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How To Get a Screenwriting Agent and/or Manager

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February 15, 2017 33 comments
how to get a screenwriting agent

“How Do I Get a Screenwriting Agent and Manager?”

This is the most popular question we get here at Script Reader Pro. So, in this post, we thought we’d finally demystify the process of how to gain the attention of screenwriting agents and screenwriting managers once and for all.

This is also a guide on what a screenwriting agent and literary manager actually do, and how they can help your career in different ways. Part of the problem, however, is that getting a screenwriting agent or manager can often feel very elusive—almost like a dream that only the special writers get to fulfill. However, it’s not impossible.

It just takes a handful of things all coming together—persistence, a strong desire to succeed and a highly developed writing ability.

In this post, we’ll be examining:

  • The key difference between screenwriting agents and screenwriting managers
  • How to avoid the rookie mistake many aspiring make when sending out their work
  • A 10 Step Guide on how to get a screenwriting agent
  • Query letters: when to send them and when not to send them
  • How to craft the perfect script query letter
  • Hacks and resources on how to research screenwriting agents and managers
  • What to do and not do when submitting your screenplay
  • How and when to follow up your submission
  • What to do if all of your queries to screenwriting agents/managers are rejected
  • What to do if a script agent or literary manager shows an  interest in your work
  • What to do after signing on the dotted line
  • How some of our script readers acquired screenwriting agents

So, let’s get started with a few definitions.

Screenwriting Agents & Screenwriting Managers 101

how to get a screenwriting agent

The business side of a screenwriter’s life is handled by several different representatives, each of whom handles a unique area of their career.

  • Screenwriting agent
  • Screenwriting manager (also known as a “literary manager”)
  • Attorney

Screenwriting Agents

Screenwriting agents and attorneys handle legal matters. They’ll be there for you when you’re looking to close a deal on a script sale. Screenplay agents generally take a 10 percent cut of that deal, and attorneys will take 5 percent.

However, they generally won’t help you set up general meetings, or offer you much feedback on your writing. They’ll often be in communication with you only when necessary.

In general, screenwriting agents tend not to have the time or the inclination to help your career as a screenwriter. They’re all about the sale. They will be there for you when you’ve reached that point in your career when you have something to sell and need to negotiate a deal.

In spite of what you may have heard, screenwriting agents almost never respond to query letters or unsolicited submissions. The legal risks are too great, and the slush pile of submissions would also be too great.

Screenwriting Managers

The role of a literary manager is very different from that of a script agent. Screenwriting managers will often be there to hold your hand from day one and guide you as a writer. The top literary managers for screenwriters will help you mold your career, hone your voice and focus your talent.

This hands-on approach of screenwriting managers means, in a sense, they can be viewed as the gatekeepers to the industry—discovering talented new writers and delivering them to producers, studios and television networks.

A good literary manager will read your work, give notes and help you develop it to a place where it’s the best it can be—unlike a script agent who will just take you on when it’s ready to be sold.

Screenplay managers love the hustle. They love marketing, networking and kickstarting new writers’ careers. For this reason, literary managers are usually much more willing than agents to accept unsolicited submissions and take on unknown writers, especially at the smaller literary management companies.

Should You First Try To Get A Screenwriting Agent Or Manager?

how to get a screenwriting agent

While screenwriting agents are tremendously useful when you get a deal lined up for some serious coin, they’re usually not the kind of representation an aspiring screenwriter should be looking for.

Screenwriting agents usually have anywhere from thirty to sixty unique clients, while screenwriting managers rarely have more than fifteen or twenty. Because of their shorter rosters of clients, managers have more time for each.

Overall, screenplay agents seem to be very focused and (stressed!) whereas screenwriting managers are often more laid back—more like an encouraging sports team coach. As previously mentioned, a good literary manger will help you as a writer: pick a new concept worth your time, read your scripts and give you notes over successive drafts.

Then, when you and your work are ready to be promoted, they’ll help you line up an agent. This is because screenwriting managers and agents tend to share clients—and most agents only discover new clients through personal referrals.

It’s easy to understand why: referrals and recommendations are already vetted and endorsed. Often, the personal relationships screenwriting managers have with agents in Los Angeles or elsewhere are fundamental to getting a writer signed.

The superior networking skills of most Hollywood literary managers could well put you in touch with producers and studio execs too.

