Practical Advice for Finding an Agent or Manager

AFF_LogoOne of the great things about the Austin Film Festival and Screenwriting Conference is how well the conference creators have balanced panels about the craft of screenwriting with the business of it.

On Friday, I attended a panel called Breaking In: Finding Representation. The panel featured two up and coming writers, Justin Marks and John Swetnam, and their representation. Justin’s manager, Adam Kolbrenner is a co-founder of Madhouse Entertainment (currently accepting submissions), and John’s agent David Boxerbaum is in the lit department over at Paradigm.

The main take-away from the session came from John, though everyone on the panel underscored his words: If you want representation, he told us, you need to write a good script. Not just a pretty good script or a script that your family thinks is good, but a script that you truly believe could compete with the movies that are showing at your local theater.

Write a good script. That’s what it all comes down to, he said. If you’ve written one script, make it better. Then write a new script, and that script will almost certainly be better than the first. Keep writing, keep getting better, and eventually you’ll get there if you have the heart and determination to keep improving. John told us that he wrote 19 scripts before he sold one. That kind of perseverance is what it takes.

The panelists also insisted that once you do find representation, don’t think that you can sit back and your career will just fall into place. At that point you still need to be pushing forward, taking the reins on your own career, and above all else, you need to keep producing new material.

Once you think you have a good script, get it out there by entering contests, getting coverage, sending query letters, and the people on the panel also recommend using The Blacklist. Personally, I had a bad experience with the Blacklist, but I understand that it can be helpful for a lot of people. One way that you can use it very effectively is by posting your script on it before sending queries. That way, you can include a link to your script in your query letter, making it one step easier for your script to get read. A fellow writer I met at the conference had tried that approach and found that people who didn’t respond to her query directly did download her script.

The other most important takeaway came from John. He said, “A bad script doesn’t mean a bad writer. That’s the great thing about writing. If you don’t get it right with one script, you get to start over. Once you write a truly good script, the rest will work itself out.”

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