How do I contact somene I don't know and not come off like a weirdo?
February 9, 2011 1:17 PM   Subscribe

I recently went to a film screening and Q&A. I didn't go to the mic to ask one of the panelists my question. How would I ask it now?

There was only time for a few questions, and those were for the film's director and one of the actors. Once the event was over, no one got a chance to come near them, as they were whisked away into a car and gone in minutes (the director is a well-known B-list TV and film actor).

Why didn't I leap forward to the mic at the get-go? Most of the people at the screening were very young film students, while I am well out of school. I thought I could find out how to contact the man later. Also, I wasn't looking for a sound-bite answer, since what I want to know is how he was able to switch gears from being a performing musician to being a writer/producer. He's not a kid and neither am I, so I could use some advice from someone who's made the mid-career leap.

I Googled his name and found his contact email via his website. He's also got a Facebook page. Then I thought, I've never contacted anyone cold before. I don't know anyone who knows him to smooth the way. Would approaching via email make me a creeper? What would I say?

So there it is: It's OK to send such a person a note with a question, yes? And what could I say in any note that would mitigate creepiness?
posted by droplet to Human Relations (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes, email is fine. Mention that you were at the event, enjoyed the movie, are a fan of his work, etc. In other words, suck up a little. Then ask your questions, and tell him that you really appreciate him taking the time to read your message.
posted by decathecting at 1:21 PM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yes. You're over thinking it. Tell him in a note, I saw you at X event, and I'd like to ask you a few questions about Y.
posted by pyro979 at 1:21 PM on February 9, 2011

It's not creepy to send an email. Or send a letter, enclosing your contact information. Just be professional; you may be overthinking the whole thing. Type it, send it, ignore the lack of responsibility while it floats in the void, and if the guy's half decent you'll have a response before you know it
posted by MangyCarface at 1:21 PM on February 9, 2011

Send an email. It is up to him whether he chooses to answer or not, but there is nothing creepy about approaching someone with a professional question.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:23 PM on February 9, 2011

Especially seeing as he was willing to participate in a panel to discuss his professional career with strangers! It isn't your fault that other attendees took up all the airtime.

I mean, he might not have the time or energy or inclination to get back to you, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying "I saw you at Event X and had hoped to ask you this question."
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:25 PM on February 9, 2011

I have a dangerous lack of awkwardness, so I do this sort of thing all the time. I almost always receive enthusiastic replies. I have never had anybody respond negatively.

In general, I think people are always excited to talk to someone who is interested in their work.
posted by AaRdVarK at 1:25 PM on February 9, 2011


I was at the screening of [film] at [place] on [day]. I didn't get a chance to ask during the panel, but I would love to know [question].

[A couple short sentences (not paragraphs) about your personal situation if you want to include it.]

Thank you so much!


(Now, whether or not you actually get a response depends a lot on how busy this person is, if he actually sees his emails or has someone prioritize and filter them for him, or if he's a douchebag and thinks you're too unimportant to talk to.)

Good luck!
posted by phunniemee at 1:25 PM on February 9, 2011

"Hi--I was at your Q&A at XYZ on 123--I really enjoyed the film. I didn't get a chance to ask my question before time ran out, but I was wondering how..."

I did PR for a while, and saw lots of correspondence from the public. Be prepared not to receive an answer, but depending on how B-list this person is, s/he may take the time to reply. Yours isn't a creepy question, but its the kind of question not everyone will have the time or patience for.

All you can lose is the time you spend writing a thoughtful (BRIEF) email.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:27 PM on February 9, 2011

Everybody has it right, but in case you're still overthinking it, here's some (light) math for you.

I won't say that the number of people who like to talk about themselves is 100% -- but the number of people who don't like to talk about themselves, and especially their artistic/professional endeavors, is so close to 0 that the odds are entirely in your favor.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:29 PM on February 9, 2011

I get emails like this from time to time, and I'm usually flattered and happy to respond. I've given detailed information about my work, advice about my field, and even done some networking to help fans who sent cold emails that struck me right. For maximum success I recommend that you be friendly and respectful, say how much you like the person's work (but don't gush), take a sentence or two and introduce yourself, and ask a question that can be answered in a paragraph or less. And remember to say thanks.
posted by milk white peacock at 1:49 PM on February 9, 2011

You know, I feel your pain. I once saw UCB's "Martin & Orloff" with Ian and Matt attending and I didn't take the chance to ask them how they dealt with sketch vs. long form writing.

At the extreme end of neurotic about this kind of thing, I've been known to kind of "pack" the subject line of the resulting email: "Un-asked question from Blah Blah Festival attendee" ...just to be as up front as possible with people who might have little time for strangers.
posted by rhizome at 2:01 PM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

If his contact info is floating around the web, then sure. If this guy didn't want strangers getting in touch with him, he would not have his personal email address listed online. (Though I suppose the one you found could be through his publicist or just a dummy account he never looks at.)

Another good way to do this, if the person has a facebook "fan" page that you can tell they personally interact with, would be to ask it on the facebook page.
posted by Sara C. at 2:18 PM on February 9, 2011

I've been known to kind of "pack" the subject line of the resulting email: "Un-asked question from Blah Blah Festival attendee"

Good point. Subject lines are HUGE, particularly when it's a stranger making contact. Make it INFORMATIVE and clear. And don't waste much time in the body of the letter explaining things either, just:

1. I saw you speak (place, time, situation)
2. I didn't get to ask a question that I feel you are uniquely positioned to answer.
3. Here's the question ...
posted by philip-random at 2:24 PM on February 9, 2011

Twitter is also great for stuff like this if a) the person in question has an account, and b) your question doesn't require a long answer. I once asked Duncan Jones, director of Moon, if I'd spotted an upturned cutlery tray in the set design for the space station's hibernation pod—he was kind enough to confirm this was the case, and chat for a bit. Twitter works well for this sort of thing as a reply doesn't require much commitment or effort from the other person.
posted by hot soup girl at 4:18 AM on February 10, 2011

Thanks, you guys. every single response here has been helpful.

It would help to remind myself that folks like him are other people and I needn't fear them, right?
posted by droplet at 8:31 AM on February 10, 2011

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