“In my experience, a manager is the golden ticket to getting an agent, and from what I’ve seen for myself and my screenwriter colleagues, they’re one of the only real ways to get one.” – John McClain, Script Reader Pro screenplay consultant

If you have a strong relationship with a producer who can reach out to agents on your behalf, or perhaps you know an agent yourself, then you have other options. But if you’re new to the business and don’t know anyone in the industry, you’re better off targeting screenwriting managers first.

While we advise targeting screenplay managers first, we’ll also be mentioning how to get the attention of script agents. Maybe you already have a literary manager? Or feel you can go it alone on that front, so just need an agent?

In any event, follow the step-by-step process below and you will be giving yourself the optimal chance of getting both screenwriting agents and screenwriting managers interested in you and your work.

How To Get A Screenwriting Agent & Manager Step #1: Make Sure Your Writing Is Exceptional

how to get a screenwriting agent
Before even thinking about approaching screenwriting agents and literary managers looking for new clients, you need to make sure your work truly stands a chance. This means getting feedback on your screenplay(s) from friends who work in the industry if you know any.

If you don’t, then check out some professional script coverage services and pay a company to give you feedback. They will give your script an industry standard rating of either “Pass” “Consider” or “Recommend.”

Whatever grade you receive, your script will probably need some work doing to it. But a “Recommend” will need very little before you start sending it out to Hollywood agents and managers, and a “Pass” will need a lot.

There’s no way around this part. In order to ultimately attract high caliber representation that will change your life, you have to generate life-changing material that will attract a stellar team.

If your work’s not ready yet, it’s time to take a deep breath, slow down a bit and keep writing and improving your craft. Forget about searching for screenwriting managers and agents for a while.

Keep reading screenplays, writing constantly, getting some high-quality script coverage and continue to grow as a screenwriter. Then, once you get a “Strong Consider” or “Recommend” from an industry professional on your script, write another.

Ideally, you want to only try getting a screenwriting agent or manager once you have two or three high-quality scripts in your portfolio. This is because the first question any script agent or literary manager will ask you is, What else have you got?

Screenwriting managers and agents are looking for real screenwriters with a future in the business. And that means writers who can demonstrate an ability to consistently produce stellar material.

Not learning how to become a screenwriter first, before sending material out into the industry is probably the number one mistake aspiring screenwriters make.

How To Get A Screenwriting Agent & Manager Step #2: Pen A Great Screenwriting Query Letter

how to get a screenwriting agent
There’s much controversy these days over whether screenwriting query letters still work. Or if they’re a relic from some “golden age” of Hollywood that’s long past.

While they do still work in many cases, it’s not a good strategy for approaching screenwriting agents. Agents simply don’t look at query letters. With dozens of clients all vying for their time, they’re stressed enough as it is, so don’t waste your time.

However, we do recommend writing a good query letter and sending it to screenwriting managers. The return on your time may not be fantastic— you may only get one reply out of every hundred queries you send out—it’s better than doing nothing.

If you have a great query letter and at least two kick-ass screenplays in your portfolio, you stand a chance of gaining the attention of literary managers looking for new writers.

How To Write A Script Query Letter

Screenwriting managers field dozens of query emails a week, and the best way to stand out is brevity and clarity. Keep your screenplay query letter short, friendly and engaging.

There’s no need to mention accolades from unheard of screenwriting institutions or contests because, frankly, they won’t care.

What they’re interested in is your logline, short synopsis, and if you sound like an intelligent and communicative person. The best way to illustrate this is to add some examples of real-life query letters. Here’s the query letter that gained one of our readers, Scott Parisien, representation, followed by another more generic sample.

Screenplay Query Letter Sample #1

Subject line: 

Bourne-esque action thriller from a contest-winning writer.

Email body: 

Dear NAME HERE,

What would you do if you saw a face on a missing person poster that looked exactly like you?  

Well, that’s exactly what’s happened to Ethan Monroe—a British ex-pat who’s come to the States to start a new career. 

When he discovers this poster and delves into his cloudy past, he finds holes and secrets that reveal he may not be who he thinks he is at all.

THE OSIRIS VENDETTA mixes action and intrigue with exciting, memorable characters and a twist that you will not see coming. 

My last two thrillers placed highly in industry contests, with my script FERAL winning the All Access Competition.

I look forward to your request to read the script. Thanks for your time.

Scott Parisien

XXX-XXX-XXXX

Screenplay Query Letter Sample #2

Dear NAME HERE,

Title: XXXXXX

My name is XXXXXX and I’m a produced screenwriter whose first screenplay, XXXXXX, was purchased by XXXXXX. 

