How to keep your agent or manager interested…

May 31, 2012 § 4 Comments

Okay, so you found representation from an agent or manager, or both.  Congratulations!  This important business relationship is vital to forging a career as a working screenwriter.  How do you maintain a working relationship with these new members of your team?  It’s a delicate balance as you focus on creating material and they focus on establishing your career.  Your representation will send out your script and if it doesn’t sell—you’ll take pitch meetings and then get back to working on your next magnum opus—lather, rinse, and repeat.  Continually give your agent or manager the ammunition they need to stay in the battle and they will see you as a productive client who can produce material.  Be known as a “worker bee.”  They want you to work and so do you. They also want to know that you’re a team player who is open to rewrites and criticism.

Never forget, it will always be your career and no one will ever care about it as much as you do.  How could they?   You live and breathe it every moment of every day.  This is why you can’t rest and just trust others to guide the way.  Take responsibility for being the CEO of your company—YOU, INCORPORATED.

changeMy first agent was from a mutual friend’s referral. He really liked my spec screenplay and took me on as a hip pocket client. This is what agents often do with new clients they are trying to break into the business.  They won’t sign you officially, but will send out your script and test the waters.  If something happens with your project and you get an offer of money, they will most likely sign you. I’ve never found being singed by an agent made them work any harder for me. Their actions speak louder than any ink on a contract. You also have to remember agents either have clients who are working or clients they are trying to get working again.  An agent lives or dies by the ten-percent commissions of clients and time is understandably allocated to those clients who are making money. So, a pocket client shouldn’t expect the daily focus like a signed client should.  Sadly, many agents don’t like to sign new writers as it takes time to establish a career and lost time is money.  They love to sign a writer who is already on a television series or has two hit movies out—that’s a no brainer.

I’ve always had better relationships with managers than agents in the past. My managers always found me an agent they personally knew and brought them on the team to help build my career. My experience has been that managers spend the time to develop your career and not just look to land you a job. My manager is also my producing partner on a project and more management companies are getting involved in producing their client’s material as well as guiding their careers. My experience has been that my manager is always the conduit to my agent. I usually talk more to my manager on a regular basis than my agent. When it comes time to send out a project, the three of us meet, pool contacts, they present their strategy, and set the wheels in motion.

Keep in touch with your representation, but don’t harass them. Know when it’s important to check in and keep them updated.  ’ve found E-mail is the best way, but keep it concise and to the point. If they’re developing a strategy to send out a particular project, be actively involved and ask questions and offer opinions. You can’t sequester yourself away and not keep up to date with business in Hollywood. Know who is reading your script, make suggestions, and if you have industry contacts you want them to call, let them know. Even if your project doesn’t sell, if your representation sees positive feedback they’ll feel more confident to send you out again and focus on your career.

reading guyMake a list of every project you have completed that’s ready for consideration and promotion. You can’t expect them to push ten of your scripts, so go over your list with them and target specific material they believe could move you farther along on your career path. Keep track of the endless details as precious information can slip through the cracks. You are the final guardian of your career. Take your job seriously.  It will take a considerable amount of planning and time to go out with just one project and receive feedback, so be considerate of Hollywood’s time warp and learn patience.

When your agent or manager gives you feedback on your screenplay, listen and seriously consider the changes as they are putting their reputations on the line with every script they send out. If you execute the notes quickly and efficiently, you will show them you’re adept at fast rewrites and you’re a screenwriter who can work on a schedule. Their worst fear would be if they secured you a job and you couldn’t deliver the goods.  That would make both of you look bad and would harm your career.  Your attitude and work ethic is as important as your talent.

handshakeAs business relationships go in Hollywood, your representation is vital to establishing a career as a professional screenwriter. When you include your entertainment attorney, you now have a trio of business partners to guide and protect you. Your attorney can keep the checks and balances intact between the entire team. Over time, a bond of trust will form as you share your triumphs and successes together.   Time is a precious commodity in life and pursuing your career. Just because someone is “interested” in you doesn’t always mean they will actively work to further your career. Real interest garners real action.

The relationship between a client and an agent or manager works both ways. Do not waste time with anyone who is not a professional and does not put your best interests first. Conversely, always be a professional who is reliable, open to notes and changes, and constantly writes new material. Strive to build a professional relationship with your representation that involves open and constant communication.  You’ll need everyone on the team working in tandem to build and establish your career as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Remember, it’s your career so take responsibility for the choices you make, as they will directly affect your life and finances.

Keep writing and filling your blank pages because if you stop—you’re guaranteed to never have a shot at any success.

Scriptcat out!

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“The professional prepares mentally to absorb blows and to deliver them.  His aim is to take what the day gives him.  He is prepared to be prudent and prepared to be reckless, to take a beating when he has to, and to go for the throat when he can.  He understands the field alters every day.  His goal is not victory (success will come by itself when it wants to) but to handle himself, his insides, as sturdily as he can.”—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“The reason actors, artists, writers have agents is because we’ll do it for nothing. That’s a basic fact – you gotta do it.” —Morgan Freeman

“Defer no time, delays have dangerous ends.” —William Shakespeare

Remember Stephen King’s First Rule of Writers and Agents, learned by bitter personal experience: “You don’t need one until you’re making enough for someone to steal… and if you’re making that much, you’ll be able to take your pick of good agents.” ― Stephen King

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§ 4 Responses to How to keep your agent or manager interested…

  • Leonard Marks says:

    great post

  • Your post is very timely advice. The writer should always remember that he/she is creating work for other people and what they create has value. Some projects the agent will send around, some projects you pitch yourself at festivals, some projects you pitch to producers or directors that you know. Eventually you’ll find the people that find value in your work.

  • Great post. One question: do US agents have a habit of singeing clients?

    • scriptcat says:

      I don’t know if it’s a habit. If you have a contract you’re protected. Most agents here don’t want to “break new talent” they want you to already have a “name” and be a known writer who is working. They don’t want to roll up their sleeves and work hard at getting you a job.

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