Agent vs. Manager Difference and Why Screenwriters Need Both

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Agents for screenwriters typically focus on securing deals, including selling scripts and negotiating contracts, whereas managers offer broader career guidance, development, and networking support. Both aim to advance a writer’s career but with different strategies and scopes of service.

Agents and managers play distinct but occasionally overlapping roles in supporting and advancing the careers of screenwriters.

Agents

Screenwriter agent

An agent is a professional representative licensed and regulated by state laws and often by unions or guilds, such as the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

The primary role of an agent is to find opportunities for screenwriters to sell or option their scripts and to negotiate contracts in the best interest of their clients.

They have extensive networks and relationships with studios, production companies, and other industry professionals, which they leverage to pitch their clients’ work.

Agents are typically paid a percentage of the deals they negotiate (usually around 10%) and cannot produce their clients’ projects.

Key responsibilities of an agent include:

  • Marketing the screenwriter’s work to potential buyers.
  • Negotiating deals and contracts.
  • Facilitating meetings and connections with producers and executives.
  • Providing career guidance and strategizing on project selection.

Manager

Screenwriter manager

A manager often takes a more personal and comprehensive role in a screenwriter’s career.

They are not regulated in the same way as agents and may also produce their clients’ projects.

Managers often provide creative feedback on scripts and help writers develop their material to make it more marketable.

They may also assist with career planning, helping the writer to shape their brand and choose the right projects to pursue.

Key responsibilities of a manager include:

  • Career guidance and long-term planning.
  • Script development and feedback.
  • Networking and introductions to industry contacts.
  • Sometimes producing their clients’ projects.

Closing Thoughts

It’s common for screenwriters to have both an agent and a manager, as they can complement each other’s services.

The agent focuses on the business side of negotiations and sales, while the manager provides close personal guidance and support.

However, having both is unnecessary, and some screenwriters may only work with one or the other, depending on their specific needs and the stage of their careers.

Author

  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

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