It was then produced into a feature film starring XXXXXX (“Nightcrawler”) and XXXXXX (“La La Land”). 

My latest screenplay is a moving comedy drama called XXXXXX. 

Logline: XXXXXX

XXXXXX is a story in the vein of XXXXXX and XXXXXX that tells the story of… 

Please contact me at XXXXXX if you would like to receive a copy of the script. 

Thanks for taking the time to consider my work, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards, 

Your name

XXX-XXX-XXXX

As with much to do with screenwriting, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to writing a query letter for a screenplay.

There are a few things you’ll want to avoid, however:

  • Going on too long. Screenwriting managers are busy people, just like the rest of us. So make sure you keep your script query letter to three-quarters of a page or less.
  • Sloppy presentation. This letter is your first impression so it needs to be faultless. Avoid at all costs: typos, spelling mistakes, grammar irregularities, wonky formatting, etc. Get someone to proofread it first.
  • Overdoing it. Just send the screenwriting query letter and nothing else. No fancy fonts. No brightly colored banners. No pictures. No video clips. And don’t attach the actual screenplay, treatment or a character list either.

How To Get A Screenwriting Agent & Managers Step #3: Seek Out People To Send Your Script Query Letter To

how to get a screenwriting agent

As we’ve already mentioned, attracting the attention of screenwriting agents via cold query letters is highly improbable, and so focus on screenwriting managers with your queries. Here are a couple of points to consider as you do your research.

Genre. It’s advisable these days for newbie writers to stick to one genre and so look for managers who work with writers with a similar style to yours. For instance, if your niche is writing dark Romantic Comedies, make a list of your favorite movies in that genre and then find out who wrote them and who they’re represented by.

Start small. You’re probably more likely to find success targeting small screenwriting managers and literary management companies with smaller client lists than the big boys of the industry. Newer managers who are maybe just starting out on their own and likely to be more driven and hungry to find that next big breakthrough writer.

The Top 100+ Screenwriting Managers

The best place to start scouting screenwriting managers is our downloadable pdf Top 100+ Screenwriting Managers List. This is a comprehensive list of over one hundred legit Hollywood managers worth submitting your queries to.

Every manager and Hollywood management company on this list is looking for new writing talent, and while many do not accept unsolicited queries without a referral, many on the list do.

We’ve included the contact details, submission policy and size of each management company in the document. (They range from one staff member with one client to fifty-five staff and over five-hundred clients, so you can target the smaller management companies first if you wish.)

There are some omissions, but chances are if a screenwriting manager isn’t on the list, they’re probably focused on acting talent or operate on a freelance basis completely separate from any Hollywood management company.

You can download our Screenwriting Managers List for free.

IMDb Pro

If you haven’t already, also sign up with IMDb Pro. This has taken over from the Hollywood Creative Directory as the go-to resource for screenwriting managers and screenwriting agents.

As of writing, it costs $19.99 a month, but you can save 37 percent off this price by signing up for an annual subscription at $149.99. That may sound like a lot of money, but it’s not really if you’re serious about securing the services of a Hollywood management company.

On IMDb Pro you’ll find the contact details of everyone you could ever want to get in touch with—the movies they’ve worked on, are developing and the writers who are signed with them.

Referrals

Overall, this is a referral business. The very best way to get a screenwriting agent or manager is to befriend someone who knows one and get them to recommend you.

If you have friends or family members with industry connections who are willing to go out on a limb for you, so much the better, as being referred to a manager or agent from someone they know and trust is probably the easiest way to gain representation.

The annual (original) Black List, released every December, is another terrific (and free) resource for finding screenwriting managers. You can read all of the loglines for the most popular scripts of the year, find projects that seem similar to yours, and discover the names of the representation behind each project.

best screenwriting software

Online Pitch Sites

The Black List website (an offshoot of the annual best spec scripts of the year list) is a good first point of call. The site works on the premise that you upload your screenplay whereupon it can be spotted by screenwriting agents and screenplay managers.

You can become a member as a Guild or Non-Guild screenwriter. It costs Non-Guild members $25 per month to host at a screenplay or pilot, and this must be upheld every month for your membership to remain active.

Stage32 enables new writers to pitch industry personel such as execs, screenwriting managers, producers and screenwriting agents virtually, face-to-face. The benefit here is that you don’t have to pay to go to a pitch festival anymore—you can do it from the comfort of your apartment.

