Screenplay Doctor: Do I Need an Agent and How Do I Find One?
Written by Susan Kouguell | Posted by: Michele Meek
Question from L. Cruz: First of all thank you for this, seriously! Ok here’s the question, should I get an agent to represent me? If so how do I get one and should he/she be from RI or from anywhere?
Answer: You should seek agent representation if you want: (1) to get your feature-length screenplay sold; (2) to get your script produced; and/or (3) to get writing assignments. Most production companies, producers, talent, and studios do not accept unsolicited manuscripts (screenplays that are not represented by agents, managers, or entertainment attorneys).
It’s important to understand what an agent can and should do for you. Agents seek writing assignments for their clients and sell their clients’ spec scripts. They submit scripts to production companies, studios and talent, and follow up to make sure that your work is getting read. Agents act on your behalf to set up pitch meetings and interviews with production companies and studios, and negotiate salary and contracts. In addition, agents work with screenwriters to plan career objectives, and to map out strategies for meeting these objectives.
In order for an agent to consider representing you, your script must be really ready to submit. Many aspiring screenwriters send out their screenplays before they are actually ready, and the result is a speedy rejection. (Keep in mind that it is nearly impossible, to get a prospective agent to read your rewritten script once they have rejected it.) You must educate yourself about the film industry and keep up-to-date by reading the trades, such as Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, which list spec scripts written by new talent that have been optioned or bought by production companies and studios. Often they will list the agent who represented the script. Track these agents and contact them. Another good resource is The Hollywood Representation Directory (www.hcdonline.com)
Networking is also vital when seeking agent representation. Since you do not live in Los Angeles or New York, where meeting agents may be easier because of proximity, you can attend reputable screenwriting conferences and film festivals where agents are speaking on panels. (The Rhode Island Film Festival, for example, is a good place to network and meet film industry folks.) Agents who agree to speak on panels know that there are eager writers in attendance seeking representation, and often they are open to meeting new writers in order to find that new talent.
Agents can be located anywhere but preferably you want an agent who is based in New York or Los Angeles because he or she will have more access to talent, companies, and so on. You want an agent who is signatory to the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and is reputable in the industry. A WGA signatory agent is not permitted to charge a reading fee and is permitted to take only ten percent of the fee you receive for a writing assignment or sale of your script. You do not have to be a member of the WGA to be represented by an agent who is signatory to the Guild.
Finding the right agent to represent you takes a great deal of perseverance. You may encounter rejection, but do not take it personally. Be persistent!
Susan Kouguell is the author of 'The Savvy Screenwriter: How to Sell Your Screenplay (and Yourself) Without Selling Out' -- www.su-city-pictures.com or http://su-city-pictures.blogspot.com/ You can follow my Su-City Pictures, LLC Facebook fan page and SKouguell Twitter page to receive more Savvy Tips about how to write, structure, and sell your screenplay.