Grabbing the Agent’s Attention
By Chad Gervich
So you don’t have enough qualities to score yourself an agent. You have talent, and you have some (presumably) terrific scripts, but you don’t live in L.A., or you have no Hollywood connections, or you’ve never had any writing published or produced. Does this mean you can’t attract representation? Not necessarily. There are two other ways you can garner the attention of an agent or manager:
1. Make something. Write, publish, or produce something fantastic that forces people to sit up and take notice. Stage an original play at your local theater and work hard to get positive press and reviews. Shoot an indie film and submit it to festivals, or rent out your local theater and screen it for your community. Publish (or self-publish) a best-selling novel!
“It’s easier to get an agent for a book than it is for a screenplay,” says Brendan Deneen. And he should know—Deneen has worked for film producers Harvey Weinstein and Scott Rudin; plus, he’s been an agent at Fine Print Literary Management and an editor at Thomas Dunne Books. He now runs Macmillan Films, the production arm of Macmillan Publishing. “I would highly recommend aspiring writers not giving up on screenwriting . . . but if you have an inclination to write books, it’s an easier way to break in. An editor is more likely to respond than a movie exec, to be honest. And me— I’m open to hearing pitches from non-agented writers. I reject most of it, but I think it’s fun.”
Don’t want to write a book? Put together a sketch group and perform at local comedy clubs or community functions—then shoot your material and post it online! “If you’re a young content creator and you’re not creating something [online], taking advantage of the low barriers to entry, all the tools and technology available to you, you’re completely missing the boat,” says UTA agent Brent Weinstein. “So many unbelievably talented and successful artists working in film, television, and digital media today were discovered because they took the initiative to make something and put it online. When my film and television colleagues signed Lena Dunham, she had really only done shorts online. That lead to her directing and writing Tiny Furniture, which was a hit at South By Southwest, and going on to create Girls for HBO. The guys who created Mail Order Comedy were doing online sketch comedy. Based on those online shorts, they were discovered by people at this agency . . . and had an idea for a TV show (Workaholics). So if you’re a writer, and you have a vision, and you’re not already working in film or television, you should just be making stuff. Absolutely! Especially in certain genres. If you’re a big dramatic writer, if your daily bailiwick is Downton Abby, which is amazing television, it’s probably harder to display that type of skill-set through YouTube shorts. But if you’re a comedian, or if you’re a sci-fi or action director, there’s a lot you can do to demonstrate your skill-set online and get discovered.”
Want to be a film director but lack the budget for a full-length feature? Make a music video! In 2012, Seattle filmmaker Jon Augustavo directed “Thrift Shop,” a rap video for local musicians Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. At 15,000 views, the video caught the eye of Lenny Beckerman, head of film and TV at Hollywood management firm Hello and Company. Beckerman tracked Augustavo down and signed him to Hello and Company, which boasts a roster of feature directors, like Kat Coiro (Life Happens, While We Were Here) as well as top video directors working with artists such as My Chemical Romance, Madonna, Kelly Clarkson, The Dixie Chicks, Motley Crue, Prince, The Killers, and The Rolling Stones. I’m not saying any of these things is easy. They’re all extremely difficult and take months—even years—of hard work, dedication, and passion. But if breaking into Hollywood, or getting an agent, were easy, everyone would be doing it! I mean, was anything truly worth doing ever easy? No! And being a working writer is no exception. My point is simply this: if you can’t get an agent using traditional channels, sure—you may be at a disadvantage—but you don’t have to be down for the count. So use whatever resources you have at your disposal.
2. Move. If you already live in L.A. (or, to a lesser degree, New York City), ignore this one, but if you don’t, I’ll say it again: Move. If you’re serious about pursuing a writing career in Hollywood, it’s a career transition you’re going to have to make.
Excerpt from How to Manage Your Agent by Chad Gervich © 2013 Taylor and Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.