Tips for Screenwriters – Preparing for an Agent Meeting

Finding the right agent or manager is like dating. You’re hoping to find someone who’s not only a creative and (in a way) spiritual partner, but someone who shares a vision for your work and career. If you see yourself as a genre writer, writing sci-fi and slasher films, but a manager sees you as a dark comedy writer, it’s probably not a relationship that can survive the long haul. You’re each going to want you to be producing different types of material and pursuing different types of jobs.

Here are tips from some of the industry’s busiest writers, agents, managers, and execs on how to prepare for a “date” in Hollywood’s meat market of representation:

• Research the agency online and in the trades. Know who their big clients are, what recent movies they’ve sold, what shows they’ve packaged. Who are their top agents? Do they have a successful talent department that could provide packaging opportunities? A book department that could provide interesting source material? Have they had any recent mergers? Have they recently hired or fired any prominent agents?

•  Be knowledgable and up-to-speed about what’s going on in the industry and how the business works. Agents and managers want to know they’re not signing someone who will bombard them with questions like, “‘Why do we do this? What does this mean?’ It’s like explaining the business to your parents who aren’t in the industry. You have to go through what a general is, why you take a script into a studio, ‘what do you mean I’m writing it on spec?’ or ‘why am I writing the producer’s idea for free?’ When you have to deal with that stuff it just becomes more work. Our time is finite, and instead of spending time on someone else, I’m answering questions that could have been Googled.”—Literary manager

• Research the individual agents you’ll be meeting with, including junior agents and coordinators. Was the department head previously at another agency? Why did he leave? Do any of the senior agents have backgrounds as executives or producers? Have any of the junior agents closed any news-worthy deals recently?

• Clean yourself up, but not too much. “One of the perks of being a writer is you get to dress like a twelve-year-old on a daily basis. But when it comes to meeting with an agent, try to spruce it up a bit. A good rule of thumb is don’t look any dressier than a J Crew salesperson, unless you’re going to an awards show.”—Scott Weinger, co-producer (90210, Privileged, What I Like About You)

• “Be 100 percent prepared to talk about who you are and what you’re looking for in an agent. Know what you want to do in the future. Have a firm understanding of where you want to be five or ten years down the road. Tell them exactly the trajectory you want for your career. I would even say, ‘I want to be staffed on [this show]’ so they know your sensibility right off the bat.”—Alison Brown, TV writer (Dog With a Blog, Worst Week, $#*! My Dad Says)

• Come in with ideas to write! “It’s amazing to me—writers come in and: blank stare. ‘What do you mean, you have no ideas? You’re a writer! What exactly is it you’re doing all day, if you’re not generating ideas?!’ Be able to speak about what you want, what you want to say! The reason writers get blocked, the reason they have chunks of time where they’re not generating material, is because cause they’re not really thinking. Read! Read articles, read books, read magazines, read whatever, but get those wheels turning and things happen!”—Robyn Meisinger, manager/ partner, Madhouse Entertainment

• Don’t bring gifts. “It’s generally weird to give gifts to agents who are not your agents. If you’re trying to get an agent, they’re going to look askance at anybody who sends them something—even if it’s just of negligible value.”—Scott Hoffman, partner, Folio Literary Management

Excerpt from How to Manage Your Agent by Chad Gervich © 2013 Taylor and Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

Photo by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

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