What Do Agents Really Do?

Many emerging screenwriters fail to understand the complex social, emotional and business relationship with agents.

Firstly, agents need to be convinced that you are dedicated and committed to your craft. Be strategic with your writing credits. This doesn’t only mean imdb. Speeches, blogs, articles, columns, workshops, seminars, web series, social media are all credits when a potential agent considers how to best sell you. Contest wins, options and attachments are also classed as non-traditional credits.

Selling your work is ultimately a numbers game. There is no right or wrong. People will either like your work or not. That’s OK. Keep replenishing your inventory. Have a spec script in every genre you want to work in. Have good material ready to show around town.

What format is your work best suited to? Cable, network TV, film festivals, tent pole picture? Is it castable?

Open your own doors in the industry. Create your own opportunities. Network. Don’t expect your agent to do all the work. If they get 10% commission, they should only do 10% of the work. It stands to reason, you do the remaining 90%

Be interesting, affable and “give good meeting”.

Agents are in the “creative sales business”. It is a lifestyle rather than a job. Be passionate and realistic. Be creative about how your goals are achieved. Create a sizzle reel. This is the norm now. A screenplay on its own just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Broaden the scope of your work. Write a book, play or blog to make you more diverse and marketable.

Listen to and appreciate feedback without compromising your vision. Don’t get defensive. Oftentimes, agents can’t articulate exactly what’s wrong with your script.

Know what’s going on around town. In today’s electronic age, there is no excuse for not knowing what’s in development and production. Be on the pulse of what’s hot and what’s not.

When an agent asks you what have you watched recently have an answer relating to the past week.

There are two main types of agencies big and small.

The large agencies have more clients and create value, image, hype and demand across a variety of platforms.

There a four major agencies in L.A – CAA, WME, UTA and ICM which control most film and TV production. They are very specific in their functions and generally deal with established talent. They often generate income through profit participation rather than straight commission.

Boutique (small) agencies are more intimate and have a smaller client base. They are interested in longevity and loyalty. They have multi-level clients in TV, webseries and lower budget films.

Although part of an agent’s role is to procure work through writing assignments, don’t think of them as an employment agency. Their key role is to sell your work much like a real estate agent sells your property.

There you have it. It’s a tough world out there, but using your relationships strategically and effectively will help ensure your success.

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