Weekly Advice for Writers

10 Steps to Get an Agent for Screenwriting

So you moved to LA, you found a starter job at an agency or a studio, you’re writing every day, and… nothing’s happening. After telling your family, friends, and the mean kids at school that you’re a screenwriter, the forward progression has stagnated. You knew it would be hard to get into Hollywood, but you weren’t ready for the endless hours of waiting and the feeling that no matter how close you get, a successful screenwriting career is always just out of reach. We’ve all been there. During these frustrating time, it’s important to find projects to keep you moving forward. And one of the best projects you can embark on as a young writer is finding an agent. So today we’re breaking down 10 steps every aspiring writer should take when looking for an agent.

1. Know your brand

I’ve always hated the term “personal brand”. But finding a way to sell yourself in Hollywood is important. If an agent is going to be able to pitch you to showrunners and/or studios, they’re going to need to know what they’re pitching. Every writer thinks they’re great at Features and TV, Drama and Comedy (and maybe you are), but the best advice I ever got when looking for an agent was to pick a lane and stick to it. Once you’ve made it, you can make all the wonky, experimental projects you want. But for now, pick the thing you do best and make that your thing.

There are two questions you have to answer when defining your writing brand. They are:

  1. Am I a Feature writer or a TV writer?
  2. Am I a comedic writer or a dramatic writer?

PRO TIP: Drama writers get paid more, go home earlier, and win more Oscars. So if you’re having trouble deciding, I’d go with Drama.

2. Have a great script

This may seem a bit obvious. But many aspiring writers don’t actually write all that much. It should go without saying that you shouldn’t look for an agent before you have a script under your belt. And the more the better. I’d recommend writing at least six or seven scripts (two or three of which you’re really proud of) before starting your search for representation. But not every good script makes a good sample (industry jargon for the script you’ll send to would-be agents). Here are some things to keep in mind when picking your sample:

  • Be Original – If you’ve written a spec script (an original episode of an existing show), set it aside for now. If your agent can’t get you a job on an existing show, they will try to sell your script to make into new show. They can’t do that with a spec script. So write something new.
  • Big Ideas – Slice-of-life stories are great. But make sure your first sample is a big idea. Agents are more likely to read scripts whose loglines stand out from the crowd.

3. Have a great script

It’s not a glitch in the Matrix. If an agent likes your first sample, they’ll want to read another. Which means you should have a second great sample to follow up with. If not, they’ll likely forget about you. And try to make your second sample different. It should show another side of your writing. If you went big with the first sample, show a more tender, intrapersonal side with your second. Remember that awesome spec script you set aside in Step 2? Now’s the time to send that. Agents love writers who can capture another show’s voice, since that’s most of the work you’re going to be doing in your career anyway. But always make sure to stay within the confines of your medium (Features or TV) and genre.

4. Have a social media presence

Don’t expect to be “discovered” on social media, you don’t need to be Justin Bieber to get an agent. But agents want to get a sense of your personality and character before they’ll rep you. So in addition to the usual “job interview” test (no alcohol, drugs, sexy pics, etc), make sure to do the following:

  • Show your personality in your feed. Have pictures of yourself, your writing, and any projects you’re actively working on. I’ve found pictures with a face in them perform the best.
  • Display your work. Anything you’ve written that’s been produced (including tiny web-series and short films) should be prominently displayed on your profiles.
  • Have a couple-hundred followers. Agents want to see you’ve got a following. Getting to 200 Instagram followers isn’t very hard if you start following a large number of people. (But be careful. Instagram can lock your account if they think you’re using a bot to get followers)

5. Use your connections

So you know what kind of writer you are, you have a great script, and a another one waiting in the wings. You’ve bolstered your social media with projects and frequent, personal posts. Now what?

Don’t get discouraged when I say this, but the easiest way to get an agent, yesterday, today, and until the end of time, is with strong connections. So don’t turn up your nose at this option. If you have any good friends who are writers, ask them to read your work. If they like it, ask if they’d ever consider showing their reps. Go above and beyond for your superiors at work, especially those you ‘click’ with. Make them want to help you. Eventually, when the time is right, ask them to reach out on your behalf. Ask your parents and their friends if they have connections in entertainment they could connect you to (you may think they don’t, but I grew up in rural Rhode Island and still had three different distant entertainment connections). Here are some other places to look for connections:

  • Writers groups, Meetups, etc.
  • Your LinkedIn network.
  • Alumni of your college or high school.

Nurture your connections, and protect your network at all costs. Don’t reach out to anybody if you think it will hurt your relationship. But most people want to feel helpful, and everybody wants to say they found the next Steven Spielberg.

