Tuesday, October 02, 2007

How do I get an agent?

This post is for the Noobs who've been lurking and never comment, the ones who just wrote their first screenplay and don't know what to do with it.

All over Wordplayer like once a week somebody new comes in to ask "How do I get an agent?"

They've written one screenplay and don't want their effort to go to waste. Now it's time to make some money, and they've heard that the only way to get your script sold is to get an agent. So, how do you get an agent?

Beats me. I don't got one.

But I've been through the newbie process. First you finish your script. Then, even though everybody says you shouldn't because your script probably sucks, you try to get it out there. You're an exception. Your script is awesome. So you buy a copy of The Hollywood Representation Directory and you query every agent in it. And shock of shocks, nothing happens.

Stupid Hollywood. Nobody knows talent when they see it.

Your script may be awesome but it's probably not good enough to pass all the other, more awesome scripts hundreds of people just like you are trying to put out there.

So you submit to a contest. Some contests are legit - Austin, Nicholl, a handful of others - but most don't get you very far. They take your fees and give you some software and send you on your way.

So you move to LA. Eventually you have to. People break in without it, but it's like eight million times harder, so you really should move here. Join us. We're all in this together.

Then you meet people. It's easy to meet people. As long as you're not a social pariah you'll be attending screenings and bumping into influential people in no time. Personally, I almost never turn down an invitation, which is why I have friends all over this freaking city who are involved in the Industry in various ways. It also means people keep inviting me because they know I'll always say yes and bring the fun when I do. When I first got here I was a bit intimidated, but when I realized that even successful filmmakers are also human beings I stopped being a wallflower and started entertaining. Don't be a shrinking violet.

Let's see how many more flower cliches I can think of.

Anyway, that doesn't mean you get to meet them at a party and immediately pitch your script. That's not very classy and turns most people off. You have to make friends in the industry, then, when you've written three or four or more scripts and you totally understand what you're in for, start asking politely if your friends can help you.

But DO NOT under any circumstances send out a script that isn't ready. You shouldn't need to gild the lily to sell it. Have trusted friends who know something about scripts read it and give you advice. Join a writers' group and let them rip it apart. Because if you hand a mediocre script to your best contact you have just blown that opportunity. That's what I did. I had a very cool guy offer to pass my script to his management firm and I was in such a hurry to use his offer that I sent him a weak script. He was very nice about the rejection, but doesn't really want to waste any more time on my scripts. I wish I'd waited to give him something I was truly happy with.

You can also try getting a job in the Industry. PAs are all over LA; I know at least eight of them. Today they're assistants, tomorrow they're something more. It's shit pay and a slave's hours, but it's the first step to getting where you want to go.

Personally I can't handle the paycut. Instead of being a PA I made a solid short film. Now, when I go to parties, I have something tangible to offer when people ask me what I've done.

But this all takes years. Sometimes a decade. Sometimes more. Don't try writing a movie because you want to get rich quick. Ain't gonna happen.

And even when you think you have great scripts and plenty of contacts and a job in the Industry and you don't understand why you still can't get an agent to look your way, go back and read about Bill Martell's trials and tribulations with the great agent hunt. He's made movies and they still won't give him the time of day.

Don't wait for an agent to find you. Go out and make your career happen on your own. It's gonna be hard work.


  1. But what about my rose tinted goggles?

  2. I'm a noob who found this through a great writer (dave o) in Suffolk. Your insight is appreciated. The "a" word gives me chills.

  3. Great post, Emily.

    -danny boy (off to put more glitter on his title page ...)


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