S-E-X Tips for Screenwriters – How To Get In Bed With An Agent

Now here’s a question from a writer that I feel is best suited to my esteemed and ever so blunt colleague, Dr. Paige Turner.

Shoot from the hip Paige.

B.E.

 

Dear Dr. T.,

There’s only one thing in the world that I want, need, dream of night and day. One thing that will make my life complete. One thing that will make me a success.

An agent.

Paige, please tell me how I can get an agent of my very own.

Best,

Ari Longing

Dearest A.L.,Uber agent Ari from "Entourage" with TWO phones!

You are not alone.

Countless writers believe that landing an agent is the Holy Grail of the screenwriting business.

“Oh, if I only had an agent, life would be perfect.”

HOW TO GET AN AGENT: The best way to get an agent is for someone inside the business to recommend you to an agent.

A vicious conundrum, yes?

But not an impossible quest. (Plus read to the end for a one-of-a-kind short cut!)

Here’s how:

1) Do your homework.

If this is your chosen business, educate yourself on the players.

The Internet offers countless ways to learn about who is working in the industry, their studio deals, their projects, and their staff, plus all the contact info you could want provided you’re willing to pay a few bucks.

Bone up on who’s doing what. Read Variety, The Hollywood Reporter or Deadline Hollywood for information on new deals, new projects, executives with new jobs and newly promoted agents and execs. Check out info on who is selling what to whom on the Scoggins Report and Go Into the Story.

Pony up some cash to get up to date, specific contact information.

Check out the Hollywood Screenwriting Directory, a book updated annually.

Thirty bucks gets you, “Over 2,500 listings for Industry insiders such as studios, production companies, and independent financiers, this targeted reference book features verified contact information, including phone numbers, and street and email addresses as well as crucial details like whether they accept unsolicited material and how they prefer to receive submissions.”

Or sign up for IMDb Pro and have “up to date contact information for over 200,000 people working in the industry as well as full client and company contact lists completewith representation information”for $149.99 per year.

2) Aim low.

Hunt for people who are hungry. They need you! They’re looking for you. They’re starving for that great idea or talented new writer. Be the needle in the haystack, Grasshopper.

You have the best shot with newly minted development execs and assistants eager to become dev execs, as well as agency assistants hoping to become agents. They have the most to gain from “discovering” you or your project.

Don’t make the mistake of only going for the Big Fish. He’s not hungry. Know what their boss likes – whether it’s from reading about their projects/sales or interviews with them, and pitch that to them.

3) Aim carefully.

Target your query letters specifically to them. Know what their boss/company likes – whether from reading about their projects, sales, online interviews or job announcements – and pitch that to them. Do your homework!

If you find the hungry exec at a production company where the company principal, aka 3000 lb. Gorilla, might be interested in your project, they are THE perfect person to get you an agent. Asking the right person to read your script can lead to asking them – or them offering – to get you an agent.

4) Heading for happily ever after.

Young Exec gets points for finding a potential project and a promising writer. Since she has been busily building relationships with new agents who are moving up the ranks side-by-side with her, she knows Eager Agent who needs clients. Young Exec offers him a known quantity, not a script that was just “thrown over the transom.” She’s pitching the agent a writer she thinks is talented, possibly with a project that’s already getting some traction.

It’s the film industry version of matchmaking.

If Eager Agent and Aspiring Writer “hook up,” Young Exec is everyone’s darling. She will likely get a little special consideration: an early look at Aspiring Writer’s next project, and will be “on the list” when Eager Agent goes out with Aspiring Writer’s next spec. It’s a win-win-win. This is how career-long industry relationships are cemented.

I was fortunate enough to work as a development exec for writer-producers Bruce Evans and Raynold Gideon (Starman, Stand by Me, Mr. Brooks) early in my career. They landed their first agent when she was a young agency assistant. They stayed with her for decades while she became a mega agent at CAA until she left to run a production company for a 3000 lb. Gorilla.

5) Work With An Agent In Captivity: A tantalizing special offer for my loyal followers!

My gal pal, Barri Evins, is teaching her Big Ideas Screenwriting Intensive in San Francisco, July 25-27, 2014. $395 per person includes a year of mentorship with Barri, worth thousands! (Priceless in my opinion.)

Read more here.

To register, email signup@bigBIGideas.com.

Include the code “Paige Turner” and save 20%. That’s Eighty Bucks baby.

This seminar comes with a one of a kind opportunity – have a former LA Lit agent listen to your polished pitches and offer feedback on the marketplace and advice on how to move your project forward.

Here’s a little inside scoop on our mystery guest:

Jonathan Westover, if indeed that is his real name, became a literary agent when it was the only job made available to him while in the witness relocation program.

Jonathan is a native of, let’s say…New England where he barely survived the New England prep school circuit, “Hi, I’m the new Jew.” He attended college, allegedly, outside of Chicago at Lake Forest.

After enjoying one too many winters on the north shore of Lake Michigan, Jonathan was once again relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area. After discovering that he was enjoying life too much there, his hateful and sadistic case officer enrolled him in law school at Loyola University in Los Angeles. After working at several agencies, both literary and talent, Jonathan landed as a literary agent at the Gage Group.

After two decades in the Hollywood literary trenches, Jonathan decided to reclaim his anonymity and disappeared. Rumors are that he is currently back in the Bay Area and occasionally reading scripts and manuscripts for friends.

You might say Mr. Westover revels in the mysterious.

I can’t promise that I, Paige, will make an appearance as well, you know how demanding my schedule is, but I have heard that there is beer and wine, plus pizza and popcorn at the Saturday night film screening…

Now that sounds like a sexy way to nail down screenplay structure!

 

Dr. Paige Turner

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