How to Pick the Right Manager For Your Career

Adaptation Nic Cage and Nic Cage
'Adaptation'Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing
Picking representation can feel like a bit of a terrifying prospect. 

Last month, I wrote a piece about getting my screenplay on The Black List without any reps. Well, after that hit on the site and the script made the list, a few reps reached out. It was an amazing feeling. But what followed was terror. 

At this stage in my career, I feel a ton of pressure to pick the right representation. I need someone who can reintroduce me to the town and also help find me consistent work. 

So, how do you pick that person in a sea of people all promising to do the same thing? 

The truth is, I have no idea.

I called a sea of friends, mentors, colleagues, and executives to ask them what I should be looking for. Then, I assembled their advice into this handy checklist of questions and responses. I thought I would share it with all of you to help you when representation comes knocking at your door. 

aaron sorkin advice
Aaron SorkinCredit: Kristina Bumphrey/StarPix/Shutterstock

How to Pick the Right Manager For Your Career

Before we dive in, know that this is all subjective stuff. This is just what people told me, and I think a combination might help you when you're in the same situation. People fire and hire new reps all the time, so whether you're looking for your first or your third, these feel like relevant things to bring up when meeting new people. 

If you're looking for our complete guide to representation, then check it out here

Who has the best connections?

Who knows agents to help cast your ideas? Who knows executives and not only can convince them to meet you, but to hire you? Who knows a diverse array of people across town who will also read your work? 

Much of what a manager should do for you is put you in front of the people who can help you succeed. 

Don't be afraid to ask them who they know and where. Try to get names out of them, so you can research if these people are higher up or lower level. Ask them who they've broken in before and who they know who might like to work with you. 

Screenwriter Nora Ephron
Nora EphronCredit: Next Tribe

Who came with a tangible plan? 

Who comes to the table with a plan that involves tangible steps to not only get your screenplay made, but also for the next steps in your career? You want someone who has a plan, and that plan can't just be you writing specs over and over until one hits. 

It needs to be introducing you around the town, finding assignments you can actually book (even if small), and then planning with you what your next spec should be to keep people interested. 

This is a lot of work, but don't be afraid to ask what the tangible plan is. In fact, every year, you should kick off January with a planning meeting. Get your reps to update you on what the plan is and how far along you've gotten, so you know you're on track. 

Spike Lee on the set of 'BlacKkKlansman'Credit: David Lee

Who gives the best notes or read multiple samples? 

One of the things I'm doing this time around is making sure the managers read more than one screenplay. Sure, they may like the sample you sent out, but do you have other ideas they should look at before taking you on? Do they have enough to understand the kind of writer you are? 

I wrote recently about Hollywood knowing what to do with you. Well, a manager will have no idea what to do with you unless they read multiple things. You contain multitudes. Get their honest feedback on the samples, then tailor this to how they see your career going.

Get them to read a few scripts, and then they should know you and your voice. 

Billy WilderCredit: Writing Cooperative

Do they represent anyone like you? 

One of the little secrets in this industry is that all jobs get offered to the top writers first. But their quotes are too high. They're too busy, or just not interested. That's where this trickle-down effect works. Your manager would say something like, "Well, John August is busy, but have you read Jane Doe?" And then suddenly, you're in a room pitching to people you may not have met otherwise. 

This is not the most important aspect of what a manager brings to the table, but it helps. Also, it helps if they have clients further along, so you know they have the ability to get you there too. It's like seeing them forge a path for someone else, and then knowing they can copy similar steps for you. 

Plus, as we have talked about before, if they have higher-up clients, then it might be nice to meet them and figure out if you could get a mentor

Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Fleabag in 'Fleabag'Credit: BBC Studios

Go with your gut

The last tip here is not a long one, and it's one everyone I talked to told me. Go with your gut. If you like a person and you think they love your writing, then go with your gut. Pick someone you truly think will work hard for you. Never forget, they're working for you, and you pay them 10% of what you make. 

Your gut will tell you a lot. It'll let you know if you trust them and if you even like them. Let that be the ultimate litmus test for how things are going and how you feel about the future with your manager. 

If you have other advice or questions, let us know in the comments.       

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