Friday, July 30, 2010

Agents vs. managers, and when to get them

Michael writes: My first script to get produced is in post production in Australia (I live in the US). When should I seek out an agent/manager?  Since this movie is being made outside the U.S., should I wait until I have a film produced in the states?  Would a manager be better than an agent?  Should I wait until the movie is released?

Congrats on the film! First, keep in mind that everyone has a different story about getting representation. (Please feel free to share yours in the comments!) Some writers have absolutely no credits, get an agent, and then sell something (or get staffed). Other people do it in the opposite order because agents often look for people who have already gotten their first job/sale/etc. Agents want people who are ready to make money. If there's a random script floating around, an agent isn't going to want to represent the writer unless people agree that he or she has a lot of talent. But if you make a sale, I think more agents will come running. You'll have "heat." I know it's frustrating, since many companies won't consider your material until you already have representation...but this is why making personal connections is so important.

Managers, in my experience, are more likely to take on clients with less experience or heat. People who have talent but need a little work. I've blogged a little about this before, in terms of why you might have better luck querying managers than querying agents. Many writers first get managers, work on their material and then get agents when they're ready to go out into the marketplace and sell stuff or get staffed. Managers can help you get an agent, or vice versa, if you find yourself in the opposite position.

Some writers only have agents, and not managers...but once you're a pro, it's rare to have just a manager and not an agent. Generally, managers help you develop your material, connect you with producers and directors, etc. Agents do the selling. At each agency, agents are assigned to cover specific studios and networks and report back on what work is available at each place. Managers usually have fewer clients, and spend more time on each client. They also sometimes produce their clients' material (agents can't). The duties of managers and agents definitely do overlap; it's not as though agents can't read your stuff and give you notes, or that managers won't know what's selling in the marketplace. Both can get you meetings. It's not that one is "better" than the other, just different.

Back to Michael: It sounds like you are ready to look for an agent, especially if you've written a few other scripts. It certainly won't hurt that you have a film being shot in Australia, but how impressed people will be by that will vary. Some agents specialize in foreign talent, so you might want to do some research and find them. You can write queries if you like, but I have blogged before about why they're mostly a waste of time. I would try to use any LA connections you have, or ask the Australian people producing your film if they have any connections here. Assuming you didn't direct the film and want to get an agent to further your career as a director, you don't really need to wait until the film is released. For writers, it's the script that will function as your sample, not the movie.

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Michael said...

Thanks so much, Amanda. Your information was just what I needed. Now I have a clear(er) direction regarding how to proceed. What a great blog!

Dan Williams said...

Thanks, I didn't really know this stuff in this much detail.

Yeah, you make a great point: if a project is getting produced, why not ask the people working on it for introductions to connections in L.A.

There's no reason to be shy if you've got the talent and can help out on projects in L.A.

GH said...

Having something about to come out is one of the strongest positions you can be in when meeting with agents. Maybe that movie will be a sleeper hit! After it's released, all that potential disippates. Set up whatever meetings you can get through whatever means, and in the meetings, DO NOT disparage your film as "just" an Australian film. Having a film in post-production sets you MILES ahead of most of the agent-seekers. Even if it doesn't have US distribution yet, it's still a real movie! You want your new Agent to perceive that you are about to break through, and that s/he will find it easy to get meetings for you because you are *happening!*

Michael said...

Good advice, GH. I have begun contacting a few agents and managers in Los Angeles ( I live in Portland, OR). I already have a request to read a Christmas MOW I wrote. My Indie crime thriller CITY OF THE DAMNED will be hitting the film festival circuit once it's released. We're hoping for Sundance and Cannes but certainly no guarantees there. Not sure about distribution at this point.

Michael said...

Here's an update in my search for an agent/manager. I sent out about thirty query letters to agencies in Los Angeles and New York. I stated that I had a movie in post production with several scripts optioned. So far: Zero replies. Not even a thanks for contacting us. Pretty discouraging.