Monday, January 31, 2011

How do you get an agent?

By far the question I get asked the most is how do you get an agent?

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.


Eduardo Jencarelli said...

Looks like living in LA is the more likely prospect. I'll probably have to pull that off, if I want to have a chance at getting any kind of a break in the industry.

Kathy M said...

Ken, a random question: I see MASH reruns on all the time. I know WGA has worked it out so the writers get a tiny bit of money off repeat showings and syndication, but I understand it's just that: *tiny*. How much money is paid for repeat showings? Who gets it?

Gary said...

By contributing comments/questions to this blog, you can say you've worked with Ken Levine.

LouOCNY said...

In a addendum to the other day's blog about the We Will Rock You teaser, the REELZ channel has just added CHEERS to its lineup, and one of the promos - which calls it, "The Best Sitcom Ever Made", utilizes....a part of that very teaser....

And btw, in the morning lineup, CHEERS follows BECKER! All they need to do now is to follow CHEERS with WINGS or FRASIER....

Max Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Max Clarke said...

And about Ken's topic today, David Hyde Pierce has something to say.

There are a bunch of YouTube clips about "How To Make It In Hollywood," actors answering the question about getting into the business. Found them when following links about the SAG awards last night.

David Hyde Pierce says on his YouTube clip, "Unless you live in Culver City, it's really hard to get there."

Dimension Skipper said...

"And btw, in the morning lineup, CHEERS follows BECKER! All they need to do now is to follow CHEERS with WINGS or FRASIER...."—LouOCNY

...And then that lineup would then be ALMOST PERFECT?



Proof I'm NOT a comedy writer...

WV: "prequab" — Seems as if there ought to be some sort of daffy-nition for that, but I can't think of one right off.

Linn said...


I guess my question is as basic as it can get. How would you explain the difference between a writer, a director and a producer? Well, writers write, directors tells actors where to go and what to do and producers do the rest? Or?
How common is it to have more than one of these titles in a project? Is there a natural place to start among these three titles?

I have applied to do a BA in Film and TV production this fall (in Norway) and they encourages all students to do a semester abroad. What's your take on UCLA or University of North Carolina Wilmington?


Phillip B said...

Just for reference, a local independent station here starts every week night at 9 pm with an house of Frasier. Followed by an hour of MASH. Followed by an hour of Cheers.

And they have had that line-up intact for more than 2 years - so it must be pulling audience and advertisers....

Jeremy Dylan said...

I am looking into this 'Date Anne Hathaway' option - I feel it has potential.

ELS said...

Certainly dating Anne Hathaway probably has its own rewards... I mean, by now, her mom Jane must own a considerable percentage of the Beverly Hills Commerce Bank.

Eric L. Sofer
The Bad Clown...