How to get an agent

How to get an agent? Only one foolproof way, I’m afraid. Write a great script.

Often writers find questions about how to get an agent pretty difficult to answer. By definition, no-one is an expert. After all, it’s pretty much only happened to us once or twice, max.

Plus, unless you have a great story about how you got your representation (like David Goyer) the answer is bound to be disappointing. The truth is, most writers think that getting representation was either pretty easy (for them), or incredibly lucky.

And if you’re an aspiring screenwriter, who is desperate to find someone to work with you, the individual specifics of our oh-so-specific journeys aren’t that much practical help.  How to get an agent? It’s different almost every time.

Here’s my story. Take from it what you will. (Also, it’s worth noting that I’m based in the UK, and got my representation some years ago now… caveat emptor!)

How I got my agent

I got my literary agent, by writing a pilot spec script and politely querying agencies (getting their e-mail addresses from the internet, where they are freely available), and asking in a quick two-paragraph e-mail whether they would like to read my script. I…

  • … addressed it to a specific agent, who I thought I might like the work (I found this out through researching the clients they currently represented on the internet)
  • … did not send the script immediately, I gave a one sentence overview.
  • … did not talk about my aims and dreams for my writing in great depth: I said I was a screenwriter looking for representation.
  • … kept it short and to the point.

About 30% didn’t reply. About 30% got back and said they weren’t growing their lists at the moment. Some suggested someone else, and I followed up with them. Some asked for the script. In a couple of weeks, I had a couple of meetings.

The meeting

My first meeting was with a big name agency and a well-respected agent. I went suited and booted (don’t do this, no-one does this in the UK Film and TV industry, you’ll look like an idiot). The agent said she liked my script, but she wasn’t going to take me on, but that I should keep her in touch with my work. She also said she’d met a couple of young producers the week before, and would I mind if she passed on my script?

I said… er, yes whatever you want. You have a really nice office…

Next week, I had a General Meeting with the producers. They really liked my script and were interested in talking about more ideas. By the way, would I mind if they passed my script on to some people they knew…

Er, yes… please go ahead…

The week after that I got a call from an agent that the producers knew. She liked my script and wanted to represent me.

And just like that, weirdly, I had an agent.

As an out-of-date pop culture icon of the early twenty-first century and noted meerkat might say: simples.

How to get an agent? Well, it isn’t that easy…

I didn’t really have to do anything except write a few e-mails. Oh, and write a script. And write the four scripts before that, all of which I was too embarrassed to send out.

If you’re an unrepresented writer spending all your time strategizing about getting yourself representation, you’re doing yourself a disservice. You should spend that time writing.

And re-writing. And writing some more. Be self-critical, and send out the very best work you can do at that particular point in time.

If, when you do feel ready to go out, you get some reads but don’t land representation — don’t bemoan the closed shop nature of the film and television industry. It’s. Just. Not.

My experience is that agents, producers, broadcasters, film companies are all crying out for talent.

Instead: write another script. Get better. Then e-mail again.

How to get an agent? Once you have a great script, it’s easy. How to write a great script that will get you attention? That’s a whole other question…

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