Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How to get an Agent or Manager

One of my absolute favorite blogs, The Rouge Wave, Reposted a blog of mine, and I'm ever so happy to be able to return the favor.
So, Here it is:

"Everybody is eager to query and get repped. It will change your life, right? Money will be flowing to you in golden buckets and fame will be quick on its heels.

Not exactly. Getting representation hangs in the frustrating zen space between utter simplicity and very, very hard work. How do you know when you're ready? Only time will tell, grasshopper. Wax on, wax off.

The steps to get representation are quite simple:

1) write a great script
2) then write another one
3) stick with the same genre
4) have a dossier of several great ideas in the form of loglines
5) write a brief, powerful, polite, effective query letter
6) get hold of a Hollywood Creative Directory
7) focus on 10 to 15 agents or managers that seem like a good fit*
8) query
9) wait
10) wait more
11) follow up with an email or phone call if you haven't heard back in six weeks

Pretty simple, right? It actually is. But here is what writers often do - they jump the gun. They query when they only have ONE good script. They don't get feedback on what they think is a good script and so really have no idea where they stand. They query managers or agents all over town, indiscriminately, without doing any research. They send poorly worded queries with dull loglines and wonder what's up with the silence.

If a manager or agent likes your query, you should hear back pretty quickly. If they like the read, you'll hear back quite quickly. They'll ask you what else you have. They'll ask you about you - your writing experience, where you live, what competitions you may have placed in.

Patience, grasshopper. Get an arsenal together before you start to query. Get feedback from someone, somehow whether it is professional or a friend. Proof your material before you send it out. Spend a lot of time crafting an excellent logline.

Getting an agent or manager isn't complicated - but you need to slow down and approach the process with care. Make sure you dot every "i" and cross every "t" before you begin. I don't recommend E-blast queries - they are impersonal and scatter shot. Spending money on an HCD is the best money you'll ever spend. Take a deep breath and make sure you're actually ready to query. Keep writing and developing ideas while you wait to hear back about your queries. Do not put your life on hold. Be ready for rejection. Rejection in Hollywood usually comes in the form of dead silence. Know that obtaining representation will not change your life but it will advance you to the next level of the game.

I know writers very well and I know that most of you skimmed this and are ready to put an HCD on your credit card but really don't know if your script is that great and don't have enough material ready. But you will query anyway because you think you are special and you won't need more than one script at the ready. You think you are different and that you will get repped quickly and easily. You think this blog post is for the suckers. You can't wait to get going with all of this, you can't wait to get repped and be in the game.

When the Wave-inatrix was but a mini-W, my mother spent a lot of time sewing. And I remember vividly being so excited to just put the pretty fabric under the sewing machine needle and press that foot pedal and SEW like a maniac and turn straw into gold. No, my mother said - you have to first wash the fabric. And dry it. And iron it flat. And clear a large space on the table and get out the pattern and measure carefully. Oh - how dreary! How dull! How painstaking! And I wondered, time and again, why my completed project was lopsided and ugly. Now, when I sew, I slow down and I enjoy the entire process. I know that the quality of my project is utterly dependent on the care I put into each step along the way. Unwashed fabric will shrink and warp upon it first washing. Sloppy measurements and dull scissors will doom the fit. A chaotic sewing kit makes finding the right thread and right needle an exercise in anger management. My mother, in all her wisdom, knew exactly how to sew something properly but I would not listen. I knew how to do it! I was special! My fabric was special and my pattern was genius! Ah....youth.

You want an agent or manager? Of course you do. But s-l-o-w down. You may not be ready. Hollywood isn't going anywhere any time soon. If you don't have at least two great scripts in your arsenal, you are not ready. If you have not gotten feedback from a pro or an experienced colleague, you are not ready. There is no quick fix, there is no magic answer. You must do the work. And you are not special - the fabric of Hollywood is what it is and it yields to no man.

*Only query agents or managers (I recommend a manager if you are very new at this) that have offices in LA or New York only. Avoid those who charge ANY kind of fee. "

Think of it as Film School...

...when you're starting your career. The beauty of film school is that it's an incubator for people to have terrible projects. And trust me, everyone's first project is a disaster. so is their second, third, and fourth.

It doesn't matter if you are an actor, a director, a cinematographer, or a writer, you will invariably SUCK when you start your career. If you are beginning in a career in entertainment, look in the mirror and tell yourself, "I SUCK".

Don't worry, there is an upside, because you are SUPPOSED to suck. The only way you become GOOD at something is to do it A LOT! and I mean A LOT A LOT. For example, every actor in LA is in some sort of acting workshop, even working actors go to classes to improve their craft. Because they know that it's a constant process to improve and that in every class they get just a little bit better.

When I first started working, I was on hundreds of projects feeling my way, and getting to a point where I thought it was time to direct. And my first three shorts were a disaster. This was a professional cinematographer, who had been on hundreds of shoots, and when I edited everything together, it was tragic. Luckily, I moved past it, and eventually became comfortable enough in my own skin to direct a feature and a couple TV shows.

So, why do I bring it up...because you should let yourself suck. Don't expect your first script to be perfect, or your first directing experience to be flawless. It's too lofty to think you should be great from the outset. Allow yourself to suck for a while. Now, if you've written ten scripts, or directed ten movies, and you're still terrible, that's another issue.

Since moving to LA, I've found that just as many people SAY they are something as actually are doing something. It's very easy to call yourself a writer because you've done a script, or a director for having directed one short film. However, the truth is that Actors act, ALL THE TIME. Writers write ALL THE TIME, directors direct ALL THE TIME, and producers produce ALL THE TIME. And THAT is how they get better.

Just remember this, STEVEN SPIELBERG'S first movie sucked. If you could get your hands on it, he would be embarrassed. There may be flashes of genius, but he worked, and worked, and worked at it before he even got a small break. I heard a statement a couple months ago that a new writer will gladly give their first script to anyone, while a professional writer will never show their first script to ANYONE. Once again, because even professional writers SUCK when they start out.

At UPC, I read a lot of scripts, and its pretty easy to see who the professional writers are and who are the people that don't have it yet. The professional writers have all the tricks to make their script pop, because they sucked for a while until they learned how to do things. It's not that the other writers aren't good, but there is an intangibility to the writing that stands out with a professional writer.

And that is what film school provides, the ability to suck without fear of reprisal, the be atrocious without fear of repercussions. To be given a grade, and a way to grow into a career, to develop your eye and your voice. So, when thinking of your career, think of it as film school. Let's say a writer writes five full features in film school. Well, you should give yourself at least five scripts to develop yourself as a writer, instead of sending out your first script as gold.

Remember, it's okay to SUCK. It's okay to need more work, because everyone does. But, it's important to know your inadequacies, and be working towards changing it. And as I said in a previous post, it could take between 5 and 10 years to be discovered in this business, and some people are never discovered. Everyone in this city has one thing in common, they used to SUCK, and now they are at some level of not SUCKING quite as much.

Remember, YOU SUCK, and that's okay.