6. Find agents yourself

Using or building your network of connections is great, but it can only get you so far, and it can easily land you back in the painful holding pattern we discussed at the top of this article. At some point, you’re going to want to actually start reaching out to agents yourself. But how do you find them? There are a few ways (and fair warning, shameless self-promotion ahead):

  • IMDbPro – The biggest repository of free agent emails is, undoubtedly, IMDbPro. Roughly one in five agents have emails or phone numbers listed here. Simply search for an agency and go through their Staff List.
  • Agency Websites – Some smaller agencies list their agent’s contact information on their websites, but most of the big guys (CAA, WME, UTA, ICM) don’t.
  • Using Nymeria and Hunter – If you know the agent’s name but can’t find their contact info, my favorite tools are Hunter and Nymeria. Hunter helps you find all the emails associated with a given domain, and Nymeria is a Chrome Extension that helps scrape emails from LinkedIn profiles (legally).
  • Get Me An Agent – Save the hassle (and cost) of combining the above services and do it all easily with Get Me An Agent. Every email in our database is verified to work, and you can search for agents depending on your niche. Plus we can match you with agents who might be interested in reading you. Plans start at $19.99/month (cheaper than Hunter, Nymeria, and IMDbPro).

7. Send the emails

It’s the moment of truth. You’ve got the scripts, and you have a list of agents to reach out to with said scripts. How to actually write the email? Here are some tips to consider:

  • Keep it short and sweet – 2 to 3 short paragraphs (1 to 2 sentences per paragraph).
  • Include a logline for your script, a sentence or two about you, and something personal about the agent or agency you’re reaching out (so they don’t think you’re sending mass emails).
  • DO NOT INCLUDE YOUR SCRIPT. Ask the agents if they’re interested in reading your script, but never send it in the first email. It will be deleted, sight-unseen, for legal reasons.
  • Have a personality. Agents get a lot of these emails. Be personable, but not overly chummy. Use correct grammar and be respectful, but use the agent’s first name. Don’t be a robot.

We have a whole article about how to format your cold emails, here.

I suggest using GMass, a free service (if you’re sending under 50 emails a day) that allows you to send emails to many agents at once and adds in the custom bits by default.

8. “Just circling back…”

Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. If you’re using GMass, you caneasily setup automatic follow-ups. I’d suggest sending follow-ups to anybody who hasn’t responded after 5 days, 10 days, and 15 days. In my experience, you get the most responses after your first follow-up (yes, more than from your initial email). Lot’s of times, agents simply forget to respond.

PRO TIP: Say something like “If you’re not interested, let me know so I can stop bugging you”. This will get you a lot more responses so you can check uninterested parties off your list.

9. Keep at it

Remember: you’re playing the long game. Right now, Get Me An Agent has over 200 emails, and that number is constantly growing. Keep reaching out. In my experience, one in thirty agents who respond will be willing to read you. And five-to-ten agents have to read you before you’ll get a ‘Yes’. So we’re talking about sending hundreds of emails. It really is a numbers game, and it’s easy to get discouraged. But getting an agent isn’t impossible. If you grew up outside of LA, like I did, you probably see Hollywood as a mythical city, and becoming a screenwriter as a near-impossible goal. I promise you this isn’t true. I got an agent. I got scripts sold. It IS possible. You just have to keep fighting long after everybody else has gotten bored and given up!

10. Join ‘Get Me An Agent’

Okay, hear us out! You can cut your work in half (especially in step #6) by subscribing to Get Me An Agent. Plans start at $19.99/month, and offer unlimited access to our catalogue of hundreds of verified screenwriting agents. Plus, if you signup for our Unlimited plan, we’ll read your script and match you with agents and managers who are a good fit with your project. You can sort agents by:

  • Medium (Features or TV)
  • Genres (Comedy or Drama)

Plus, you can talk to a real person on our support team 24/7/365 using Live Chat or Email. If you want a month at half the regular price, check us out on ProductHunt.

Get Me An Agent is no longer accepting new signups. Why?

If you’re been browsed our site in the last couple of days, you may have noticed labels on our signup pages saying “Not Currently Accepting New Subscribers”. What does this mean? Over the last few weeks, we’ve been reassessing our future as a company and how we can best fit into the lives of screenwriters moving forward. As we assess our options, we’re going to be temporarily halting new signups for all of our plans. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

In addition, we’re also doing the following:

  • Suspending several customer-facing email accounts.
  • Halting all advertising and marketing.
  • Scaling back our Live Chat operations to cover only existing customers.

What if I’m already subscribed?

If you already subscribe to GMAA, you won’t experience any change in service. Please note we are not planning on shutting down or changing existing subscriptions in the near future.

What if I want to cancel?

If you want to cancel your subscription, you may do so here.

What if I want a Script Report?

