here are notes from the panel – “How to Get, Keep & Manage Your Agent or Manager” moderated by chad gervich. chad wrote a book called Small Screen, Big Picture that is required reading for those trying to break into television writing.
difference between agent and manager?
agent can legally procure employment.
if you’re just trying to be a writer, having an agent might be enough.
if you’re trying for a multi-faceted career, like writing and also directing or acting, a manager might be helpful.
a manager can act as a producer. if the script doesn’t sell, then the manager can try to act as producer to give it a second life.
agents get you a better deal.
managers make you a better writer.
managers act as a creative partner.
help you figure out which projects to write.
when breaking in, often a writer will get a manager first, then after they get a job, get an agent.
it helps agents and managers if you have a clear vision of what you want to do. if you want to do multiple things, like write comedy AND drama, pick one first.
besides 3 great writing samples, what else do you need?
for features, a high concept helps. has to be same but different.
need to have your own specific voice. need to have craft and talent.
many scripts are competent, they hit all the right beats, are structured properly, etc, but they still get a pass. lack a strong voice.
importance of having your own professional relationships.
very important, especially in tv.
when signing someone, agent/manager wants to know who do you know?
they recommend building relationships with assistants. those assistants will read and champion your work to their bosses.
best time to look for an agent.
for features, year round.
for tv, summer. after staffing season, agents go on vacation. so after that, but before development season. however, with cable, it’s becoming more year round.
what should writers expect when signing? what do agents do after signing a new client?
breaking in baby writers is fun and satisfying for agents and managers, but extremely hard.
they set up general meetings so the writer can get on people’s radar.
agents will match your energy and output. if you’re always hustling and generating material, they will work harder to send your stuff out. if you only have one script and you’re waiting for that one script to sell without writing anything new, you’re not giving the agent a lot to work with.
if your feature script has a manager attached as a producer, can that be bad for the writer? can the manager be seen as baggage?
they can, but the managers said their first priority is to sell the script, and if they can’t, then they’ll act as producer. and it depends on the manager. benderspink has a good reputation.
also, sometimes the manager offered a lot of input on the script, so will attach themselves as producer. other times, less input, and won’t.
how to get an agent or manager.
email queries rarely work.
contests can work.
the agents and managers said the best way is to get a referral.
chad said he thinks the best way to get an agent is to get a job.
generally, agents won’t sign you unless you’re already working. manager will sign someone who isn’t working yet.
instead of trying to get an agent or manager to read your whole script right away, start by sending a polished logline and get them interested enough to want to read more. then have a polished synopsis that is so well written that they will request to read the whole script.
how to fire your agent/manager.
sometimes, it’s just not the right match, and it’s best to both parties to part ways.
they said email is the best way.
no need to do it in person over lunch or something. that’s just a waste of time for the agent.