HOW TO GET AN AGENT
This page relates deeply to the piece about the beginning of your career. The pre-career. In that piece we talk about how hard it is to stay focused and motivated when you aren't yet seeing reward for your efforts. Getting that first agent (or manager) happens during that period. It doesn't mark the end of your frustration and toiling in relative obscurity either, because there's typically a year after that relationship forms before you get your first job. During that first year, your agent has to work on getting you read (sending your material out), introducing you to the people who will eventually champion you for jobs (via general meetings), and help you polish your samples for the marketplace and/or staffing season.
Just getting to the point where you have an agent or a manager is tricky because there is no one way to get there. Hear the good news and the bad news in this statement: THIS IS THE HARDEST STEP IN YOUR CAREER. It's a moment that happens differently for each writer -- the moment where a rep reads your work and decides to add you to his or her client list. The moment of opportunity is like Platform 9 3/4 in the Harry Potter books -- not visible until you have earned the right to be there. And like an space on the train to Hogwarts (god, I'm really going there with this nerd-aphor) the opportunity is elusive and random precisely because the process is designed to keep the pool "elite."
We don't like elite at Women Scribes. It has too many icky connotations. So, we'll share as many Real Life: How I Got My Agent stories as we can. And we'll tell you what you can do to prepare for the moment the Platform appears.
Let's start with Liz's story: I moved to Los Angeles six months after college graduation. I did not personally know anyone working in the entertainment business, but had majored in film and had a couple phone numbers of alumni whom I could call and ask for advice. One of these people told me about spec scripts. So that was helpful and I started to write them (in Word, doing my own laborious formatting because obviously I couldn't afford Final Draft.) I did temp work through a temp agency and eventually became a full time assistant at an internet streaming company for dough and health insurance and for a year my work had absolutely no relationship to the entertainment industry. Then, finally, an alum who had an overall deal with his partner needed an assistant, called my professor for some recent grads' names and I got my first job.
As their assistant, I worked at a small studio. I got to know other assistants and the executives who were making movies there. Finally, one of these executives said he knew I wanted to be a writer (because I told everyone! because I wrote like mad and read as many scripts as I could at my desk!) and that he would read my script. This was my Platform 9 3/4 moment. Like Harry Potter (shut up, I've come too far with this metaphor) I had to be invited. You can't get presumptuous and ask busy and important people to read your work and put them in the awkward place of telling you no. You have to show them the respect of letting them come to you if they so desire. So, this was my door opening. I gave over my writing samples. The exec read them and referred me to his younger brother who had just started a management company with his buddies. They were ridiculously young and inexperienced. But that's okay because I was, too. The brother signed me (they still rep me today), and then sent my work to the agents he had relationships with. One of those agents signed me ( a female, it should be noted!) And it took me a year to get paid work as a writer, and during that time I continued to work as an assistant.
Lessons from my story: 1) it's important to be in Los Angeles or New York if not a smaller industry hub like New Orleans or Chicago --- proximity to the business means these kind of opportunities. 2) You can't actually control when the moment of opportunity will happen, but you can be ready with your writing samples. 3) Don't be shy -- put it out there that you are going to be a screenwriter, and show you are serious about it by letting your "tribe" of friends and like-minded co-workers (tm: Angelina Burnett) see you working, and read your diligent rewrites.
If you can't move to Los Angeles -- family obligations, financial situation, etc, etc, we get it! -- don't despair. In this digital age there are more opportunities than ever to secure representation remotely (in success you will travel frequently for meetings.). You should do the following, Off-Site Screenwriter: enter screenwriting contests, pitch fests, put your script up on The Black List. Most importantly: scour the internet for management companies who represent screenwriters and email query letters. Your query letters should be polite, professional, concise and include the LOGLINE for the script that is your baby, your passion. And if and when you get a response and are able to send in your script, make sure it is great (see all our other posts about writing, about notes, structure, etc etc.) Once the manager associates your name with a subpar sample, there's no reversing that.