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Screenplay Agents – Advice For Aspiring Screenwriters

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by Scott Parisien in How To Sell A Screenplay
August 14, 2015 6 comments
hollywood agents

Many writers I speak to are always chasing screenplay agents. Getting a screenwriting agent has become a kind of holy grail among aspiring screenwriters, but in this post I’m going to show you why this approach is all wrong. 

Writers are always saying how they have a great script and they just need an agent and they would be set. Like an agent is just going to take their brilliant screenplay and throw copies of it from a helicopter over Hollywood and they will land on all the right desks and start a bidding war.

Sadly, this is not the way Hollywood agents, or any screenplay agents, exist.

The Cart Before The Horse Problem With Screenplay Agents

There are a lot of writers who talk about how Hollywood sucks and is unfair etc. Yet those same writers complain how they can’t get an agent.

It is an interesting thing to try and understand. Agents have always been a bit of an enigma, because of the Catch 22 situation is that you can’t get a read without an agent, and you can’t get an agent until you sell something.

The REAL Purpose Of A Screenwriting Agent

In reality, an agent exists so that a deal can be made and processed between a screenwriter and a producer or production company or studio.

Their job is to make deals happen.

And most of the time, this is only going to happen when a screenplay is seen as commercially strong and marketable. Since screenplay agents only get 10% of whatever deals they put in play, they will only make money if the deal is big.

Do you think an agent is going to work their tail off and put in a lot of hours and time and negotiations for a thousand dollar option? So he or she can make a hundred dollars?

If you do, then you need to do a lot of homework into how this industry works.

Screenwriting agents only make enough money to have a career on mid to high level deals. Doing a deal on a script sale of a hundred grand is lucrative. As long as they do a lot of them. And most will only represent screenplays and writers if they can smell money in it.

There are managers, directors and producers out there looking for great stories and great screenplays. But Hollywood agents… they are looking for something they can easily sell.

In the end it all comes down to having a screenplay that is commercial, is marketable, that people will read and see $$$ signs.

What You Should Be Doing Instead Of Chasing Hollywood Agents

Now, managers are a different entity altogether. They will, the good ones, help you become a better writer, help develop your scripts, offer feedback, work with you, build your network, name drop you around town, etc.

Most managers will even help you get a script agent – but only, of course, if they think the agent will be able to sell your screenplay.

And so, rather than spending all your energy trying to find a screenplay agent who you think can “launch your career,” start building your own network so you can get a manager instead. For the time being, get a good entertainment attorney, and make your deals yourself.

If you want to break into Hollywood, then seeking out screenwriting agents may be a necessary step in doing so, but only later on.

First, you need to create a stellar script, float it around where you can, make ground in high level contests, network, move to LA, and create your own opportunities to have a manager stop and listen. Then, once you’ve become a more lucrative commodity and are ready to sign some deals, start thinking about getting a script agent.

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Scott Parisien was a senior analyst at ScriptPipeline for five years before switching to ScriptReaderPro. He has optioned five scripts in recent years, one of which “Incision,” (2013 PAGE awards winner) is currently in pre-production with Loesch Productions.

Let our script coverage services get your screenplay up to the standard where managers, producers and eventually screenplay agents will sit up and take notice.

6 Comments
  1. jeerasak says:

    Can you recommend an agent for me?
    I have a script to offer.
    thank you

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Have you seen this article on how to get a manager/agent? https://www.scriptreaderpro.com/how-to-get-a-screenwriting-agent/

    2. Script Reader Pro says:

      Yes that can happen unfortunately. Sounds like you made the right move.

  2. Steve Douglas-Craig says:

    Great article! This is sound, honest advice. I had an agent at a top agency for a bit until I realized they were not working for me at all… they were a token of my achievement instead of a viable part of my career. I now have a lawyer. Only. Steve DC

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Yes that can happen unfortunately. Sounds like you made the right move.

  3. COPLAND MWIINGA says:

    PLEASE SEND ME FEW MOVIE SCREENPLAYS BASED ON CHRISTIAN BIBLE STORY MOVIES FOR ME TO LEARN FROM. ALSO INCLUDE ME ON YOUR MAILLING LIST FOR SCRIPT SCREENPLAY WRITING, LESSONS AND OTHER INFORMATION

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