August 9, 2016

6 Essential Tips for Landing an Agent or Manager

Not sure where to start? Here are some guidelines to help you get skin in the game. 

[Editor's Note: No Film School asked Seth Blogier to share his experiences trying to find representation with an agent or manager. The following are his words.]

You’ve put the finishing touches on a script. You're feeling good—good enough that you're thinking about what's next. But unfortunately for us screenwriters, the journey is very far from over. As we’re all in the business of getting things made, what to do next can often be as much of a challenge as breaking the first act of your script. 

From my recent experience with a TV pilot script that’s garnered a good amount of interest, I can safely say that a script’s lifeline relies on getting it into the hands of agents and managers to acquire representation. 

Screenwriting is one thing, but navigating the world of representation and executives is another. I’ll outline here some of my experiences hustling around town and explain how I got it in front of the right people. Since I’ve been running around like a madman trying to get my script read by as many of the “right people” as possible, a lot of what I have to say pertains to trying to sign with representation as a TV writer. (Although most of this could also work if you have a more commercial feature idea that would be more likely to find a home at a proper studio.)

It’s not a bad idea to re-read your script every 2-3 meetings just to stay fresh. 

If you have a ready-to-go feature that’s on the indie side of things, that’s a different game. An indie script can often get funding and go into production with a whole creative team of unrepresented artists. That being said, if you have a pilot (or feature) that could get you representation, here are some tips, tricks, and musings I’ve picked up over the last couple months. 

'The Eyes of My Mother,' dir. Nick Pesce, co-produced by Seth BlogierCredit: Magnolia Pictures

1. There is no silver bullet

There are a variety of ways one can end up with representation. With your finished script, you’ll often enter the vicious cycle of needing an agent/manager to get it in front of the right executives, and needing the interest of an executive to get it in front of agents/managers. The gist: at the end of the day, you need to catch someone’s attention. The best way to do that is to go big from the get-go. When you sit down to write your script (which for the purposes of this article you’ll be writing on spec), go as big as your mind takes you. Don’t worry about budget, cast, scope. Go for it. Cast all the A-listers you want in your mind while you write. Set this story in a world where you’ll need at least $100 million to make the damn thing. The more you let yourself go, the better chance you’ll write something that piques someone’s interest. All you need is that one young manager or agent to take a second look at your script and call you. Use your script as a signal of your talent first; then, once you’re signed, pivot to actually selling it. 

2. Don't do anything until you're ready

It may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but it’ll be your best friend at the end of the day. Have a full package ready for your script. Either for a pilot or a feature, this should include some sort of pitch book. For a pilot, this book should lean more towards a series bible that outlines your start-to-finish vision for the show. For the people on the top, a good pilot isn’t enough. They want to see that you’ve thought beyond that one episode and, at the very least, through the end of the first season. You should know your script inside and out. This may also seem obvious, but when you’re on the meeting trail, you can easily reach a point where it’s been a while since you’ve actually read your own script. The reps you’re meeting with have recently read the script, so they may ask about small details in the story that could have slipped your mind in the whirlwind of meetings. It’s not a bad idea to re-read your script every 2-3 meetings just to stay fresh. 

Sit down and make a list of everyone you think might be able to help you. Reach out to them. Don’t hold back.

3. Have no shame

When you have your script in a place you’re proud of and feel like it’s ready to make the rounds, sit down and make a list of everyone you think might be able to help you. Reach out to them. Don’t hold back. This could be a friend of a friend of a friend’s cousin who happens to work in the mailroom at CAA. Get their email and send it over to them. Get your script out to a range of people—some you’re close with who you know will help you, and others who are in good positions in the industry who you don’t know as well but hopefully will help out. There’s no point in being reticent in sending your script out because you really don’t know who will end up helping. At worst, you just won’t get an email back. 

'Abigail,' dir. Matthew James Reilly, produced by Seth BlogierCredit: Cannes Film Festival

4. Assistants are your best friends

Finding a rep can often feel like knocking down wall after wall to finally get a "maybe" from the person you’ve been chasing for months, but knowing an assistant at any of the major agencies or management companies is worth its weight in gold in terms of getting you in the door to meet the boss. Think about it: assistants, whether a close friend or a distant acquaintance, are the ones who have the most access. They have the ability to pass along your work to their boss with the recommendation that you’re worth taking a look at to sign. Assistants are the first line of defense between you and the folks who have the power to change you from aspiring screenwriter to a repped writer. And more often than not, assistants more willing to read scripts, especially if they’re interested in getting promoted themselves for making a new discovery. 

