How To Get An Agent As A Screenwriter? Here’s How!

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To secure an agent as a screenwriter, craft a strong portfolio with your best scripts, research agents specializing in your genre, network through industry events and online platforms, and personalize your query letters when reaching out to potential agents for representation. You might instead be looking for a manager.

We’ll dive more into the agent vs. manager debate at the end of the article.

Still, to answer how to get an agent as a screenwriter, I have created this 5 step resource to help you navigate the industry to the point where you need an agent (and share how to get one).

The guide is generalized so that it could apply to writers working in the feature world as well as the TV world, but if you want more help on how to become a writer for TV specifically, check out this guide we wrote about how to become a writer for TV or Netflix.

Step 1: Get your Script up to Industry Standard

screenplay scriptwriting software

Before you can connect with and impress an industry professional from your network, you need to make sure you have multiple scripts that are good enough to be read by said professionals.

You never know who will connect with what, so your job is to ensure your work is ready to be read when the opportunity presents itself.

How do I know my script is ready to be read? Get it peer-reviewed!

feedback illustration.

Ensure that you get feedback from writer friends and industry professionals. 

Friends know you and your style, so they can give you biased but encouraging feedback to improve upon. 

For instance, you can join a group of writer friends who all swap scripts and review each other’s material if you don’t have one already, or send it out to individual friends for feedback and notes if they’re open to it.

Industry professionals will give you critical and honest feedback that your friends might be too polite to say or too close to you and the project to notice. 

You can also submit your scripts for professional-grade peer-review feedback, known as coverage.

Coverage

coverage

Coverage is an industry document format written by a reader that grades your script and gives feedback on what’s working and what to improve upon. 

Coverage is good for assessing your story and writing’s overall quality, not just ensuring your scripts are formatted correctly and don’t have typos. 

But also, for the love of God, please ensure your scripts are formatted correctly and don’t have typos before submitting them!

Typos and formatting errors will negatively affect the reader’s enjoyment of the read and their opinion of you as a writer.

See how to format your screenplay the right way.

Where can I get coverage online? 

Many companies provide this service online, including many screenplay contests that provide coverage as an add-on once you’ve submitted it. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some great places to start: 

Some of the above options even connect you with industry gatekeepers like managers and producers to give you notes on your material.

Not all coverage comes with notes, but you can always learn from the feedback you get, even if it’s mainly negative or mostly positive.

Just remember to get a handful of opinions for a more objective point of view. An aggregated perspective on how your script comes across is best. 

Paraphrasing Neil Gaimon’s famous opinion on notes, one person’s solution for how to fix an issue in your script might not be right for your story.

Still, if multiple people tell you the same issue is wrong with your script, you must figure out a fix. 

Step 2. Use Your Network to get someone to advocate for you.

network of writers illustration

Now that you feel confident in your script, it’s time to find someone you trust from your network to help you get your work seen by new people. 

The goal isn’t necessarily to get this advocate to send your script directly to an agent.

Instead, it is to vouch for you, to introduce you to new people who can make connections that lead to a meeting with an agent or, better yet, a potential buyer or producing partner.

Where to look for an advocate for your work

Again, industry friends and colleagues are great first resources to start reaching out to when you need an advocate for your project.

This could be a former co-worker working at a new studio where you share what you’ve been working on. Or it could be a mentor figure you contact and ask for their feedback.

What if I don’t know anyone to be an advocate for my script?

online meeting

If you don’t know anyone, you still have options to get your work seen and connect with industry professionals:

  • Screenwriting contests:
  • Third-party networking services:
    • The Black List, Screencraft, and other sites mentioned above are a good place to start to get in touch with industry professionals.
  • Screenwriting labs where you can rub shoulders with the types of professionals agents talk to.
  • Film festivals also hold screenplay contests and provide online forums to network from a distance.
  • Use online forums and social networks

These are real opportunities, whether you are social distancing or live out of state.

Step 3. Perfect your script’s pitch before you take it to the industry.

Pitch screenwriting

No matter who you are pitching on your project, the goal should be to pitch your script quickly and effectively to get the potential advocate excited enough to read the script. 

