Screenwriting : A true Catch 22 by Michael D. Lancaster

Michael D. Lancaster

A true Catch 22

I don't have an agent. Last year I sent out query letters to major producers for my screenplay - Ringling. Almost all were returned and I bet every screenwriter knows why - they don't accept "unsolicited material." I certainly understand and I was really excited when Martin Scorsese asked his manager Chris Donelly to hear what I had. Unfortunately I made the big mistake of giving him the treatment instead of the script (I had just finished a read of my draft #1 of the script and was nervous that it wasn't ready). They passed, by my heart still beats a little louder when I re-experience the moment. I have been fortunate to be able to get producers through networking to request the script when we have mutual acquaintances. Recently, however, a producer working for a [giant name] production company asked me if I had an agent. When I told him I didn't he replied "when you do have one I want to read "Ringling." The name Ringling goes a long way and is a hook for a pitch on it's own. HERE IS THE PROBLEM: every time I approach an agent they tell me that I need to have had an optioned and or produced screenplay before they will consider taking me on as a client. It's a real dilemma: no production no agent/ no agent no production. I would like to hear from screenwriters how they have been able to break through this barrier and get an agent.

Richard "RB" Botto

Michael...Been awesome speaking to you the last few days and learning more about RINGLING. Can I ask why you are going after an agent first and not a manager?

Michael D. Lancaster

Thanks for asking Richard. Only because this particular producer asked if I had an agent. Actually a friend here in Santa Fe who has been working on Longmire has a mentor who is a manager and he has put out an inquiry to that manager on my behalf. I am looking for someone who can get me in the door. The right door. I have had some good mentors in writing, but I really don't know how the business works. I have read numerous articles, blogs, and books. However, it still seems that I need to have the right things happen at the very right moment.

Richard "RB" Botto

I would definitely seek a manager first. You want someone that is going to help guide you and put you (and your work) in the best position to succeed.

Michael D. Lancaster

Thanks RB - since your last reply I went and read 5 new blog posts on the subject. I see where you are going and it makes sense. Now how do I...?

William Martell

1) I second Manager. 2) I have had meetings at every studio with probably most of the production companies on the lots without an agent or manager. Queries can work.

Sue M. Swank

This is an interesting thread...I too cannot seem to snag a manager (forget about agent LOL)

Michael D. Lancaster

I do have a query before a manager. In my recent exploration I discover that managers often act very differently than an agent, but can do what an agent does. I still don't have any real direction on an approach. Will it mean anything to a manager that a really important production company is asking me to get an agent or representation?

Erik Linthorst

More to the point, I would question going out with a query before you have a finished script. Nail the script, then shop it.

Dan MaxXx

^^ agree with Erik. Nail the script. I don't have a Manager/Agent and I sent my script to a Top 5 Agency in LA. Their website/company policy says 'NO UNSOLICITED SCRIPTS...." blah, blah, blah. Read in-between the legal lines, "NO UNSOLICITED SCRIPTS... unless it's good." that's Hollywood!

Michael D. Lancaster

Yes - thank you Dan & Erik. I have now written writer's draft 4 of the script. I am happy with it - however could work again and again rewriting. My mother was a 20th Century master portrait painter. She used to say there comes a time when you need to put down the brushes and walk away from the canvas.

Michael D. Lancaster

I forgot to mention what helped me was that failure with Martin Scorsese's manager. I went back and reread my script and hated it. I decided I needed to loosen up - somehow. Then it hit me: I had come up with a log line for a horror movie. I sat down that week and began writing it. The title - INK. Log line: One day in Nogales a young TV intern goes on the most violent adventure of her life when mutant flesh eating insects attack tattooed people. I had a blast! It helped me to loosen up - esp because Ringling, my family story, had been over 30 years of my life - in the making. I just let go and had fun and explored and found my voice.

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