5. Don't be afraid of the "D" word

As writers, we can often be put off by the notion of putting a script into development, which has a nasty rap in the industry as a potential graveyard for scripts. It’s become increasingly difficult to get a script—TV or feature—out of the development phase and into production. That being said, if you’re an up-and-coming writer, development execs can also be your best friends, as they are a direct pipeline to getting repped. If you get your script in the door at a production company or studio and impress the development team who end up wanting to option your script, then you’re made. Any time there’s money involved in a script option, you need someone repping that specific deal. That leads to getting set up with an agent who will represent that specific deal for that specific development exec to get the rights to your story. This, in turn, can lead to full-time representation.

6. Be careful with your follow-up emails

It’s always such an accomplishment to finish a script. Unfortunately, the game has only just started, because now you have this whole chess match of navigating the industry side of things. It can be intimidating, but have fun with it. At the very least, you will meet some interesting folks, even if they don’t end up representing you as a writer. It’s important to be aggressive during this process. But keep in mind that there’s a fine line between being aggressive and being annoying. Don’t put anyone off by constantly checking in with emails. I usually abide by a two-week email rule; I will check in after that if I haven’t heard back.

Be thankful for everyone helping out, and put yourself out there as much as possible. Taking risks can really pay off here. Most importantly, if you believe in your script, keep pushing forward with it. There will be a lot of rejection and even more radio silence from people you thought would be a sure thing, but if you keep hustling, some good luck will break through.      

Your Comment

6 Comments

Good advice, but gotta be careful.

Had a friend of a friend do this, which is basically the traditional way of getting an agent, and didn't hear back. Year later he was at blockbuster(this was about 10-15 years ago) and sees his movie on the shelf. He had it copywritten, but they changed like three things and made his movie without him. This happens to a lot of people including the original writers of the matrix, yeah the W sisters didn't come up with it. Most big ideas are usually stolen from someone else because they send it out naively like you suggest. Unless you already have an agent, I wouldn't send it out like that to faceless people. I wouldn't even let people know the premise if it's good, unless it's a close friend.

August 10, 2016 at 10:30AM

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I don't want to say that's ridiculous...because it's crazy. It is waaay riskier and more expensive for a studio to backtrack and pay out damages for stealing a script idea, than it is just to option a script and work with a writer. Keep up the hustle writers.

August 10, 2016 at 3:54PM

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Scott
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Maybe so, but it happened with The Matrix and Terminator.

August 10, 2016 at 4:10PM

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Dantly Wyatt
Musical Comedy & Content Creator.
709

The Matrix was never proven to be stolen. No evidence was ever supplied and the lawsuit terminated. https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/sophia-stewart-matrix-lawsuit/

Terminator wasn't a stolen screenplay. It was a premise of an episode of an old, filmed TV show called The Outer Limits. This was ruled in favour of the author, Harlan Ellison. The biggest, high profile case of a script proven to be stolen was for Coming to America.

Personally, I say forget trying to hustle for an agent. Do your thing, shoot your own stuff, and only get one when they start coming to you.

September 8, 2018 at 10:33PM, Edited September 8, 10:41PM

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Batutta
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Studios/agents get sued all the time, and they steal ideas all the time. If you are just sending out your script like the article suggests, this can happen and don't fool yourself it happens all the time. I would never send any of my scripts out like that until I have an agent to protect me. You can't just skip steps and expect the best.

August 13, 2016 at 10:03AM

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Always, always, always have an lawyer send out your script to anyone unless your WGAW agent sends it out! Contact the WGAW for their signed agencies. Even if you know the guy that cleans the toilet at CAA don't send it out. If you live in a smaller town, grab the divorce attorney at the end of the street. Anyone with a law degree. 99 percent of worthwhile people in LA will not take a script unless it comes from an agent or attorney. If they'll take it without representation- DON'T send it out. Of course your script is registered with the WGAW and the Library of Congress so I need not ask.
Been there, created a hit TV show without money or credit and am now wiser and a member of the WGAW.

August 11, 2016 at 1:05AM, Edited August 11, 1:05AM

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William Scherer
Writer/Director/Producer/Fine Art Aerial Photography
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