InkTip is another good choice. Again, it involves uploading your screenplay and/or logline to the website where screenwriting agents, producers and literary managers can find it. And, as with the Blacklist, you can track who’s viewing your script and what they think of it.

New and hungry screenwriting managers, in particular, use online pitch sites like these to find all those hot screenplays that have scored highly on their quality charts.

Networking

For those who aren’t lucky enough to have any connections in the industry, get out there and start going to places screenwriting agents and screenwriting managers are likely to be. These include:

  • Writers’ groups. Go on Stage32 and meetup.com and join a writing group. Not only will you get valuable feedback on your work, but you may meet your first screenwriting manager or agent.
  • Festivals/conferences. Screenwriting conferences, film festivals, pitch festivals are all perfect places to network. You can import the top screenwriting dates to your iCloud/Google calendar from this year’s screenwriters’ calendar.
  • Coffee shops/bars/gyms near agencies and companies. Screenwriting agents and managers are likely to be hanging out in places near their workplaces, so take advantage of that. If it’s a feasible option, consider moving to LA. We have a post called 4 Bad Reasons Screenwriters Give For Not Moving To LA (And Why You Should Ignore Them) that you may find persuasive. It’s all about having a great couple of scripts and then putting yourself in places where you’re most likely to either meet people who work in the industry or know someone who does.

Screenwriting Contests

Winning or placing highly in one of the best screenwriting contests can be a good way of grabbing the attention of screenwriting managers and screenwriting agents. Focus on the script competitions that promise the winner’s meetings, rather than just prize money.

The top contests such as The Nicholl and the Austin Film Festival screenplay contest, are pretty much guaranteed to put you in touch with producers, screenwriting agents and literary managers if you place highly.

How To Get A Screenwriting Manager & Agent Step #4: Submit Your Screenplay Query Letter

how to get a screenwriting agent

Many screenplay managers will only get back to you if they like what they read. In which case, they’ll request the whole script.

Overall, while screenplay query letters can be a useful tool in your armory, they shouldn’t be relied upon, and you should be using all the online and offline methods detailed above.

Create a spreadsheet

Being able to track which screenwriting managers and agents you’ve submitted to and staying organized is paramount. Create a spreadsheet, adding the details of each screenwriting manager and/or agent you want to contact.

However, don’t go overboard and create a list of eight-hundred names. Start with a small list of around twenty or thirty of your ideal script managers. Then add another thirty once you’ve submitted to all of them.

Check the company submission policy

Take your time to find out what each screenwriting manager’s submission policy is first before sending them any material. Just like with screenwriting agents, not all screenwriting managers are keen on receiving unsolicited material from new writers. Many will only read queries from writers who’ve been referred by someone they know and trust in the industry.

Also, most screenwriting managers do not like being sent full screenplays, treatments, outlines or attachments of any kind via email or in the post. The majority prefer a simple logline and very short synopsis first, and then they will get back to you if their interest is sparked and request to read the script.

Stay personal

Individually craft each query before sending out. And always, always get the name of the person you want to query—whether it’s the manager themselves or their assistant.

Ideally, call the company and ask who you should send your query to, as this can be a great way of starting a connection. However, if you’re not all that confident on the phone, email instead.

Generally, you want to get the name of an assistant at a Hollywood management company, rather than the founder.

Choose the right time

What’s the best time to send screenplay query letters or emails? What’s the best time of day? Season of the year? There aren’t many hard and fast rules, other than never send script query letter over the weekend, and probably not on a Monday or Friday either.

You should also avoid submitting queries to screenwriting managers on the two weeks surrounding Christmas, and any other big holidays, such as Independence Day.

How To Get A Screenwriting Agent & Manager Step #5: Follow Up  

how to get a screenwriting agent
If your screenplay query isn’t up a particular screenwriting manager’s alley, then you may or may not hear back. But don’t get impatient and start pestering them with tons of follow-up emails.

Give the manager or agent you submitted to enough reading time. If you haven’t heard from them in two to three months, an email or call is perfectly reasonable.

In that time, you should have started seeing responses from your other submissions, one way or the other. You may get your material returned to you simply with a compliments slip but, hopefully, you’ll get at least a form letter.

If you’re lucky, a screenplay agent or manager may take the time to give you some personalized feedback, in which case reach out and thank them. There’s nothing to be lost in that situation by asking to contact them with more material down the line.

The silence…

If, after sending out dozens of query letters, you get nothing but rejections, then it’s time to assess why. Re-read your query and take a good hard look at it.

