Want Representation? Then Read THIS …
One thing writers ask B2W about A LOT is how to get representation as a writer. Then Tom Vaughan popped up in my timeline recently with these gold nuggets below. I particularly love his points about being ‘pre-scrutinised’. It’s SO true that relationships are the lifeblood of the industry.
I just had to ask Tom if I could republish his pointers here on the main site. Luckily Tom agreed … and make sure you sign up for his awesome newsletter, HERE. Over to you, Tom!
‘How Do I Get Representation As A Writer?’
It’s the screenwriting question I get asked the most. I’ve been with five agencies and five managers over 27 years. I have thoughts. It’s a process. Yet, when it happens, it happens fast. Here is what I think is the best approach.
First and foremost, the process is dominated by economics. That is, the allocation of limited resources. The agent or manager only has so much time and energy, and they allocate them to what they think will make them money.
So, first things first. Any conversation on this topic should start with one primary question …
Are You READY For Representation?
Many writers dream of a rep who falls in love with their writing and advocates tirelessly for them as artists. That’s not the norm.
So think first about whether you are consistent enough to make your reps money. What evidence do you have to support that? Be honest.
Remember, resources are limited. Their resources and yours.
Would you be better off spending your limited resources on getting better as a screenwriter?
As I heard @sethsherwood say very plainly once, the best way to get an agent is to, “Write better scripts.”
What are you arming them with?
Along with this great new project, what hook, what story, what news are they using to sell you with?
What is their pitch to the town of why they should be excited to read you?
It can be just the screenplay, but it helps if it’s more.
Your script is on the Blood List, or a Nichol finalist.
Buyers love the practising lawyer who writes courtroom drama, a doctor who writes a medical thriller!
What’s the story that will help people remember your name?
The Primary Friction
There are more screenplays written every year that can reasonably be read. 99.9% of them range from not good enough to just plain bad.
Everyone knows those odds. Everyone assumes yours sucks too.
Your job to change that perception
You have exactly TWO WAYS to do this.
- The Logline (LVH: here’s your free logline cheat sheet from B2W)
- Pre-scrutinised (Not sure what this is? More after the jump)
The Logline – Your Main Weapon
The logline is the most influential variable you control in getting your screenplay read. Nothing else even comes close. Most think the logline’s job is to summarise their screenplay. This is not true.
The logline’s job is to get people excited to read your screenplay.
It’s a sales tool. Without a great logline, your chances of getting representation drop dramatically.
Writing Query Letters
Query letters are bad for the soul, because it’s a lot of rejection. But do you really want to leave possibilities on the table?
I have not written a query letter in 29 years, so there are better people to teach you how to do it.
I occasionally receive queries from my IMDB page, and most are bad. Why? Bad loglines.
But query letters DO work if …
- 1) You’re specific who you’re sending to.
- 2) You have a great logline, and
- 3) You appear normal.
Ways To Be ‘Pre-Scrutinised’
Every year proves that top screenwriting contests help writers start their careers.
Legit contests and services want to help you. That’s how they stay in business.
I have two primary bits of advice here …
i) Stick with the contests and services that have recent success getting their winners introduced to the town.
Nicholl Fellowship is obvious. @roadmapwriters, The Blood List.
I am sure there are others. I would love to hear other names in the comments.
You are looking for contests that see it as their job to help you succeed afterwards. That’s it.
You do not want to be put in a position where it’s you telling people you won a contest. Fewer people care then. That’s just a query letter. If this contest does not see your success afterwards as their success, don’t bother.
ii) Re-submit your best material.
This is a mistake people make. They submit once, don’t advance, and don’t submit again.
The initial round of screenwriting contests is randomness. I have little confidence I could break out of the quarterfinals of Nicholl with scripts that I have sold for six figures.
Resubmit your best scripts when you can. Get new readers for them.
2) The Black List and Other Hosting Sites
These are great! Very nice that these sites exist. But what’s your logline? That’s the only thing that matters.
“Oh, look! A score of 8 that’s great. What’s the logline?… Oh, yeah. No thanks.”
These sites cost, but it’s the same dilemma as the query letters. Do you really want to leave possibilities on the table?
It’s another economic decision. Do you have enough money to keep submitting until you get the magic 8 number?
You do? Okay! What’s your logline?
3) Professional Introductions
Personal connections are how most of the town works. This is how I got every agent except my first. I asked for an introduction, and friends slipped my scripts to agents, and everybody wins.
There will never, ever be a better way to get a rep than a well-connected associate vouching for you and recommending you.
This is the ultimate pre-scrutiny.
You have to work inside the business for a while to make these relationships, but it doesn’t have to be as a writer.
- It still really helps to have a great logline.
- Don’t be afraid to ask friends.
- DON’T ask strangers or new acquaintances.
Make Them Come To You
This is the most active thing and what you should be doing.
Go out there and create. Make stuff.
Short films. Micro-budget films. Produce plays. Get involved in the comedy community in LA.
This is how I got my first agent at CAA. I wrote a play that got good reviews, and they called me. They came to me.
Because they thought I was in more demand than I was.
This is the way. It’s also the most fun. You’re getting better, developing friendships, working relationships, and a community.
Do You NEED Representation?
It often feels like having a manager or an agent is the mark of legitimacy.
I get it. I felt the same way. But I’ve earned many jobs without an agent.
Do they help? Yes. A good-fit manager or agent does help. My manager has been instrumental in my last two spec sales. But you will still be doing the same work day in and day out, with or without representation.
Agents help in waves, usually because there is something new to sell or to boost your profile. But in-between? It’s all you.
You cannot rely on your reps for all your contacts. It’s dangerous to do so.
Remember… No one will ever care about your career as much as you.
No one. So don’t wait for an agent.
Write and create.
That, you can control.
DON’T FORGET: Tom Vaughan’s Story and Plot Weekly Email is published every Tuesday morning. CLICK HERE so you don’t miss another one.