Peter Conquers Showbiz Episode 3

Outside-Looking-In

Television Writing from the Outside In
This week: Do you have an agent?

Last week: How do you meet people? How do you get around?

This week: Do you have an agent or manager yet?

This question reminds me of the Bill and Ted’s timeless tautological dialog between Aristobil and Socrated.

ARISTOBIL: While I agree that in time our band will be most triumphant, Wyld Stallyns will never be a superband until we have Eddie Van Halen on guitar.

SOCRATED: Yes, but I do not believe we will get Eddie Van Halen until we have a triumphant video.

ARISTOBIL: It’s pointless to have a triumphant video before we even have decent instruments.

SOCRATED: Well, how can we have decent instruments when we don’t really even know how to play?

ARISTOBIL: That is why we NEED Eddie Van Halen.

SOCRATED: And that is why we NEED a triumphant video.

Bill and Ted didn’t need Eddie Van Halen. They needed to finish their history report. And you don’t need an agent or manager (magent) until you’re ready for one. Getting one too soon might put you on a magency’s dorklist.

Here’s a sure-fire method for getting an agent that works for you:

1) read Aesop’s The Tortoise and the Hare

2) prove you can write

3) get your writing vetted by a professional

4) make deals on your own.

5) Read Aesop’s The Tortoise and the Hare.

I always knew the time would come for getting an agent, but I wasn’t worried about it yet because I felt I wasn’t good enough for one yet. I wasn’t working on high concept films. I wasn’t living in LA. I wasn’t sure whether I could do the tough work that screenwriters do. I hadn’t proven myself to myself.

Prove you can write. To do this, you have to write dozens of scripts and treatments. Reading every screenwriting book under heaven is a good start. Once you’ve got the theory down, you have to live the writer’s life—either part-time or full-time—meaning that you have to sit your ass in the chair and get a thrill out of the monotony of it. People who say “I’d like to write eventually…” probably aren’t people who enjoy sitting down.

Get your writing vetted by a professional. Use InkTip. Win a contest. Take the steps necessary to get TVWriter’s endorsement. Pay for coverage from a reputable company and earn a “Recommend” from them. In this way, you can call your would-be magent (or his/her assistant, more likely) with confidence, saying: “I sold a script on my own through InkTip.” “I won the XYZ competition, beating out ten thousand other scripts.” “I’ve already written a script for [a well-known producer] and he/she loved it.”

Make deals on your own through your network of contacts. A magent makes no money without writers. If you can write material that’s been vetted by professionals and made a deal on your own, you’re a good candidate for a magent. It means you know how to do your job, you know how the system works, you aren’t going to be a pain in the ass when the notes come in. Impress them with a slate of films your working on. Sell yourself as a screenwriting machine!

You can find articles on the difference between an agent or manager. In a nutshell, an agent facilitates a deal based on a script. A manager grooms writers’ careers. Confession. I don’t have an agent or a manager. I’m looking for the latter.

When I came to LA, I sent off blind submissions and got no response. (This is probably the worst way to do it.) A lawyer friend introduced me to his lawyer friend who promised to send my material to a few managers he knows. Nothing happened.

Finally, I decided to ask one of my producers (from a deal I got on my own) (and who loves my writing) if he knew anyone that might be a good manager for me, a “baby writer.” Nothing happened.

I started to get nervous. Finally he replied, “You may be a baby writer, but baby, you’re great!” He called me two days later and said he had a few key managers in LA that might be right for me. I’ll keep you posted.

But I’m no expert. I’m just a guy. Use my experiences to help inform yours. Leave your questions and advice in the comments below.

Next week: What deals have you got?

Peter is a baby feature writer who wants to be a showrunner. (BLAHAHAHA!)