Ask yourself some tough questions, such as: Would I pay money to watch the events described in this logline up on screen? Is this the very best I can do? Or can it be improved?

Depending on your answers, it might be time to get back to work on the query letter.  Go back and rewrite it. Shorten it. Make it more punchy and intriguing. Or have a professional script consultant give you some feedback.

By the way, going onto online forums to complain about agents isn’t a good idea. Nor is complaining about them to other screenwriting agents or managers.

Even though they’re competitors, agents and managers still talk to one another, so you might get known for all the wrong reasons. The motto again here is: be polite and respectful at all times.

The breakthrough

But let’s say a screenplay manager or script agent wants to read your screenplay. Congratulations! Send it in with a short thank you note and nothing else. No character bios, treatment or any other bells and whistles many novice screenwriters feel the need to submit.

Or, let’s say you get a positive response from Company X and you’re still waiting for Company Y to get back to you. There’s no harm in calling Company Y and asking them if they’ve had a chance to look at your script.

Say you’ve had interest from Company X and you’re thinking of signing with them, but don’t be arrogant about it. Just be polite and respectful.

It’s a poker game, and you want in at the table. And the good thing is screenwriting managers and agents genuinely want to find new talent. They want you as badly as you want them, so you have more control in this situation than you may think.

How To Get A Screenwriting Agent & Manager Step #6: Choose Wisely

how to get a screenwriting agent

Firstly, it’s important to be aware that not all screenwriting managers are created equal. Some are far, far better at their jobs than others. Some will act as true mentors, guiding your career every step of the way, while others won’t even bother to return your calls.

Should your work receive a positive response from a screenwriting manager or agent, you will feel like you’ve been “chosen.” And likely you’ll want to sign with whoever shows the least bit of interest. That’s the wrong strategy.

Look for a similar wavelength

In order to get anything out of the relationship, it’s important to focus on those screenwriting managers who are on your wavelength. Ideally, they should love not only your writing but the overall genre(s) you write in and the same kinds of movies.

Take meetings with all of your potential reps, and assess who’s the best for you. Go with the one who shows the most detailed enthusiasm about your work, that seems keen to nurture you. The one that, importantly, you can sit in a room with and actually get along with. That’s the one you want.

Overall, assessing screenwritng managers and screenwriting agents is much like finding a lover. You both need to support one another through thick and thin, and you’d better make sure you keep each other excited.

Look for passion

Above all else, though, they need to show you a level of commitment to you as a writer and that they’re going to promote the hell out of your work. This desire and ability to get you noticed shouldn’t be underestimated, as the last thing you want is to wind up with a manager whose idea of hustling is sending out an email every month.

This is why going for the less established “newbie” screenwriting managers can often be a wise career-move. These are the people with the passion to make things happen and who are actively building their client list and contacts.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t also approach the veteran screenplay managers, as they can be fantastic too. But they may have less time for you than their bigger-name clients.

Do some research

Sign up to Done Deal Pro and type in “screenwriting managers” or “screenwriting agents.” This site is one of the best only repositories for gossip and opinion about various reps. You can find out who’s liked and who’s loathed, which could very well save you from entering a toxic relationship with the wrong literary manager.

For a start, a reputable script agent or manager will never ask you for money up front. Or a monthly fee. Apart from avoiding scam artists, the best thing you can do for your career is find a team of reps who love your work and really believe in your creative goals.

how to get a screenwriting agent

The meeting

Don’t just sign with the first literary manager or agent who asks to meet you. The meeting will likely feel like they’re interviewing you, but this isn’t entirely true. You’re also interviewing them. It’s important (and difficult) to realize that you’re their employer and not the other way around.

So don’t be afraid to ask questions about who they regularly deal with or their way of working, that kind of thing. Whether your work fits with their aims, and vice versa should be a key part of the process.

Don’t try to put on a persona. Just be yourself: cool, calm and collected. But deadly serious about writing. The last thing you want is to give a prospective rep the impression you’re going to be an annoying client. Think Bradley Cooper rather than Zach Galifianakis.

What happens after signing?

So you’ve finally jumped all the hurdles, met with a rockin’ script agent, and signed on the dotted line. What can you expect? Depending on the status of your various projects, your work will be sent out in an appropriately strategic way.

You’ll meet directors and other attachment elements, and you’ll be sent out on what’s known locally as the “Water Bottle Tour.”

This is an intense round of general meetings where you’re offered a water bottle at each one. One or more of those meetings may generate future relationships and work for you, and if so you’re on your way.

