Screenwriting : Why isd finding ab agent so hard? by Doug Nelson

Doug Nelson

Why isd finding ab agent so hard?

questioAnother n I hear screenwriter ask all the time – so let’s see if we can figure it out, eh? Firstly, screenwriters come in all flavors. Those that write for personal pleasure – those who pen a script and stick it in a desk drawer don’t want/need an agent. The other extreme are those starry-eyed, money hungry residing in fantasy land who believe that an agent is their ticket to the magic wonderland of Hollywood. I see ‘em prowling the strip, butterfly net in hand, trying to capture the elusive agents – to no avail. Agents have radar. Then there’s the rest of us writers somewhere in between. There is a long standing secret in Hollywood that writers are the most important people in town (every story originates from a writer) but nobody admits it – we wouldn’t want it to go to their head, now would we? So what does this have to do with agents? Without writers, agents would be out of work. The truth is that agents are desperately trolling the waters for new talent. Remember too that agents come in all flavors. There a literary agents, casting agents, music agents, film agents (horror, drama, comedy, sci-fi)…on & on. So where do you fid these elusive agents? The bottom line is you don’t – they find you. That can’t be right? Agents won’t accept unsolicited submissions – think about it. There are thousands of writers out there, of all talent & skill level writing scripts in every genre you can think of. How many hours does he have in a day? If you do get your script through the door or over the transom, it’ll go on the slush pile where it may be eventually get read by some intern assigned to a new wannabe agent – or not. You wanna put your faith in that? There are pitch-fests all around the country and even on line. You pay an entry fee so that you can pitch your script to one of those new agent wannabes or to some junior level executive from a production company. The companies send ‘em out to get a little more experience. You can subscribe to some on-line service that will post your logline & stuff. Lightening does strike and these methods do occasionally work (I have personal experience). But the best method I recommend in connecting with an agent is to write the absolute best dam* script you can and flash it around at writing contests and every writing seminar you can get to. (Do your research!) It happened to me that way – at a closing ceremony when some guy I didn’t know came up, introduced himself and ask “Can we talk?” Finding an agent isn’t hard – they’ll find you.n

Bill Costantini

"Why is finding an agent so hard?" almost sounds like a punch line. Because they're hiding from all the writers that are trying to find them? Because they're filing police reports against writers who are threatening them? Because they're too busy getting their other clients jobs in unscripted television shows? Because they're at their therapists' offices, complaining about bad writers who think they're good writers? I think the most important people in town are the "money people". Without them, Hollywood becomes Hollywouldn't.

Dan Guardino

I think it is because there are a ton of screenwriters out there so they can be picky. Also they know it is a lot easier to sell a screenplay written by someone that has a track record so that is who they really want to represent.

Doug Nelson

Yes there are tons of screenwriters out there. Many are what we call hobbyists and a few are upper echelon writers of long standing – these folks aren’t looking for agents. Agents are trolling for that undiscovered talent lurking about in this great sea of screenwriters and frankly, talented screenwriters are few and far between. Think of the castaway adrift on the open ocean, surrounded by water and not a drop to drink. They want to represent/work with a writer whose work they can sell.

G.R. Barnett

LOL I've been asking this question for almost 6 years. I have no idea how to go about finding an agent. I twittered about it once and only got a couple of likes for my question, no advice. I think its sort of like Karate, the secret is NOT talking about it and maybe an agent will magically appear. Seriously, I'm with Bill, it almost sounds like a punch line.

Rosalind Winton

I'm a literary editor/proof reader and I looked into becoming an agent and while I was doing my research, I discovered that it is as difficult for a writer to find an agent, as it is to find a publisher. An agent wants to pitch the best work they can get their hands on, it has to be something that stands out and is very well presented before they will consider pitching to a publisher and I'm sure this is the same for agents of screenwriters. A lot of agents are inundated with work and submissions and won't take unsolicited material, so you have to research the submission guidelines of every agent and write query letters first to them all to find out if they will take your work. Most agents deal with specific genres, so if you've written a Sci-Fi screenplay, you have to search out Sci-Fi agents, there's no point in sending your script to a Sci-Fi agent if you've written a horror story for instance, you have to follow their submission guidelines to the letter and make those letters as professional as possible, don't give them your life story, all an agent will want to know, is who the characters are, what the story is about and why you think your story stands out from any others. If you have to write a synopsis, make sure you talk about the story in the third person and give an outline of the whole story, don't put in quotes or cliffhangers, just tell the story from the beginning to the end and try to keep it to one A4 page if possible. Agents are mostly affiliated to certain publishers and they know exactly what the publishers require and will only take on work that suit the publisher's/producer's requirements. It is a very difficult thing to do, but if you believe your story deserves to be published or produced, keep going and don't give up. The very next door you knock on might be the one that says "yes".

Anthony Cawood

Because they're really good at hiding?