To do that, you need an enticing logline and a well-practiced pitch.

To sum up the difference, think about it like this: 

Can you sell your movie in one sentence? It’s a logline. Check out our article on loglines here.

Can you sell your movie in five minutes? It’s a pitch. Read more on how to write pitch decks.

Pitching is an art, but getting it right is not altogether different from mastering your logline.

Test your pitches on your network first.

The best way to know if your pitch works is by trying it out on friends, family, and friendly industry contacts:

  1. Start by pitching friends – preferably your writer group mentioned above. 
  2. Then try it on a family member who knows nothing about movies. See if they are interested. 
  3. Lastly, try it on an industry contact. Do they seem excited or lukewarm? Adjust accordingly.

Step 4. Seek a Manager or Producing Partner to develop your body of work.

Now, it’s time to use your advocate network to seek representation from a manager or a producing partner to help further develop your work.

Here is how and why you should pick a manager or a producing partner to help you.

What Managers Do for Screenwriters’

How to get representation as a screenwriter

Managers might sound similar to agents, but they are different.

Managers provide a more robust set of services to working writers for a percentage of every sale you make:

Managers work to:

  • Develop your creative voice,
  • Hone your scripts
  • Guide you on which of your scripts to take to market.

The more work they can help you get, the more they stand to make, so long-term career development is a key goal for them – not just one-off sales.

Hip-pocketing

If you can impress a manager with your material, they may offer to sign you or continue to develop your scripts in a hip-pocket-type situation

Hip-pocketing is when a manager helps a writer by giving them notes or advice as the writer develops their body of work before the manager is officially ready to come on board and represent them.

The term is most often used by junior coordinators who are trying to hip-pocket enough potential writers that they can sign when they get the opportunity to become actual managers. Still, it can also be used by working managers who aren’t ready to sign a writer with potential.

For you as a writer, both you and the potential manager are hoping to strike a partnership when the moment is right, but you don’t want to ask them too soon, and they don’t want to sign you before they can get you to work.  

Ultimately, the manager’s goal is to make you a bankable name they can take to their network and vouch for you enough to get you meetings. 

Once the manager does sign you and believes your work is ready to go to market, they will set you up with meetings to connect you with potential buyers or producing partners to market and sell your most bankable script.

What Producing Partners can do for you as a Screenwriter

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With or without a manager, another avenue for developing your work is securing a producing partner to help pitch and produce a specific script.

A producing partner could be a producer, a production company, a director, or a showrunner who has taken an interest in a particular project and would like to option it from you (via an optioning agreement) to continue working with you to develop it to take it to market. 

An advantage to coupling with a producing partner is that you might not need a manager to sell your project, as the producing partner might have connections with buyers that they can leverage to secure a pitch meeting.

From there, they might introduce you to additional contacts to help with the project, such as a manager or agent, especially if a sale seems imminent.

Coupling with a producing partner doesn’t exclude the possibility of coupling with a manager. In many cases, it can be an advantage to work with both.

How to reach out to managers or producing partners: Use your Network or third-party services

Utilizing your existing advocate network, you can leverage personal or mutual connections and work with a third-party company that connects writers and managers to find producing or manager partners to work with.

Direct connect: Ask your advocates if they can connect you with any managers, agents, directors, or producers if they trust you and your work and feel that making an introduction wouldn’t be wasting both parties’ time. 

Contests and submissions: Besides a direct connection, the most straightforward way to find managing or producing partners, no matter where you live, is by submitting to specific online contests or submission platforms. 

These contests have a good reputation for getting the winners or runner-ups connected and signed by managers, or at a minimum, putting their names and work in front of potential producing partners.

I’ve already mentioned some good resources above (under coverage).

Step 5. Work with your Manager or Producing Partner to get your pitch “Agent Ready.” 

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Now, it’s time to work with your reps to continue to develop your project(s) to be as viable as possible for the current market. 

Getting an agent with a manager.

Once your manager thinks your work is “agent ready,” they will make the appropriate introductions to agents they know.

