I hope 2018 has been a productive one for you. As the Christmas season descends upon us and we prepare to close out the year, we look to the future -- 2019 and beyond -- with fresh eyes, hopeful dreams and, of course, new goals. If you're a writer, perhaps one of those goals is figuring out new ways to get your work seen. It's not an easy road, but the bumps can feel a little less, well, bumpy if you have an advocate in your corner. Below is an article I recently penned for the website Funds for Writers on how aspiring screenwriters without significant credits can get the attention of representation like agents or managers. Hopefully it provides you with some insight as you seek to make 2019 your best professional year yet!
Five Ways Aspiring Screenwriters
can get an Agent’s Attention
By Mark Heidelberger
I’m constantly meeting aspiring screenwriters from around the world, whether on social media, in academic settings, or via professional networking events like Pitchfest, and one question I hear a lot no matter where I am is, “How can I get an agent (or manager) if I have no produced credits?” It sure seems like cause for vexation, especially in Hollywood where chicken-and-egg conundrums abound. It’s true, yes, that agents and managers are integral to success in the literary screen trade because they provide access to opportunities not otherwise available to fledgling writers. And since this is widely known, they put up walls to prevent the inevitable deluge of middling material from every wannabe who calls himself a writer just because he learned Final Draft. Fortunately, though, they left a few small fissures in their walls where truly talented and resourceful writers might squeeze through, even if those writers have no credits.
Perform Well in Competition
Screenplay competitions are a viable path to reaching agents and managers – and this includes platforms like The Black List (https://blcklst.com/) – but you have to be selective in which ones you submit to and you have to do well in them. Only a small handful of competitions are going to provide access to literary reps with any real cache. (See more details about these competitions in my previous article, “The Pros and Cons of Screenplay Competitions”: https://fundsforwriters.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-screenplay-competitions/). Typically, semi-finalists in well-respected contests will get phone calls from reps interested in seeing their material while finalists and winners will get in-person meetings.
Get a Client Reference
Writers should speak with their friends and colleagues who have representation to see if they can gain entry that way. And that friend doesn’t need to be a writer either. She can be a director, actor, editor, cinematographer, whatever – so long as the agency she’s with also has a roster of writers. Your friend should at least be able to tell you a little about the agency’s culture and whether she’s had a good experience there so you can determine whether they might be a fit. If so, offer to treat your friend to a nice dinner or some concert tickets if she can get you a face-to-face.
Attach a Name
Tinseltown loves “names.” A project with a recognizable actor, director or producer attached will often draw the attention of reps eager to sign the writer before the project sells and that big payday comes. The agency that reps your attached figure is the most logical choice since they have a vested interest in seeing the project materialize. Resourceful writers who have no agent connections but know others working in the industry should brainstorm ways to reach desirable names. Once a name is attached, generate heat by announcing the attachment in a trade paper like Variety or The Hollywood Reporter and then cite that article in agent queries.
Leverage Other Successes
Many writers get a literary agent after achieving some modicum of success in another area of the business like directing, acting or editing. Let’s say you’re a fairly prolific editor, but wish to transition to screenwriting. Use your past achievements as a bargaining chip with a prospective agent who wishes to represent you as an editor by letting him know you’ll only sign on if the agency also represents you as a screenwriter. Just be sure to verify that the agency is competent in both areas. If you’re a published author, you may be able to leverage solid book sales to similar effect.
Network, Network, Network
At the end of the day, Hollywood is still a networking town. The whole reason the old adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” got to be an old adage is because there’s so much truth to it. Attend industry events where agents and managers might be present like parties, seminars and pitch sessions. Strike up a conversation and generate a rapport. Notice I didn’t say pitch your script, at least not off the bat. Just get them to like you first because it’s really you they’re representing, not your script. If you hit it off and they happen to be looking for new “development clients” with fresh stories to tell, they may just request your script.
You can also see me presenting on this topic at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNADYEDlCEc&list=PLez8jOvskc-N-qAIePOxtIjT_VzwuI5_E&t=3s&index