Many screenwriters have (or should have) heard the adage that since agents and managers collect 10-20% commission on a screenplay sale, they should only be doing an equivalent amount of work in advancing your screenwriting career.
Is this a reasonable expectation? Perhaps. Never sit back after securing the services of an agent and manager and think all you need to do is write film and TV scripts and attend meetings. This is untrue. Ultimately your scriptwriting career is up to you. You can hire and fire any manager that suits your writing style and stage of career. Similarly, agents and managers can adjust their rosters according to their wishes.
A screenwriter’s job is to write and to network in equal measure. That means you need to hustle for yourself. Use your agent and manager’s connection to make contacts you can’t make for yourself.
It’s up to screenwriters to have a clear expectation of what agents and managers do and how to best manage these relationships.
How Do Agents And Managers Differ?
Very quickly, the main distinctions between agents and managers are that agents procure screenwriting work for their clients, negotiate contracts and sell screenplays. Managers are involved in guiding screenwriters’ careers.
The first thing for screenwriters to understand is that managers are generally more hands on. They aid in script development, give more extensive notes, act as therapists, advise screenwriters on what to write next and the state of the industry? These are just some of the flexible duties of managers.
Agents are really the business managers of screenwriters. Sure, there may be some overlap in the roles of agents and managers, but don’t expect your agent to read countless drafts of the same screenplay.
Both are your representatives and should actively be promoting you as a writer and your writing.
Know what you want from each relationship. If you want your managers to make calls to actors, producers, and TV networks, say so. If you want validation of your screenwriting skills, but less concerned with a screenplay sale, say so. If you want to check in to discuss the previous weekend’s box office and the film industry at large, say so. Whatever you decide, be mindful that both agents and managers have multiple clients and limited time.
Don’t hassle your representation with questions like “Do you like my script?” Ask them if they can position it in the marketplace. Be aware of the potential buyers of your scriptwriting and make appropriate recommendations. They will appreciate you doing some of the legwork.
Be educated on the state of the industry. Know what has recently sold, who are the key purchases and what prices were paid. Don’t forget to watch as much film and TV as you can and know what has skyrocketed or tanked at the box office.
I’ve left the best till last. DBAA. Be a client that agents and managers want to work with. Don’t think that they will keep a high-earning but high-maintenance indefinitely.
Most agents and managers I’ve spoken to acquire new clients by referral. The film industry is smaller than you think. People talk so don’t think your bad behavior won’t be found out.
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