REAL LIFE TALES: HOW I GOT MY AGENT
As discussed elsewhere on this site, getting that first agent happens differently for everyone, and that very fact -- the lack of a clear path toward representation -- can feel frustrating, like you're preparing for the day you'll be ambushed in the woods by the magical unicorn, but you just don't know when that day will be so you're feeling rather foolish packing unicorn snacks in your backpack each day. (It feels JUST like that.) We've amassed some real life tales here and you'll notice common threads. Here's an interesting bit from Angelina Burnett that applies if you live in LA or anywhere with a thriving film community:
If you foster relationships based on mutual interest and respect and enjoyment ie real friendships - opportunities for you all to help each other out will present themselves. I'm sure there are folks who've done this through a more cynical, business card, industry mixer approach. But I don't recommend that. You need a tribe, a community. That's how you survive this business with out losing your mind, soul or both. And someone in your tribe will be able to get you an agent.
I had a play up at a tiny theatre (self-produced), and invited a bunch of agents. One guy came and we talked after. A year later he got me my first TV assignment at Northern Exposure! - Meredith Stiehm, creator COLD CASE, producer HOMELAND
I was an assistant at Disney (in the Buena Vista Motion Picture Group) for 5 1/2 years. After writing many screenplays I didn’t like during this time, I wrote a very personal, dark script loosely based on my experiences as a child of divorce. Writing this one felt different, and the end result was far better than my previous attempts. So I started giving it to people, including someone who had left his assistant job at Disney and just started a management company.. They took me on as a client based on that screenplay. - Ann Cherkis, writer BETTER CALL SAUL
I sent a query letter to a newly promoted agent at Broder (back when there was a Broder) and he actually responded! I included a list of all the producers/directors I knew from various jobs and internships. I thought this would make it clear that I had insiders who could “vouch” for me. After speaking with him, I sent him a sample. He read it and called me in for a meeting. Then, the impossible happened. He agreed to represent me. Hooray! Victory! I walked out of that meeting on cloud nine and then he never returned my calls. At this point, the producer/director Thomas Carter took pity on me. I had been Thomas’ assistant. He did something I probably never would’ve done: he basically bugged an agent at ICM to death. He called her incessantly, imploring her to read me. In order to get him to stop calling, the agent read my samples and agreed to sign me. But I was skeptical. I had heard this before. Because of my first experience at Broder, I didn’t truly believe she was going to represent me. She literally had to tell me, “Look, I have the ring. I’m serious.” And she was. She got me a meeting with on CSI:NY which led to my getting my first script. - Erica Shelton Kodish, writer THE GOOD WIFE, COLD CASE.
My current agent and I were assistants together early on in our careers. I was an assistant to a director/producer and he worked for my boss's agent at UTA. Years later, I was assisting someone who was rep'd by CAA where [my former co-worker] just been promoted to the TV dept coordinator. We reconnected, he asked to read my stuff... Around the same time I had a new spec that I was sending around to anyone willing to read it, hoping for a referral or an endorsement or a job or notes or anything at all that felt encouraging -- as one does. One of those folks was also a CAA client who dug the script and sent it to his agent. I slid rather effortlessly into what I believe would be considered a "hip pocket" relationship though that term was never used. My newly-promoted-to-jr-agent-former-assistant friend would set meetings for me, more [senior} agent would give me five minutes of advice. Eventually, I got my first job through a connection that had nothing at all to do with my agent, and everything to do with the relationships I'd cultivated over my years as an assistant... Everyone's gonna find their own path to representation, the only universal advice I can offer is cultivate meaningful relationships and work hard on your craft. And I don't mean network. The only business card you need is a good script. But you do have to create opportunities to meet people who work in film and tv. If you foster relationships based on mutual interest and respect and enjoyment ie real friendships - opportunities for you all to help each other out will present themselves. I'm sure there are folks who've done this through a more cynical, business card, industry mixer approach. But I don't recommend that. You need a tribe, a community. That's how you survive this business with out losing your mind, soul or both. And someone in your tribe will be able to get you an agent. - Angelina Burnett, writer HANNIBAL, THE AMERICANS.