Dearest Dr. Turner,
One thing that will make my life complete.
There is only one thing in the world that I want, need, dream of night and day.
One thing that will make me a success.
Please tell me how I can get an agent of my very own.
Help me Paige!
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.”
Here’s the short answer, although I’m not certain it will leave you satisfied.
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.
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 what new companies are looking for and what buyer or buyers they have relationships with. These articles are a wealth of information. And information is the currency that agents deal in. Information is powerful because it leads to sales.
2) Invest in your career.
Pony up some cash to get up to date, specific contact information such as with IMDbPro.
They offer a free 30-day trial and then the option of monthly or annual plans. It is a veritable gold mine of information on individuals, companies, projects past and in pre-production, plus trade articles that have even more scoop. There is in-depth contact information. There are even blogs on how to make the most of the information, such as How to find entertainment industry professionals I want to work with?
3) 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.
4) Aim carefully.
Target your query letters specifically to them. Know what their boss/company needs – 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.
5) 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.
The Win-Win-Win is the Number One Secret to breaking into the industry.
There are lots of steps that go into making The Win-Win-Win happen, and the time to start is yesterday! Do not wait until you’ve completed a script to start building relationships. Find all the scoop on how and why to network to pave the way for your own Win-Win-Win in my article, The # 1 Secret to Getting Read & Getting Ahead.
It’s essential to be in the know about the specific politics and etiquette of the industry as you build relationships to avoid any mistake or blunders. Read up on the inside jargon and pointers in my article, Inside Screenwriting Industry Politics to master the strict yet unspoken rules you must navigate to survive and thrive.
Without meaning to shatter your dream entirely, I must add one more thing.
A.L. are you sure you need an agent?
Maybe you need an entirely new perspective. First, check out this video “Be Your Own Agent:”
Trust me, A.L., it’s empowering.
Second big thought: Perhaps you should focus on getting a manager first.
Many writers find this to be an easier, more accessible path. A good manager will guide your career, read your work and give feedback, offer invaluable advice on what to write next, and yes – they will recommend you to an agent when the time is right!
Not to blow your mind with this suggestion. All of these practical pointers apply to meeting your Dream Manager. Until then, find out how you can make the all important decision, “What to Write Next” here.
Ooh, it’s getting late Mr. Longing, I’m heading to bed.
Wishing you sweet dreams!