I thought I would let Amanda the Aspiring TV Lit Agent weigh in on a few of your questions:
Mike writes: My question for AAA is... WTF?? (With a smile.)
In the past I've hit the Quarters in the Nicholl and the Semis as well. Both netted me several requests for my script, but it just didn't hit with people. Recently, I made the cut for the New York TV Festival/Fox TV comedy pilot contest. 25 out of 900 pilots selected and sent to Fox development, with the ultimate winner (maybe top three) getting a development deal with Fox. Queries with that info have netted exactly squat-ola. Is it just freakin' impossible to get read these days without either a recommendation or being able to walk in the door with a deal in hand?
First of all, the universal question of ‘wtf?’ isn’t limited to those outside looking in. When it comes to matters of taste, saleability, green lights, deals, and representation, there’s really no accounting for, well…taste.
Second of all, getting a read is by no means impossible, as long as you know how to go about it. Here are my tips for getting a read:
1. You have to forget the contests, seriously. I know outlets like Creative Screenwriting Magazine and etc. tout the “successes” that come out of these, but unless it’s a winner, being a quarter or a semi in the Nicholls means precisely squat to agents, despite its “prestige.” Please remember that contest readers are paid by the sponsors and/or organizers, are often assistants or interns or freelancers, and rarely read with an eye towards viability in the market place. a. Sidenote: I often am referred contest winner lists, graduate catalogues, and pitch winner materials to go through for representation. People do see them, but they are not the best way to get your material into the light, because of the sheer volume that’s associated with them.
2. Know the marketplace. This is a path that you, hopefully, want to make a full time career, and that means you need to know what’s going on in your industry and your place of business. Do you know what the networks and studios are looking to buy this year? Do you know what pilots are being picked up? Are you reading the trades, checking up on TV news websites, and keeping track of what is hitting and missing on the major networks and bigger cable outlets? Not to stifle your creativity, but in all honesty, you might be the greatest writer who walked the Earth, but if what you’re writing is not in any of the arenas that the buyers are interested in, you’ll find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to trying to get reads from people who are going to have to sell your material.
3. Forget query letters. Period. They’re a waste of time, energy, and money that you should spend writing, networking, and doing everything you can to meet writer’s and agent’s assistants, studio and network assistants, and agent trainees around town. BY LAW agencies are not allowed to accept unsolicited material. It opens up a huge can of liability worms that no legitimate major or boutique agency is willing to touch. Assistants are almost universally instructed to throw away any and all unsolicited materials as part of their agency training, so I’ll say it again: forget query letters!
4. Don’t ever be afraid of or intimidated by the industry. Like my dad always said to me, “No one will ever question you as long as you answer with confidence and authority.” The way you’re going to get your stuff read is by honing your writing, being savvy about the market, and above all GETTING YOURSELF OUT THERE. No matter where you are in the world, research, email, and a simple reaching out to make connections will get you so much further than entering contests and writing query letters. Don’t think about what’s going to happen, don’t what if yourself to death, don’t worry if so and so is going to answer you or not – if they don’t, to hell with it! There are hundreds of other outlets to try; don’t worry about the 10 that never got back to you.
5. Get comfortable with rejection. 97 out of 100 people aren’t going to read you, don’t want to read you, and never want you to hear from you again. Of the 3 that do read you, multiple that number a good 7 or 8 times, and maybe one of those people will get back to you. That’s the only person that ever matters.
6. Have faith. Be patient. There is no such thing as an overnight sensation. Keep working.