Aray Brown

because they already have a long list of clientele to chose from

Jody Ellis

My agent story: Several years ago, a friend of mine mentioned that a local working screenwriter would be putting on a seminar/workshop at the college. As I was just starting to learn the craft, I decided to attend. After the seminar, I approached the writer and talked to him for a few minutes. I told him I had a couple script ideas I was working on and would he consider looking at them once I finished. He graciously agreed and gave me his card. A couple years go by and I finally have a completed screenplay (yep took me that long to get my shit together) so I emailed him, asked if he remembered me and could I still send him my script. Again, ever gracious, he agreed. Couple weeks later he contacted me, said he loved my screenplay and he was forwarding it to his agent, who called me soonafter and is now MY agent. So it pays to network, talk to people, ASK. The worst thing that can happen is they say no. Now if I could only find my way to a manager, which is really what I need at this point!

Dan Guardino

Jody. Why do you think you need a manager when you have an agent? All you really need is to get your scripts in front of the decision makers and if your agent should be able to do that for you.

Jody Ellis

In my experience, an agent can get scripts in front of certain people (and he has) but their expertise is more in the money end, making sure their writers get the best deal. A manager actually manages your career and opens a lot more doors to actual paid work, as well as giving feedback on improving ones scripts, etc If my agent were a bit younger and more of a go-getter, he might operate in more of a managerial capacity, but he does not. For the most part he gives me some street cred while I continue to seek work. He's a great guy but i imagine I will eventually need a more proactive agent and/or manager.

Dan Guardino

Jody. Personally I wouldn't want to pay a manger and an agent. A manager is only as good as their connections where a WGA Agent can get your scripts read by more people. I can see hiring a manager if you think it will help you but I would keep my agent on just for the credibility factor it gives you if nothing else.

Jody Ellis

Very good advice as always Dan! Thank you!

Doug Nelson

Agents and Managers are two different critters although some of their functions overlap. If you are an entry-level screenwriter, my advice is to follow the Manager path. He/she'll work more closely with you when developing your brand and will help you get in the door at a number of production houses, but their fees are a little higher (in the 15% range). Their access to the very big houses tends to be a bit more limited but once your name is familiar along the strip, then it's Agent time. They tend to work more closely with fewer of the larger houses and they tend to be more genre specific. The agent's goal is to sell your script but not work closely with the writer but their fee are a little lower (about 12%) The Manager will take your script wide whereas the Agent tends to work his own farm. It's a lot more complicated than that, but I hope you get the basic idea.

Jody Ellis

That's how I understand it too Doug, thanks. I've been told a manager will be vested in growing my career. I'm happy I was able to land an agent but I think I defintely need a manager.

Doug Nelson

Jody, just remember that you don't need both at the same time - they may wind up working against each other.

Jody Ellis

You know Doug, I asked an industry friend about that and he said it's not usually a problem and a lot of people have both. Of course, paying both is another story!

Bill Costantini

Crikey - how can having a reputable agent and a reputable manager hurt? Are you guys living in Bizarro Land or what?

Jody Ellis

Bill I am hoping to have both! Like I posted above, my understanding is the agent makes sure you get a good contract while the manager gets you the jobs, and the two normally work together just fine. I had a manager at one point who wanted to see one of my scripts, and requested it from my agent, who had no problem sending it to her. Unfortunately she was not interested in working with me, but we know how that goes!

Bill Costantini

Jody - just looking at the Happy Writers upcoming pitches, the first manager name I see is from Principato-Young. That company doesn't only manage talent - they have been producing celebrated movies and television content for years. Would you like to have one of their managers and their extensive relationships and knowledge behind you in advancing your career, and an agent who negotiates your deals - and especially if you're on one contract that is winding down while seeking another? Heck yes. So for anyone to make a blanket statement that it's not advantageous for a writer to have that kind of power and efficiencies behind them is just ludicrous. (Not you, Jody.) I know there are writers that don't have neither an agent nor a manager, and have their own relationships/networks/ways to get jobs, and who negotiate their own deals. Some people can do it all, and more power to them. I certainly wouldn't mind having a reputable manager and a reputable agent working for me, though.

Michael L. Burris

Because sometimes I'm chicken, sometimes I'm wishy washy and sometimes I would just rather build my own damn company and hire agents. Good materials, well everybody has them doing this stuff long enough. As far as screenwriting goes I'd just rather talk to producers myself. I guess coming down to an agent might be a good thing to do but I think I know audience forces as well as anyone. Do I know what certain companies look for? Sure if I take the time. With all that said people are people and you can't do crap without personal in-person interaction and that is the reality beyond the fantasy of screenwriting. My difficulty might be that I don't want to just screen write anymore. I have to be business minded beyond or parallel to the creative mind and anchoring personal mind. Now with even more said talking this talk is easy but being resourceful enough to walk it is my next challenge. I love screenwriting but that just isn't all there is to the reality of media production of any kind even as a screenwriter. Hey you know what my difficulty is not that I don't want to just screen write anymore but it was.

Michael L. Burris

Oh yeah I forgot when I get some time I'll tell you about my hiatus in a post. You have to drive a wheel of continuous desire and determination never fearing the big dogs. Anyway peace out for a while and good luck to all with whatever endeavor you embark.

Dan Guardino

Michael. I agree you can't do crap without personal in-person interactions because this is a people business. I have an agent and I still make my own contacts and put together my own project. I love screenwriting but I like the other parts of the business just as well.

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