Hopefully, they should introduce you to multiple agents so you can choose who is the best choice for you.

As I said at the top, they might decide you don’t need an agent even if a project is far enough along that an agent would be helpful.

Work with your reps to decide if an agent is right for you. You may get enough work without an agent at this career stage. 

Getting an agent with a producer.

Having a knowledgeable and well-respected producer on board could be what sets your project apart in the eyes of an agent.

A well-known and experienced producer can even introduce you to agents directly.

Once you have a package in terms of producer, bankable cast element, or bankable director or showrunner as producing partner, you and your team can bring it to an agent who could take it out for financing and add additional cast.

Conclusion: The #1 thing agents want!

Whether your script makes it on the Blacklist, premieres at Sundance, or ends up in their inbox from a client, agents are looking for something massively impressive. 

So, what is the number one thing agents want? It’s a massively impressive script! Make your scripts remarkable, and you’ll have no problem getting an agent when the time is right. 

Easier said than done, I know, but writers like you have done it plenty of times before. It’s not impossible!   

Always put the writing first. Focus on making your scripts as good as possible. Follow the five steps above, and the agents will come… much later, but… eventually!

Up Next: How Much Is A TV Screenwriter Paid?


FAQ

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Here are some answers to more common questions I often see new screenwriters have:

Do I need an agent if I already have a manager?

If you have a manager, you probably don’t need an agent, at least not initially.

It depends entirely on where you are in your career and if your manager thinks it would be beneficial. 

Have a conversation with your rep about if they think an agent is necessary.

They can then help you through the process of meeting potential agents and weighing your options accordingly.

  • A manager’s job is to hone and develop your writing and build a body of work ready to market.
  • Agents come on board when it’s ready to sell, and the managers will reach out and connect you when the time comes if they see fit.

Can I get an agent without a manager?

Unless you are an outlier and your script has been picked up or gotten on the Blacklist, or a script you wrote has been made and is premiering at Sundance, not really.

The rule of thumb among agents is this: unless writers have a manager help them go through their work and develop it extensively, they don’t want you, and you don’t need them.

What is the most tried and true way to attract an agent? Have a manager first. 

What are agents looking for?

Agents across departments want to find somebody with a fresh voice who has created a body of work.

Everyone can write and direct a small indie drama. What sets yours apart? Where are your voice and your personality in the project? Does it shine through as unique? 

Agents want evidence of a larger body of work. They want to know you’re not a one-hit wonder and that there’s a lot they have to work with.

They are also looking for an impressive writer with depth.

Mostly, they want you to create something that can’t be ignored.

When agents look for new clients, they often check the Sundance lineup. Who is repped, who is unrepped, who is unhappy with their current reps, who are having their directorial debuts?

They’ll check who is and isn’t repped from off the Black List or get referrals from colleagues, usually from managers or producers they know. 

Do every screenwriter need an agent?

No! Contrary to popular belief, you can still do much for yourself and your writing career without ever meeting an agent. 

Agents negotiate employment contracts on behalf of their clients, so if you don’t have any scripts to sell or previous credits to help them sell you, you definitely don’t need an agent, and an agent certainly doesn’t need you.

By leveraging your network and working with a manager, a producer, or a production company partner, you can land meetings and even sell projects without an agent ever getting involved. Don’t forget the lawyer, though! 

When do I need an agent? 

While you might not like this answer, you’ll know you are ready for an agent when the agents come to you.

Like it or not, agents don’t accept cold queries, and because of the recent skirmish between the WGA and the ATA, getting an agent from one of the big agencies as a writer has become complicated.

Most agencies re-sign old clients but aren’t looking for new writers.  

Avoid seeking representation with an agent until you are at the right stage in your career.

Author

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  • Grant Harvey

    Grant Harvey is a freelance writer, screenwriter, and filmmaker based out of Los Angeles. When he’s not working on his own feature-length screenplays and television pilots, Grant uses his passion and experience in film and videography to help others learn the tools, strategies, and equipment needed to create high-quality videos as a filmmaker of any skill level.

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