Saturday, March 14, 2015

How do you get an agent?


This is a repost from four years ago, but it is by far the question I get asked the most so I figured it was worth another shot (since you all did not get agents the first time I posted it).

I wish there was an easy answer. But the truth is you need persistence, sometimes a little ingenuity, and luck.

There is a directory of agents that the Writers Guild offers. Some smaller agencies will accept new submissions. Contact all of them.


Try to distinguish yourself. And by that I don’t mean grab a sign and stand on the interstate. This is a writing career, not voiceover work. Bizarre stunts like billboards and Mardi Gras float cars just scream that you’re a loser and need to be hospitalized. That is not what you want.

Get yourself noticed by entering and winning contests, be the pride of your college’s writing program, write a play or short film or YouTube video that attracts positive attention.

Networking and contacts are important. That’s one of the reasons it’s so much easier if you’re in Los Angeles. You can work out in the same gym as an agent. He's the guy on the Stairmaster texting.  A fellow parent at your kids’ school could be a tenpercenter (I always loved that expression). Get into any pick-up basketball game in West L.A. Chances are you’ll be slamming a WME agent into the boards before too long.

Do you know a working writer who is a big fan of your work? Ask him to recommend you to his agent. Do you have a professor who loves your work and is willing to make a few calls on your behalf?

Date Anne Hathaway.

Find out where agents went to college. Maybe you and a CAA guy both are Southwest Arkansas State A & M alums. Use that as an introduction.

Do you know anyone on the crew of a multi-camera show? See if they’ll get you on the floor during a filming night. There are always a few agents milling about. They’re the guys in nice suits hanging around the craft-services table. Texting.  Casually make their acquaintance.

Go to work in an agency mailroom.

Keep an eye out for Learning Annex, UCLA extension, and WGA classes and lectures.

Freeze your ass off at the Sundance film festival.

Date Aaron Sorkin.

Of course, connecting with an agent means nothing if you don’t have the goods. Most agencies want three writing samples – two current show specs and original material like a pilot, play, or screenplay. If you are lucky enough to have an agent consider your scripts, make sure they’re the very best work you’ve ever written. Sometimes you only get one chance.

Good luck. I know it’s hard but talented writers do find agents. You be one of them.

18 comments:

Billy Boy said...

Thanks, but I don't need an agent. I have no intention of making the least effort to write anythhing myself. I'll just sit back, be snarky and belittling of the efforts of those who do try, and content myself with fantasies of how much better my writing would be if I ever got around to doing it.

Anonymous said...
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Oat Willie said...

"How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" kind of satirized this approach. Or maybe I'm misreading your tone.

Dixon Steele said...

"Chances are you’ll be slamming a WME agent into the boards before too long."

Talk about a fantasy...

Matt said...

@Billy Boy: Oh, so you're going to become a critic.

David in Cincinnati said...

"He's the guy on the Stairmaster, texting."

Ken, It's throw-away lines like these that make me love. your. blog!

VP81955 said...

Thanks for the tips, Ken. I'm currently working on two romantic comedies at Hal Croasmun's ScreenwritingU.com -- one of which is getting a really good reception as I continue polishing it -- and I'm also networking quite a bit, entering script contests and the like.

This is not an easy endeavor by any means, but if you keep your wits about you and persevere, you can make it. Even if you're 59 (like me) whose principal experience was in newspapers. (But, hey, that was Ben Hecht's background, too.)

MikeN said...

I would think the agent would have to sell themselves to me. You're saying I have to convince them I am worthy of buying their services?

Anonymous said...

Just practice writing dramatic or comedic short scenes and post them on youtube, and agents will find you:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tmtu-Do0MQ

Johnny Walker said...

The superb CHILDREN OF TENDU podcast has some great advice in this regard.

@BillyBoy: Ha! Certainly sounds like the easier path to go b

Tom Quigley said...

I remember working on a pilot at Disney once where agents were ordered by the production company to not even set foot inside the soundstage where the show was being taped, and accommodations had been made for them all to watch the taping via closed-circuit TV in another studio. At the end of the night when taping was finished, I went outside to see what was essentially a length of yellow police crime scene tape approximately 30 feet from the door, restraining anyone from coming nearer the stage entrance. Behind the tape stood the entire cadre of agents trying to burst through it and acting like a pack of hungry wolves ready to pounce on a kill, so they could meet up and schmooze with their clients. I thought, "Boy, if anyone tries to work this group, they'll either hit on a good contact -- or get eaten alive."

Dixon Steele said...

Mike N,

Nope, you have to convince them why you're worth them spending their time on.

That's because agents, unlike managers, tend to have MANY clients and there are just so many hours in the day.

And as ageist as it is (and it really is) agents new signings tend to be (except for already established names) young, as they are looking to build careers with their writers and want to rep the for a long long time.

VP81955 said...

Dixon Steele said...

And as ageist as it is (and it really is) agents new signings tend to be (except for already established names) young, as they are looking to build careers with their writers and want to rep them for a long, long time.


I fully understand that -- which is why when I'm ready for representation, I first plan to investigate smaller agencies, where age probably won't be perceived as severe a problem (and they may be able to lavish more attention and time on me, should my work be sufficiently worthy).

Leslie Lim said...
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VP81955 said...

One more bit of good news -- I'm getting my first reading next week! A group of professional actors will read ten pages from my romantic comedy screenplay "Fugitive Sweetheart" at the Celebrate Spring Screenplay Reading Contest next Thursday in Glendale. It's the first of many steps I'll need to take toward my goal...but nevertheless it will be good (and, I hope, illuminating) to hear other people say things I've written for them, rather than just have it go through my mind.

Diane D. said...

Congratulations, VP! It's such a brutal business; I'm glad you have the courage and I wish you good luck.

BTW, I love the title. I think titles are so important, and many of them are so bad!

VP81955 said...

Thanks, Diane D.

I love the "Fugitive Sweetheart" title too. The other romantic comedy I'm working on (note I use that term, which connotes Powell, Loy, Carole and Cary, not "rom-com," with conjures up bridesmaids singing kareoke badly) is a sci-fi/fantasy for which I've completed 73 pages of a spec script. People in my screenwriting class all like the title, which I'm not listing here because it's too descriptive of what the story is about.

Diane D. said...

Ha! I love the distinction between Romantic Comedy and Rom-Com, and you are so right. Good luck.