Q&A: How Do I Get a Lit Agent or Manager?

Q&A: How Do I Get a Lit Agent or Manager?

Yes, this is that article. The one that dives straight into the mystery that plagues all writers at some point on their creative journey—

“How the hell do you find representation?”

Now, let me preface things by saying that if you’re asking this question after writing your very first script, then it is WAY too early (or is probably too early) to be thinking about reps. You should focus on building an impressive portfolio of work, or revising the current script to make certain it's as good as you can make it, before wasting a bunch of time and mental space on finding a rep who won't sign a writer off a script that isn't ready for the market.

The second preface is to emphasize that having a rep is not necessarily the required path for every writer. You can absolutely hustle and find your own work without an agent or manager. Yes, it’s probably more difficult, and you are likely limiting yourself to smaller-budget or indie projects, but you can make a successful career by learning how to navigate on your own behalf, then turn around with an entertainment lawyer to check the contract. You keep the percentage that otherwise would go into someone else’s pocket.

If neither of these conditions apply to you, and you’re ready to level-up in your career with a manager or agent as your back-up dancers ...

The answers below are simply some of the most common methods used—however, this is by no means an exhaustive list, and the path to snagging a rep is not a paved one. Everyone has their own story or strategy implemented that worked (or didn’t work). The film & TV industry is a space for creatives, and you need to be just as creative in your efforts to acquire representation.

Also, one final note: I'll primarily be referring to both managers and agents as “reps.” While there are significant differences between these two roles, the methods you might go about procuring one or both of these individuals are, by and large, surprisingly similar.

Alright, all prefaces aside, “How the hell do you find representation?” ...

#1 - Referrals from Another Writer

The golden path forward is the way of the referral. Usually, writers are the first to understand the struggles of another writer. And that makes sense, right? When a writer finds any semblance of success, they often don’t need to be encouraged to give back to the next generation of screenwriters. Or they shouldn't, anyway. In fact, the most common helping hand you will find is another writer—therefore, I would encourage you to make as many genuine friends as possible.

Keep in mind, an established writer can often pass your work, if it's stellar, on to their personal rep or a rep they know. I would emphasize, however, that even if the writers around you are not currently repped, do not view these early relationships without value. It's extremely likely one of your writing buddies will not only find representation, but also land a gig that could have them calling your number.

"So I should be a mooch and use friends and acquaintances for what they can do for me in the future because #Hollywood—"

Stop it.

Don’t be a mooch! Be a helping hand. Pay it forward with generosity and in the spirit of true friendship.

#2 – Contests and Fellowships

Fellowships and contest placements from established or well-known organizations is another path forward for many writers. I would absolutely encourage your participation in the top-rated ones. At minimum, at least you can gauge where you stand with a particular script.

If you apply and are offered a fellowship, the organizers often connect their fellowship recipients with potential reps. The same goes for placing as a finalist or winning a competition—those contest scripts usually get sent to industry reps for consideration (or at least, would recommend only submitting to contests with this component). With the backing of an established organization behind you, your work often jumps to the top of the reading pile.

Now, some reps don’t care about fellowships or contests, but there are many who have their ear to the ground when placements are announced. Bias alert: but Script Pipeline is living proof writers get discovered and repped through contests every year.

#3 – The Query

Unfortunately, the film and TV industry does not have a very well-organized or monitored query system, compared to publishing. Most writers who venture down this path send dozens of queries to managers and agents with absolutely no response. And it's frustrating. But the “Hollywood Pass” is usually a non-response.

Weirder things have happened than a rep responding to a formal query. It does happen occasionally, and for that reason, I would encourage you to do a little digging and find the managers who have an open query inbox.

While many managers accept email queries, you almost will never find a film and TV agent with an open inbox. If you do happen to find those unicorns out there, then make sure you craft a short and professional query with no script attached to the email.

This is also where your logline is meant to shine. Often, they will skip straight to the logline and make their decision whether to reach out or hit delete.

Keep the query email short and straightforward. Focus on creating a killer logline, and, in some cases, why you are the writer to write that story.

#4 – Meet a Manager at an Event

If you live near Los Angeles or another major industry hub, you might off-handedly meet a manager at a local industry function. Writers who live in more remote places are, of course, going to need to rely on online functions, social media, writing conferences, or film festivals.

Don't be shy. Say hi. Be "normal." Meaning, don't try too hard or come across as desperate. Just be you. Confident. Funny (if you're funny ...). A good conversationalist.

The tip no one tells you: if there’s alcohol involved—and there usually is at these functions—don't drink too much!

Can you meet a rep on social? It's happened. But by and large it ends up being "hi, hello," followed by "sure, query me."

#5 – An Interested Producer

A writer with the right enthusiasm and navigation prowess can find and approach producers who might be interested in their project. Keep in mind producers usually have specific tastes and requirements for the type of project they’re looking for, so do your research (i.e. don’t send a romcom to a producer who only does horror).

You can find a producer’s preferences and portfolio on their IMDB profile. Or watch movies in your genre and see who produced them.

If you can find a producer who falls in love with your script, then the path to production opens ... a little. It's still very difficult to acquire financing and resources to get a film made, but if a good producer is in your corner, that’s a huge momentum boost.

An interested producer can sometimes toss a rep into your path just to cross their T's and dot there I's for a potential studio contract. In the wonderful chaos of getting your script into production—magically—you could come out the other side with a rep in hand.

Approaching a producer may seem like an intimidating thing, but it’s just a matter of finding the right kind of person looking for the right kind of project. Most producers are like you, trying to get new stuff off the ground that'll turn a profit or move their career forward.

Don't be afraid to try leave no stone unturned. As I said, you need to be creative to land representation.

Good news: creativity is already a writer's strength.

*Feature illustration by nuvolanevicata (Adobe)

Ruth Sabin has a secret identity: children’s book author by day and by night... a screenwriter who loves a gritty adventure. Makes for an eclectic portfolio and a fun career of creative consulting.
More posts by Ruth Sabin.
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