How We Got Screenwriting Agents And Managers

Hopefully, their stories will inspire you to follow in their footsteps. You can read all about them on our About Us page.

How To Get A Screenwriting Agent: By John McClain

How To Get A Screenwriting AgentHere’s a very brief rundown of exactly how I landed a literary manager, and subsequently a screenwriting agent.

Several years ago, I wrote a script that I hoped would serve as a calling card, a project that would be attention-grabby and exciting for people to read.

It was an expensive period horror that I really never imagined would get made (spoiler alert: it hasn’t gotten made), but I knew it would be a fun project that was unlike anything people had read.

Armed with a subscription to IMDb Pro and three years’ worth of annual Black Lists, I sought out screenwriting managers that seemed to nurture writers with similar styles or interests as mine.

Then I reached out directly, submitting my work to those who asked to read me, and met with the one team of managers who loved my material. They’ve been the oldest and most reliable part of my team of reps ever since.

I also sent queries to screenwriting agents, and while ALL of the managers I contacted, called or emailed back, none of the agents reached out at all.

I’m telling you, they only operate on a relationship basis! After signing with my management team, we spent two and half years workshopping the script and writing new material. (That’s right: two and a half YEARS)

The first script didn’t sell, but it did garner me several meetings which lead to work that went through a Sundance Lab, and another project that sold and landed on the Black List.

After that long haul, my managers reached out to screenwriting agents on my behalf, and I landed an amazing rep at one of the big five [William Morris Endeavor (WME), International Creative Management (ICM), Creative Artists Agency (CAA), United Talent Agency (UTA), Paradigm Talent Agency] as well as a terrific attorney.

It is easy for me to say that my managers and script agent have absolutely changed my life. But they didn’t do it out of the sweetness of their hearts or because I’m a nice guy.

They did it because they believed in my work and because thought they could make money out of me. In other words: the writing was good.

How To Get a Screenwriting Agent: By Scott Parisien 

How To Get A Screenwriting AgentAt this point in the game for myself, I have had two screenwriting agents and two sets of managers. I happened to snag my first screenwriting agent with a query letter. He was a small agent, outside of LA, but took a chance on me.

I worked with him for years and he helped set up my first project that had legs, even though it fell apart a few weeks before production was due to take place.

Poor health took him out of the picture, and I was left with nobody on my back. After a few hard years, I won and placed well in some contests and snagged a high tier management company with some well-crafted query emails.

I was with that management team for five years, and it was a constant battle of agreeing or disagreeing over ideas and choices and career wants and needs.

The interesting thing to note is that even my managers didn’t want to get me set up with an agent until I had a project that they were able to get close to a sale. They didn’t feel it was worth bringing them in if I had nothing yet to offer them.

After five years, I decided it was time to move on and I fired that team, even though they had high caliber projects making noise. It was a hard decision, but I felt they were just not the champions I needed.

Soon after, I found a new manager, a smaller one, with a passion for story and writers like I had never seen. I then went on to win the Page Awards, and he helped me capitalize on the attention with a sale.

Having this manager for a year, far outweighed anything the larger and prominent managers did for me, all because he is a champion of my work.

Recently, through how big of a fan he is of my writing, he has managed to get me onto the roster of a great agent at a top house. And I know he will be there when I have that big sale ready to happen.

All because I fully trust my manager and I know that screenwriting agents need a hot commodity to sell, or they can’t afford to waste their time.

Overall, finding and getting a screenwriting agent is really the end game, once you have learned how to write a screenplay. At least… having mastered the first level.

Beast mode is a harder level to get to, and even A-list screenwriters struggle to make it there and stay there. So, keep writing, always be learning, always taking feedback and see if it will make you better. And never give up.

How To Get A Screenwriting Agent: By Peter Briggs

How To Get A Screenwriting AgentI signed with my first screenwriting agent back in the early 90s when things were very different from how they are now. On top of this, I was born a long way from Los Angeles: in a small northern town in England.

At some point it dawned on me I wasn’t that bad a writer and perhaps trying to get representation might not be out of the question.

So, I created my stack of screenplays. Now I had to find my market. However, I was basically stuck with the smaller British homegrown agencies, and the two larger LA agencies with a London presence: William Morris and ICM.

Hollywood networking was way different back then and simply not connected for any individual “user” beyond a telephone. Your sole avenue for gleaning industry names and contacts was the semi-regular purchase of hefty, expensive $100+ printed Hollywood Directories.

