I’m always amazed those times I’ve looked in the Craigslist writing/editing section, or the tv/film/video section (yes, I’m guilty) and found subject heads that read like this:
AGENT NEEDED FOR UP AND COMING SCREENWRITER
WRITERS AGENT/MANAGER WANTED FOR TALENTED FILMMAKER
Okay, people. NO. It’s never gonna happen. Not like that. Trust me—agents don’t go trolling through Craigslist looking for their next batch of Coppolas and Spielbergs. Not even the crappy ones. Not even the guy who was bagging your groceries last week, then went and hung a shingle over his garage reading AGENT this week… If anything, be hopeful there aren’t any agents on Craigslist trying to sell a couch who accidentally click on your post, and god-forbid, remember your name… It will HURT you.
But I understand the frustration. I toiled for years without representation, and there comes a time when you’ve just finished a script and are reading back over your own work when it hits you like a brick: “Wait a minute. I’m friggin’ GOOD at this. It’s about time I got myself an agent, and started getting PAID for this!”
And that’s the catch. Agents and managers are not interested in writers who have not ALREADY been paid, or are DAYS away from their first serious payday. The current climate in Hollywood is so difficult, that I know writers with produced films and several paydays under their belt who STILL don’t have an agent. It ain’t pretty.
So what do you do? Well, the first thing newbie writers need to understand is that the only path towards legit representation is through a bonified REFERRAL by a client or producer that already works with that agent or manager. And even with a referral, many reps are turning down new clients these days simply because the clients they already HAVE are not working like they used to.
But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Fortunately, with the advent of the world-wide-internet there are now COUNTLESS screenplay contests and festivals online, most of whom assure their winners and runners up quality read-time by Hollywood agents and/or production companies. And while the contests may be daunting, there are so many now, that if you write a good script, it really does have a solid chance of rising to the top and standing out from it’s competition.
What’s more, there are so many PRODUCTION COMPANIES now, that many are willing to accept unsolicited screenplays—which is unheard of in ol’ Los Angeles. These tend to be low-budget horror or soft-core film production companies, but if that’s your genre, there is serious opportunity, here.
And finally—time is on your side. The very best way to get a top talent rep is to STOP THINKING ABOUT IT. Write good scripts, and write a lot of them. Over time, you’ll meet more and more producers, either in person if you live in a big city like LA, or through contacts you will make online or simply through dumb luck. Trust me—luck happens. The first lit manager I ever met sat down next to me on an United Airlines flight to New York—and while he didn’t end up signing me, we are still in touch, and connections such as this one have opened serious doors for me.
Personally, freelance producers and upstart film and television companies have most helped my transition from amateur writer to semi-professional (see the post: What the hell is a Semi-Professional?). These people tend to be closer to my age (30) and are at a similar place in their careers. I’ve met them through large, open-door pitch sessions, at film festivals, or through sheer luck. Smaller companies and hungry new producers are more willing to read unsolicited material, and to take a new writer more seriously. They also know they won’t need to pay you as much (or at all), and this fits nicely into their business-model. But that doesn’t make them illegitimate—all big, bad-ass production companies were once newbies trying to make their mark on Hollywood, and if they like you (and yeah, I guess your writing, too) those same little companies will bring you and your scripts along with them on their rise to industry domination. All the breaks I’ve got—pilot sales, referrals to managers and agents, placement on TV shows—have come from associations with these small, hungry upstarts.
The last thing I’ll say is NEVER mail your scripts unsolicited to producers or companies which have not expressly asked for them. It’s not just that they won’t read them—most employees are legally required NOT to read unsolicited works for fear that you might sue them for intellectual theft if their company releases a similar project in the future. And to make it CLEAR that they haven’t stolen your work, these companies are required to physically return any script that is mailed to them, or delete any PDF. And this is a PAIN IN THEIR ASS. They won’t like it. And they won’t like the person who added one more silly task to their already busy day…
If you're hungry to get a script out to a particular company or producer, and don’t have a rep to make the connection, find a contact’s email address on the web (most can be found with diligence) and send them a friendly note asking them if you may send your script, along with a brief synopsis. If they say YES—you’re in! They’ll send you a materials release to submit with your project. If they say NO, or don’t return the email, wait a few months and try again. No one ever said you can’t break down doors—but if you want it to work, you’ll need to do it with great patience and respect.
Crap! Why am I in this business again?
Oh, yes—because making movies ROCKS.