Writing cover letters is terrible. It’s incredibly difficult to talk yourself up in a way that’s both interesting and doesn’t make you sound like smarmy idiot. As fun as it is to read cover letter failures, here’s an example from a guy who managed to nail his. Robert Pirosh, a then-aspiring screenwriter, in 1934 sent out the following letter to every producer, director, and studio he could think of. He landed a job as a junior writer with MGM, and went on to win an Academy Award for Battleground in 1949.
I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave “V” words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land’s-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.
I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around.
I have just returned and I still like words.
May I have a few with you?
385 Madison Avenue
That slick son of a bitch, he sounds like a guy who keeps his fedora on when he bangs. How many martinis deep do you think he was when he wrote that? Five? Six? I picture him pulling his letter out of the typewriter and surveying his own handiwork under a bare lightbulb, swaying slightly and spilling cigarette ash on his Errol Flynn mustache.
Meanwhile, I managed to find a letter written by an aspiring screenwriter in 2013, hastily emailed to a number of studio websites and posted on various college list servs.
Dear Bros and/or Chicas:
I like video games. Righteous ones, with dragons and spells and shit. Gnarly ones, like that one where you steal cars and shoot dudes in the dome and drink a potion. War ones, with Jeeps and capping Russian guys on boats and stuff. At this point I think you can see that I know what I’m talking about. Sometimes I look at my video games and comic books and think to myself, bro, this would make a SICK movie. Why haven’t you made any sick movies lately? Seems liek they all kinda blow nowadays, especially that last one with the Van Wilder guy. I recently quit my job at the Jamba Juice and I own Fight Club on DVD and I would like to write some sick movies for you.
Tuscon Community College ’12
[Picture Credit: Hulton Archive, circa 1935 - Lowell Sherman , the Hollywood writer, producer, director and actor, who worked at RKO Radio Pictures. Via Getty]