Posted by IQ Member FSUWriter in the forums
Short answer: I have no idea. There is no set way to do it. I called agents on a list. Others knew people who recommended their work to Agents. The key here, and remember this, is that you have to show the Agent that you have the potential to make money.
And that means showing them you have credibility in the business.
Yes, of course, you might find that Agent who responds to the material only and wants to take you on because they believe in your creative potential. In fact, I like to think that there are more of those than we want to admit.
But Agents (like most people in this business) are looking for someone else to validate someone first. If you have a script that has won some contests, that helps. A recommendation from someone in the business helps as well. Something that says to the Agent “See, I’m not the only one who thinks I’m hot stuff!” And, as always, get involved in projects and seminars.
Another very very important thing is to network. Many new Writers go the route of finding a good Manager first. A good Manager will have relationships with credible agents and can get you a meeting, if not outright representation. However… the problem is finding a good Manager.
They are out there, but there are also many scams. Managers are unregulated by the Guilds. Anyone can claim to be one and tie you down with a contract that gives you little option if problems arise.
But let’s stay with Agents for the moment. What if you do get a meeting? What should I do or know to get a good one? Okay, this is not really a list of what makes an agent good or bad. It’s just a short guide for helping you find the right agent for you.
First of all, for all the newbies out there, lose the awe!!! People who are new to the business tend to have an “awe” factor when they meet certain people. Mostly with people who can hire them, like Producers. But it extends to Agents because, even though we all know the truth of the matter, we think of ourselves as being hired by the agent, not the other way around. An agent “takes us on,” implying that they have the power of decision here. And, for a newbie, they do. But you have to lose that feeling of inferiority around them. Because if you don’t, you will forgive anything they say and never ask them the questions that you should. I don’t care if you are meeting the newest Agent in the company or the established 60 year pro, you have every right to ask any and all questions you desire. And you have every right to demand answers. And, most importantly, you have the right to turn them down if you aren’t comfortable.
What??? Turn down an Agent? But. . . . But. . . Do you know how long it took me to get this one? I’ll never find another!
Your work and perseverance got you there. It can do it again. And, if it didn’t get you there, then they want you for the wrong reasons.
Okay, what questions do you ask? Ask who they represent. They may want to be close mouthed about this, but you have every right to know.
How many clients of your style/type do they have? Do they represent any Producers or Showrunners who could hire you or read your work?
Do they have good relationships with the studios and networks?
Do they return your phone calls within 24 hours? (very important, but you have to make sure you don’t abuse the privilege)?
Do they pay for copying or is that expected of you? (most agencies I’ve been with will do that for spec TV scripts, but expect you to provide screenplays)?
Are there any fees associated with this relationship? If so, walk. By WGA rules, Agents cannot ask for any upfront fees. They make their money on commission after you have been paid. No matter how it’s couched (office fees; postal fees; handling fees; etc.) it’s unethical.
Are they WGA franchised? (Duh! If they aren’t, move on. They don’t have the connections, no matter what they say.)
Are you to be handled by one agent, or by all? It used to be you had one main agent and the others helped out. The new way, apparently, is for you to have a contact Agent who works one particular area. The other Agents divide up the town. The good thing (so they tell me) is that the agents all can establish more intimate contacts with the studios and no one is stepping on the other’s territory. However, the problem, as I see it, is that I know that MY agent has an intimate relationship with me. I feel confident that he can answer any question about ME that might come up. One of the other agents and the studio wouldn’t be able to do that. They could only push my resume’ across the desk and tell what they were told. And, besides, they’ll be pushing the people they handle individually. I don’t like this, but it is the current wave.
Why are they interested in YOU? They had better mention your work. Quiz them on it. Find out if they really read it.
What do they expect YOU to bring to the table besides your work? You have to work as hard as they do, maybe more, but they have to know you are willing to do what it takes. You are partners in this, you don’t expect them to carry the entire load while you wait at home for a phone call.
What is their strategy? If you are a new Writer, acknowledge that getting you started will be difficult. They should have a plan. Again let them know that you are willing to do what you can to contribute.
How quickly do they read scripts? The best answer is overnight. But most will say they take a stack home on weekends. That’s good enough. Don’t be afraid to ask those questions. If they get offended, then LEAVE.
You’ll be asking them tougher questions as a client. And don’t accept half answers. People starting out are so anxious to get an Agent that they accept half and non-answers. No, no, no. Anyone who gives half answers is hiding something.
Here is an important word to repeat when you don’t get a straight answer to a direct question: Nixon.
Also, when you find out who their clients are, call one or two and ask them what they think of their agents. Then, if you can, find out who has LEFT them and call them. Believe it or not, you won’t always get people who are unhappy. Many times clients leave for other reasons. Some may even say the agency was great for getting them started, but they went to another level and wanted that level of representation. Others will say that it just wasn’t a good match. That happens.
Now, there are also some things that you have GOT to keep in mind with this search. Keep in mind that Agents have a different perspective than you do. Art versus Business. They are more concerned with the latter and only concerned with the former as it facilitates the latter. You are not the hottest Writer in Hollywood. Not yet. And even when you think you have become it. . . you aren’t. (important hint: you never will be). You don’t suddenly become someone new with your Agent.
If he signed you on because he has faith in your one-hour dramatic writing, don’t suddenly tell him you want to be a sit-com Writer. Agents feel safer when they can pigeon-hole your writing into a specific genre. It makes it easier to market you when you are starting out.
You are not the ONLY Writer in Hollywood. You are the only Writer who has your particular talent, but most people don’t make that distinction.
Your agent doesn’t have to be your friend, but you do have to be friendly with each other. Be professional at ALL times.
Be professional at ALL times.
Be professional at ALL times.
If they return your phone calls promptly, give them the same respect. There are MANY agents in Hollywood and saying “no” to any of them is not going to ruin your career. If you decide not to go with an Agency, try to call them and tell them before they call you. Or, at the least, write them a thank you letter and explain that you have decided to move on. Why? Because it’s PROFESSIONAL.
There are many people who go at it without an Agent. I would say most in that position probably started out with an Agent and got to a level where they didn’t want or need one. Some, a select few, never had one. In Television, however, it is almost mandatory. I hope this helps a bit.
© 2009 – Steven L. Sears