Desperately seeking Representation
May 14, 2009 12:47 PM   Subscribe

I'm an aspiring screenwriter and I need help finding an agent or manager. Askme, please help!

So I've been writing scripts for several years. I've written ten scripts, seven of which I would show people. I've won some honors (a Gold award in one contest, semifinalist in several others), have had producers interested in one script (They actually met with me, had me do a rewrite, on spec of course, but didn't want to proceed because I didn't have an agent) but I've yet to find an agent. I've also yet to do the big push to find someone (i.e. sending out 300 query letters)

What are your suggestions for finding one? Should I just get the Hollywood Representation Directory and e-mail everyone? Should I mention one script? A few? All of them? I actually put together a "writing resume" which lists the scripts, with a logline, the honors I've won and my screenwriting education. Should I send this out to agents?

There are also many "services" that claim to do this for you, such as Scriptblaster, for example. Are they worthwhile?

Any other suggestions would be much appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
If you actually have interest in a script, you should easily be able to get an agent to hip pocket you because you've done the ground work. The quality of agent you can find to do this will depend on the quality of the producers you have interested.

Calling an agency and explaining your situation ("I'm an unproduced, unrepped writer with a script that [name of producer or production company] is interested in and I need representation...") should get you some interest from an agency. Unless the producers are complete unknowns, you're better off than most non-clients calling them every hour of the day.

As to your awards... unless they're for The Nicholl or Austin, I'd wager they're insignificant to any agency worth being repped by. (And, if they were The Nicholl or Austin, I'd wager you wouldn't be on Ask asking these questions as agents would be calling you already.)

In regards to the "services"... for the vast majority of writers, they're a waste of money (as are most all of the contests). If your script is good enough to get results from these services than it's good enough to get results without them. You just have to know how to get it out there... There are numerous books which address this topic. I'd recommend starting this one.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 1:01 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Download the recent Adam Carolla podcast, where he interviews Bob Kosberg. The show covers this exact topic in great detail, with a lot of good, usable advice for aspiring screenwriters. "They Call Him Mr. Pitch."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:30 PM on May 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've been out of the biz for a few years, but I would highly recommend submitting the best of your stuff to some of the more prestigious screenwriting competitions. But like the comment above mentions, a lot of these aren't really anything notable, so be choosy. Assuming you can get some notice, there are a lot of hungry folks in places like Los Angeles that are always looking for new, undiscovered talent. It's not easy, but I've found that if you're stuff is really that good, someone will pick you up. Honest. Perseverance is key, though.

I used to look at stuff from query letters, but I can't really vouch for how common that is these days. For what it's worth, I'd recommend sending a single logline for a project (or two), and not all of them at once (which always struck me as kind of oddly desperate).

I haven't really looked at Scriptblaster, so please don't take my word for it with them specifically, but generally speaking these services are almost always a waste of money, if not a downright scam.

As mentioned, I'm not really involved in movie development anymore, so this advice might be a little out of date, but good luck.
posted by dhammond at 1:31 PM on May 14, 2009

Just FYI, the deadline for the Austin Screenwriting Comp is the end of this month (early bird deadline is tomorrow).
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 2:06 PM on May 14, 2009

I've worked at one of the big three agencies. A few points.

For a large agency:

Only the top two competitions mean jack, and only if you win, and even then, nothing's guaranteed.

Query letters at my agency had a special filing place - the wastepaper basket; this I learned on the first day in the mailroom. Ditto for unsolicited scripts.

If you manage to get your script to an agent, he will not read it. I repeat - he will not read it. If your connection is strong enough (say, you have a cousin who went to college with the agent and they are best friends), he will still not read it, but he will lie about having read it - what actually happens is that he orders his assistant to read it, and whisper to him the 10 second summary just before his college buddy gives him a phone call. I've witnessed this countless times from a variety of agents.

Once in a blue moon, an assistant will read your script, and love it, and champion it. That happens about as often as a two-headed cow is born.

What is the upshot of this? Approaching a large agency is about as likely to succeed as winning the lottery.

Instead: have them come to you. That's the only way.

How do you do this? Yes, win the top competition is one way. Easier: have some producer want to buy or at least option your script.

You say you had producers ready to go, but "didn't want to proceed because I didn't have an agent." Let me tell you right now, no ifs, no buts, and definitely no maybes: that is 100% BS.

If your material is strong enough, they'll want it, period - whether you have representation or not, whether you live in a cave in Indonesia, or in the heart of Hollywood.

Is your material strong enough? Actually, that's an easy question to answer. Show it around to producers, submit it to production companies, show it to whoever is willing to read. If it is strong enough, you WILL find industry interest. Yes, there will be idiots who will miss the fact that your material is strong, but there are enough smart people in the industry so that truly strong material will find interest. In other words, you want exposure, exposure, exposure. If your material is strong enough, you'll get something out of it - a buyer, or a motivated industry player who will say "this is not what I'm looking for at the moment, but I think it's great stuff - let me arrange a meeting with manager/agent/executive". You'll score. If after a ton of exposure, you're getting no traction, it means your material is not suitable for the industry, period.

Move to Los Angeles. Do you have to be here? No. It just makes it easier to get said exposure. You can make connections at even random parties. Everyone knows someone connected to the industry. Network - and that's easier to do in LA than in Dallas. You may also, rather quickly, come across a manager at a small/tiny management company, sometimes a one/two man shop. If they like your stuff, they'll take you on, and if you grow with them, soon you'll be too big for them and you'll stab them in the back and sell out to the smarmy agent from a big agency.

Good luck!
posted by VikingSword at 6:22 PM on May 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

I didn't get my first agent until I was already hired on a sitcom - go figure. Sometimes you can get the work without an agents help and then representation will soon follow. My "in" was being friends with a comedian who eventually got her own show. Every writer I know with an agent has a different story on how they got repped. The funny thing is I don't know anyone who secured an agent the traditional way, by cold calling and sending cover letters to agencies. Go to LA like VikingSword suggests and make the necessary contacts. Chances are, you won't even have to try that hard. It's an industry town and everyone there wants to find the new "it" kid.

Good Luck!
posted by cazoo at 8:20 PM on May 14, 2009

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