These days, the most useful thing you can do to help your research is buying an online subscription to IMDb Pro. This unlocks those same direct-access email addresses for agents worldwide. (Or, at least, to their over-stressed assistants.)

So, once I had my list of script agents, I hit the streets, hand-delivering my wares one pile at a time. One morning, after several rejection letters, I received a crisp envelope with a William Morris logo on it.

Turns out they were interested in my work, and would I contact their office with a view to coming in to have a chat? But, hold on: there was another envelope in the same batch. Only this one was from ICM.

In what was turning out to be a surreal morning, ICM also wanted me to contact them. I immediately made appointments and headed into town to meet my prospective reps.

The ICM script agent talked about who he wanted to set me up with, and outlined his game plan for me over the next hour. I was impressed. In comparison, the William Morris guy was less in-depth and didn’t flatter my writing, other than saying he enjoyed it and was interested.

I told him ICM were also interested, so he said to let him know what I decided. I think I was out the door in about ten minutes. I was disappointed. It was a no-brainer. I went with ICM, but this turned out to be a big mistake.

Our personalities didn’t really gel. And his “game plan” turned out to be hot air. After a few months, I ditched ICM and signed with the script agent at William Morris.

A few months later, I handed him my Alien vs. Predator draft, which I’d written on spec. He flew to LA the next week and sold it to Larry Gordon and 20th Century Fox. Overnight my career had begun.

Securing Screenwriting Agents & Managers: Conclusion

how to get a screenwriting agent

Always keep in mind that being a screenwriting agent or a manager is a job. And a tough one at that. Just like a writer is only as good as his or her last screenplay, a script agent is only as good as his or her last sale.

They can’t spend time on small projects or projects that won’t attract stars or directors or producers. It’s important to keep a positive attitude when it comes to all aspects of the business, but it is also important to be practical.

And realizing that if a screenwriting agent, say, only makes 10 percent on deals they put together, no one is going to take on a writer that doesn’t have commercial appeal. Someone that they can see selling many scripts for a lot of money. Because if not, what’s in it for them? Keep this in mind not only when hunting, but also when writing.

The percentage of good screenwriters out there is infinitesimal. But you don’t want to just be “good”. Getting a good screenwriting agent or manager requires you to be fantastic.

Yes, it’s important to take your professional arc seriously, to strategize, to daydream, and to aspire. But the most important thing you can do—the thing that you can control entirely and that will ultimately determine whether you snag a screenwriting agent or manager or not—is the quality of your writing.

Firstly, stop procrastinating. We writers are world-class procrastinators, so make a binding resolution that getting a manager or script agent is to be your number one priority and stick to it.

Yes, if you’ve been an amateur so far, it can a big and scary step to dip your toe into the waters of professionalism. But if you set the wheels in motion, persist. And if your writing is fantastic, you’ll likely succeed.

If you like us to take a look at your script before you start approaching screenwriting agents and screenplay managers, click the banner below to check out our script coverage services.

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33 Comments
  1. Sam Geloso says:

    Hello. This post was extremely fascinating, particularly because I was browsing for advice on how to get an agent for my writing career the other day.

  2. Christopher C. says:

    Thank you for this comprehensive guide; an aid into which direction I should choose to go on my writing journey.

  3. Jim Gulian says:

    What a helpful article. Thank you for your generosity. The content was eye opening and the three perspectives were the icing. I need to get to work.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks Jim, good luck with getting representation!

  4. John Carey says:

    That article is true and helpful. Thank you for writing it. Also, for screenwriters: make sure your script is polished before you show it to anyone in the industry. Study the formatting section in “The Screenwriter’s Bible.” Read “Your Screenplay Sucks.” Read at least ten other screenwriting books. One way to help polish a script is to workshop it with a group of writers who help each other. In L.A. there are a variety of these screenwriter workshops that are run on small donation. See MeetUp.com. In Sherman Oaks on Monday evenings, there is Actors and Screenwriters of Hollywood. In Venice on Thursday evenings, there is Beyond Baroque Screenwriting Workshop. There are others. I started the one called Screenwriting Tribe, which consists of over 200 writers and some actors who help writers polish their scripts. We hold a workshop every Sunday from 6-8 p.m. in Santa Monica. We read out loud and give feedback on 12 pages from 4 scripts from 4 writers in attendance at the workshop. Up to 15 people can RSVP to attend – usually two or three are actors. The first four writers who RSVP to reserve space at the two-hour workshop can bring several copies of their 12 pages. Each of the 4 writers gets 24 minutes at the workshop. After we read the pages out loud (usually about 10-11 minutes), we go around the table twice. The first time is for positive feedback. The second time is for constructive criticism. The writers remain quiet, both during the read and the feedback. It takes two to four months to put a full-length script through our workshop – 12 pages at a time. But, the script will be better for having been critiqued by dozens of other writers. The writer will improve their craft. The script will be more ready to give to agents, managers, studio readers, producers, directors, actors, financiers, and others, and to submit to writing fellowships and screenplay contests.

