Hey filmmakers! I hope your Father’s Day weekend was relaxing and fun, because I very much enjoyed mine. Friday night I took my wife to Julian Lennon’s album release party for his wonderfully soulful new release, Everything Changes. Saturday brought my sister and her kids in from out of town, and on Sunday I enjoyed my second Father’s Day, while we also celebrated my wife’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Shahina!) Thus, the weekend was crazy busy, but like most things in life, crazy busy is far better than not being busy.
As for today’s topic, we’re going to discuss five things writers should know about searching for an agent. While securing an agent isn’t easy, it shouldn’t be, because like most great accomplishments in life, nothing worthwhile comes easy. That’s why you should try to enjoy the process, no matter how painful it is, because all of your setbacks and pitfalls are just chapters in the story of how you ultimately landed your agent. So, without further adieu, here are five things to consider while you are looking for the perfect agent to represent your work.
It’s Better to be Chased than it is to Chase
If there’s one thing you take away from this article, please let it be that there is no reason to chase an agent who doesn’t want you. The bottom line is, you should have some self-respect. If it takes several weeks for an agent to get back to you, then he or she is simply not interested in represented you. Thus, rather than keep beating a dead horse, you should refocus your energies to finding someone who does respond to your writing.
An Agent’s History of Sales Usually Trumps Their “Letters.”
While I know it’s difficult not to get excited about the letters big agents carry next to their name; like “CAA, WME, or UTA,” those letters will mean nothing to you unless those major agencies want your script as badly as they want the scripts written by their highest paid writers. That’s why you should do your homework on the agent you’re trying to land. Find out what screenplays they’ve represented from which writers. Then, examine which scripts sold by the agent became the most financially successful motion pictures.
Once you find out which scripts turned into hit films, then you can easily assess what type of screenplay the agent is most likely going to respond favorably to. Most agents are fiercely overworked, so they want to take the path of least resistance. Thus, agents tend to identify what’s worked for them in the past, and then they try to duplicate it over and over again.
So, it’s your job to find an agent that has sold several scripts similar to yours in tone and genre. When you do find that person, whether he or she has powerful letters behind their name or not, rest assured that person will find the right home for your screenplay.
Be Nice to the Agent’s Assistant
I’m not kidding about this. Any good agent’s assistant is definitely two things; a) the gatekeeper to the agent you’re dying to sign with, and b) a future agent/executive in the making. Thus, don’t even try to treat the agent’s assistant poorly, because the assistant will return the favor by restricting you from any access to the agent.
Secondly, find out everything about the agent’s assistant, including where they went to school, what film genres and development projects they respond to, and, where they want their own career to go. Facebook, IMDB, and a slew of other social media websites are very helpful in “painting the picture” you need to understand the assistant’s character.
More importantly, an assistant knows everything about their boss’s schedule, from what days of the week and what times in the day are better for you to set up a call with the agent. Thus, it is crucial to keep a really positive relationship with the assistants of all the agents that you’re in contact with.
Find Out How They Want to Guide Your Career
Once you land that coveted meeting with the agent, whether it’s on the phone or in person, you need to perk your ears open and listen to how the agent wants to guide your career. Mind you, I didn’t say you should spend this time telling the agent what you want to do, (i.e. write, direct and produce), I’m saying you should spend it listening closely to how they may want to represent you. What I mean is that more often than not, even agents who are interested in representing you will be very specific about how they position you (i.e. as a writer only vs. as a writer, director, producer, etc.). Thus, you need to make sure that both you and your potential agent are on the same page about your career direction, because if you are not, there’s no reason to work together.
Always End Your Script in Dialogue, not on Description
Everybody knows that one of the first things any agent will do when receiving a new script from a new writer, is to look at the last page to find out how long it is. But, did you know that most agents also look at the last line of the script, to see if you wrote a memorable cinematic gem, like “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn, “ from Gone With The Wind in 1939) or “Nobody’s perfect” from Some Like it Hot in 1959. So, whatever you do, make sure your script ends with the best line you can create!
Okay, filmmakers. That’s what I have for you today. I thank you once again for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.