Reader and fellow screenwriter-blogger David Anaxagoras is taking a class from the estimable Mike Werb, who recently brought in David Lubliner and Ken Friemann of the William Morris Agency to talk about agents, managers, and the business of representation.
Mr. Anaxagoras was generous enough to share his notes from class. Since “How Do I Get an Agent” is my number-one most avoided question to answer on this site, I thought I’d take this chance to comment upon some generally excellent advice:
Ken stressed that you should get as many pair of eyes to look at your script as you can, and that the eyes you want are in LA — so move out to LA. Search out managers, lawyers, assistants, creative execs, young directors — anyone who might have a connection and can pass your script along.
Two good points rolled into one. First, never be afraid of showing your work. Put it in the hands of everyone you meet, no matter what their job in the industry. Even these readers aren’t in a position to help you at the moment, one day they will be. Or they’ll know somebody who knows somebody.
Second, move to L.A. Yes, technically it’s possible to become a working screenwriter while living in Boise, but it isn’t likely. L.A. is film what Nashville is to country-western music. You just can’t avoid that.
Often, a good script will not sell. That’s the norm. New writers will get meetings off their script, and should look at it as an opportunity to open doors and build relationships.
I’d amend that to say “most good scripts will not sell.” Don’t look at screenwriting as a lottery ticket. You’re trying to build a career that will last decades. Building relationships with people who love your writing is much more important than a six-figure sale.
New screenwriters should expect to sign up with junior agents. In fact, Ken says it is imperative to sign up with a junior agent. Find someone who is passionate about you and your work and who has a vested interest in advancing your career — and thus their own. An established agent with high-powered clients has little at stake in your ultimate success or failure. Find someone you can grow with.
Yes. You want to grow up with an agent. An agent in his mid-40’s with top-tier clients isn’t going to hustle for you the same way a junior agent in her early 20’s will. More importantly, that agent won’t be having drinks with all the junior execs around town — the guys who oughta be reading your script.
Writers are often asked “what else do you have” in meetings. Ken recommends writers stick to the same genre or something similar until they are established. It’s just too much for Hollywood people to wrap their head around a romantic comedy, a period drama, and a horror pitch all in a short space of time. Remain relatable and help the agent to help you. Earn the right to write different.
Don’t worry about being pigeon-holed until you actually have a career. My first two paid jobs were adapting kids’ books, so I got sent a lot of other kids’ books. It was annoying. But I was working, which is a lot.
Ken let us know that a screenplay has a short window of opportunity once it goes out, and that if it doesn’t sell, writers need to learn to let go and move on. They can’t live off the hope of that one script forever. Instead, they need to keep producing new material. Keep writing — don’t sit around and wait for the sale or the next assignment.
Amen. This is very hard advice to take, because you’ve no doubt poured your heart and soul into those 120 unsold pages. Hopefully, you’ll get great meetings off that script. But don’t expect that one day someone will say, “Hey, we should really buy this old script that’s been sitting on the shelf.” From experience, I can tell you that it doesn’t happen.