  5. Alice says:

    I personally like your post; you have shared good insights on how to get an agent. Keep it up.

  6. Brad says:

    I’ve decided to (re-)commit to my screenwriting career–I realize I have the talent but didn’t give it even a proper go. I love adapting for the screen, and writing for TV. I wrote an episode of an open submission TV show that industry friends praised. I’ve written 2 other feature length adaptations, including one with the blessing of the novelist. I see it is recommended to have 2-3 marketable scripts. Would adaptations count, or do I really also need to write some original scripts? I want to do that at some point, but my next great passion project was to adapt the first in a series of 3 science fiction novels. I want to best use my time. Thanks for any feedback!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Hi Brad – adaptation is a great way to go as your script will be based on an existing IP. Overall though I’d recommend going for what moves and excites you the most. If that’s an original script then go for that instead but there’s certainly nothing wrong with writing a great script adapted from a novel.

  7. Giuseppe says:

    I’m looking for an agent but am stuck in Europe. 🙁

  8. Thomas Ivor says:

    Thank you guys so much. Been looking for this info on how to get a manager for so long.

  9. Jillian Sanders says:

    So I don’t need an agent I need a manager? Why does everyone tell me I need an agent then?

  10. Dirk says:

    Does this apply exactly the same to getting a producer interested in your script??

  11. Thomas says:

    Great post! Have nice day ! 🙂

  12. Kyle says:

    How long should I wait before contacting an agent to see if they liked my script? Thanks

  13. Colleen says:

    Writing for TV is not as simple as this post makes out. It requires years of trial and error not following silly steps like a child.

  14. Darla says:

    Wow… did I need this!

  15. Ricky Antonio says:

    In ordeг to be sᥙccfessful you got to get your script in order first then start looking for a manager that’s what I am doing.

  16. Ahmed Doaia says:

    This article was really useful for me.. thanks for these information.. but I’m wondering what about finding a manger or an agent for an Arabic writer who has projects represent the middle eastern conflicts written in Arabic?.. is it possible to find an agent or manger for Arabic screenplays?

  17. Abdullah-Ulfat says:

    Hi, i am from Afghanistan i have experience in script writing or screenplay since 2005 , i have wrote some of the great story witch focus on Movies 100% i am assure. it is write protect and secret , now i am looking for an agent to discuses & share with good producer in Hollywood, if someone wish to work with me he/she is will be my future partner in deal , the desire person contact me , on below address.
    [email protected]. cell no 0093700709838
    Abdullah-Ulfat

  18. Paulsilver says:

    You have just made a career for screenwriters. Thank you so much.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks Paul!

  19. Skyler says:

    One of the more truthful and comprehensive articles I’ve seen on this subject. Kudos. Glad to see Stage 32 on here. That’s where I found, wooed and eventually signed with my manager.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Yes, that’s a great site – not surprised you found your manager on there 🙂

  20. Sidney says:

    Great post, I will be taking these steps and putting them into practice definitley.!!

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for the comment, Sidney.

  21. Ellie Shaw says:

    Been looking for info like this on agents and managers and how to get em for ages 🙂 Thanks you.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Ellie!

  22. grace says:

    as someone who desperately wants to get into the screenwriting business, this was so extremely helpful. i thank you for that. i was just wondering where the Top 100+ Screenwriting Managers List is. i was interested in looking at it and can’t find it anywhere.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Hi Grace, Thanks for your kind words. You can download our 100+ Screenwriting Managers list here.

  23. Gavin Sinclair says:

    Howdy just wanted to give you a big thanks for writing this. I feel like I know where to start now with this whole getting a manager thing.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Glad we could help, Gavin.

  24. Victor says:

    Would an agent or managerwork with someone who doesn’t live in the US? Can you get assignments as a foreign writer(eg:via e-mail), or just write and sell spec screenplays(my dream)

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Yes you can certainly make connections via email and Skype but at some point may have to fly out to LA to take meetings.

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