suppose. They have no use for Wannabe actors, writers, etc. So, I suppose there is no way to let Ronnie know what is being done in his name or to find out if this is the way he really wants people to be treated.

If so, shame on him.

I’ve also sent some autograph requests to some of his former coworkers, including Andy Griffith, Tom Hanks, and Henry Winkler. Let’s find out if they have more class.

Sigh. What would The Fonz say??? Not cool, Richie. Not cool.

The Great Wannabe Autograph Project

I would rather get a rejection letter than nothing at all. For the most part. Most rejections aren’t the “I read your novel/screenplay. I hate it” type. They are more like “The idea doesn’t interest me so I’m not gonna read it in the first place” or something even simpler, like “our development slate is full” or “we don’t take unsolicited material”. No big deal.

I send out a lot of query letters to producers, agents, publishers, editors, etc. These letters take an awful lot of time, effort, and expense, so it can be frustrating to be completely ignored. Besides, it’s fun getting mail! Even a rejection. To me, a letter from a producer is like a scratch-off lottery ticket. You don’t know what you got until you look at it. It can be fun and exciting, even if you ultimately lose.

An empty mailbox is just straight disappointment. NO fun at all. And really annoying when you send them a preprinted, stamped rejection postcard where all they have to do check off NO and toss it back in the box. The idea of all that postage just going into the trash is irritating.

Right now I’m in between query letters. I sent out all the queries I could for several scripts (one of which is under option right now so I can’t query for it anymore anyway – wahoo!) and I am in the middle of writing another script, which won’t reach the query letter stage for a while now. I still want some fun mail – something to look forward to!

SO. I got the idea to send out a copy of my Wannabe Pride flyer – (just a little ad about the site I put together to post different places, send to college career centers, etc) – to famous people to try to get some cool autographs. I figure I have a decent shot at getting some of them returned to me signed. It’s not like a glossy 8×10 photo of a celebrity that I could ultimately sell and profit from. The Wannabe flyer only means something to me, so maybe they will realize my sincerity and autograph it. Cool celebs like Tom Hanks might actually sign it and send it back – even if it takes months or even years.

So far I’ve sent out about 30-40 handwritten letters with a copy of my Wannabe flyer asking people to give me their autograph and an inspirational “Don’t Give Up” kind of message on my flyer. Think it will work? Who knows?! But it gives me something to be excited about and to check the mail for every day. So far, I’ve sent out letters to various people, like screenwriter Callie Khouri, Ryan Reynolds and Shia LaBeouf (two of my favorite actors!!), Carl Reiner, Julie Andrews, Oliver Stone, the four hysterical guys from the Big Bang Theory, all the current members of SNL, and amazing soundtrack composers like Bill Conti, Alan Silverstri, and Thomas Newman.

I have included a SASE with each letter, of course, along with a warning sticker on the outside of the envelope (I also do this with my query letters to Hollywood, and let me tell you, it WORKS. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments from producers for succeeding in making my letter stand out from all the other Wannabes). The label for my fan letters says WARNING: Letter from a Wannabe. Contents: Sappy Letter and Autograph Request. Does not contain nuts, dairy, or a request to read my screenplay.

It’s been just under a month since the first letters went out. Stay tuned to find out if my little project works!