After having a couple of scripts under their belts and having entered screenplay competitions, many writers will start to think about representation. Do I need an agent to make it in the entertainment industry? Should I have a manager by now? Today I'm going to shed some light on what a literary agent does, when you'll need one over the course of your screenwriting career, and how to go about finding one!
What is an agent?
A screenwriting agent deals with contract negotiations, packaging and presentation, and getting assignments for their clients. A talent agent tends to take on clients who have either already sold something, have a real vested interest by someone who wants to make their script into a movie or have someone interested in paying them for their writing. They rarely take on new writers on their client list who are just starting. Some of the biggest agencies in Hollywood include United Talent Agency, Creative Artists Agency, William Morris Endeavor, and International Creative Management Partners.
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What’s the difference between an agent and a manager?
Managers are more likely to work with newer writing talents and take a very hands-on approach to the relationship. They will read your drafts and help develop your scripts, and then they'll take it and shop it around to see if the script generates any interest from production companies who are looking for feature films. Agents can do this as well, but they're mainly about the business brokering side of things.
A screenwriting agent can't be attached as a producer to any projects they represent, while managers can. Managers don't usually negotiate deals, but agents do.
Most writers starting out should be looking for a manager rather than an agent. A manager will help you develop your scripts and provide career guidance, whereas an agent is a better fit for a writer ready to proceed with some sort of deal.
How do managers and agents meet clients?
Go to events like film festivals, participate in writers’ groups, talk to industry people online. Networking can help you meet important industry folk and establish arapport with them.
A literary agency prefers referral scripts from people they trust over cold emails. If you have a manager and they have a relationship with agents, they can then go on to refer your script. Referrals don't have to just come from managers but can also come from producers or even just friends of the agent, which is why networking and growing relationships with people in the industry are so important. You never know who knows who and how a deal can come about. But as a reminder, networking and friend-making should be done authentically. Agents can smell desperation. And many agencies have strict submission guidelines if they allow any unsolicited submissions at all.
- Submissions to Screenwriting Competitions, Festivals, Fellowships
Winning screenwriting contests or fellowships can generate interest in your writing sample from agents and managers, especially if they're well-known contests. Just attending major festivals and networking there can also lead you to meet an agent or a manager, as they'll attend festivals in search of potential clients.
What should I do to get signed?
There are two keys to getting signed:
One, keep writing, keep generating new material. You continuously want to grow and better yourself as a writer. No writer's career path is ever consistent. Impressive scripts speak for themselves.
Two, get your work out there. Enter screenplay competitions and apply for fellowship opportunities. You don’t have to win these, as just placing can be enough to get your script noticed by agents or managers.
Representation isn’t everything
Don't stress yourself out about needing representation for a successful script sale. Focus on bettering your writing. A strong feature script or pilot script will get noticed and unlock all sorts of doors for you. Focusing on your writing means that when you do come across an agent or a manager, they'll be able to see that you're a serious writer with a significant amount of material, and you can take things from there. You don't want to waste your chance at representation by getting in front of a potential manager or agent when you're not ready.
Hopefully, this blog was able to demystify what an agent does and help you consider if you need an agent right now. Remember, stay focused on bettering your writing first. Happy writing!