Script Reports remain active, and you can continue to purchase them, with or without a subscription. Likewise, if you have not yet received a free Script Report with your unlimited plan, you may reach out via “Email” or “Live Chat” to request your free Report. Script Reports may be purchased here.

What if I’m not subscribed?

Right now, we have no updates for potential customers. Thank you for your interest in Get Me An Agent, we’ll be updating our email subscribers about our future in the coming months. You can subscribe to our list here:

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Any other questions? Feel free to reach out by Email or Live Chat.

Some Key Takeaways from my Interview with Literary Manager ‘Quincie Li’

Hey, everyone. My name is Sam, and I’m the founder and CEO of Get Me An Agent. I’m also a screenwriter working on constructing my Hollywood career, finding representation, and getting my projects made. In addition to Get Me An Agent, I’ve got a grab bag of other projects I’m working on, and one of my favorites is my screenwriting podcast, Screenwriter Survival Guide. In my most recent chapter of the guide, I sat down with the first Literary Agent I’ve ever had on the show: Kaplan/Perrone’s very own Quincie Li, and I thought I’d take a few minutes here to talk about my takeaways coming out of that interview. If you haven’t listened to the chapter yet, I highly suggest doing so first.

So, assuming you saw the running time and completely ignored my advice to listen, here’s the TLDR:

  • Always keep writing
  • Always keep reading other peoples’ scripts
  • Make friends who are also coming up
  • Do this for a long time

That was Quincie’s general advice (although, again, listen to the chapter for way more. She goes far more in-depth). But now let’s dive into some key takeaways from the interview:

Should I quit GMAA and stop reaching out to agents and managers?

That depends. My advice on when to use GMAA hasn’t changed one iota. If you haven’t written (at least) six scripts, and don’t have (at least) two scripts you’d be excited to give to Patty Jenkins if she asked you for samples tomorrow, you’re not ready to use GMAA. The agent search process is extremely difficult. You need to set yourself up for success, and the ONLY way to do that is by having your ammunition at your side. What’s your ammunition? Your scripts.

Write a bad script. Then write another, slightly less bad script. Then write three more of those. Then write a “meh” script. Then two more. Then write an “okay, there’s talent here” script. And so on and so forth. Trust me, I know how absolutely depressing the length of that process can feel. But you NEED to go through it. Every script you write, you improve. That’s just how it goes. I write every day (excluding weekends), and try to watch at least one new movie or TV episode per day to keep the creative juices flowing.

But what if I’ve already written a lot?

Chances are, you haven’t. I probably haven’t, and I write a ridiculous amount. Don’t stop writing. But if you’re at a point where you’re starting to garner some level of industry interest in your scripts, now’s the time to get a GMAA subscription. And I stand by what I’ve always said: a GMAA membership is NOT enough to get you an agent. But it is an excellent first step. Why?

  • It’s a step you can take TODAY. The agent search process involves a lot of waiting. Subscribing to GMAA and starting to reach out cold is a step you can take right now!
  • You’ll get valuable feedback. Your best shot at finding a rep is through a connection. But reaching out to agents and managers through GMAA is a great way to get feedback about what your script needs, and what your writer story needs.
  • You’ll get read. The vast majority of our customers (who follow the tenets) are read by at least one agent or manager within a month. Even if they don’t rep you, they may very well circulate your material and you may get an exciting call from a totally different agent a month down the line.
  • Your real-world connections matter more. Your real-world connections are vital. But I can’t tell you how often I’ve met somebody at an event, lost them in the shuffle without swapping contact info, and been up a creek with no paddle the next day when I wanted to contact them. GMAA offers that ease of communication for over 400 agents and managers.
  • You learn. GMAA is an amazing source of information about the industry. Even with our new DIY plan (shameless plug below), you’ll get vast stores of information about the industry, and especially agencies. Those who are informed win.

How do I build my network?

One of THE MOST important things Quincie talks about is building your network. This is something I struggle with. I absolutely HATE networking, and I’m somebody who needs a lot of personal time, which makes it difficult to make new friends, keep old ones, and also get my work done while finding time for myself. Yikes! To fix this chasm of information, I’ve talked with tons of people better at this than I am and ended up with a massive knowledge base, which we’ve recently published in our DIY Plan. This is a very in-depth look at how to build up your network without smarmy, insincere networking. I’d also highly recommend Jonny Santana’s chapter of Screenwriter Survival Guide, which you can listen to, here:

What happens once I have an agent?

This is something we haven’t touched on much at GMAA. But it’s one of the most fascinating takeaways I had from my interview with Quincie: How to have an excellent working relationship with your agent or manager once you’ve achieved the impossible and found one. As a quick refresher, here’s what she had to say:

  • Always be working on new material.
  • Let your reps know before you start work on a new project.
  • Don’t be afraid to call your reps.
  • You should be willing to pay your rep 10% even for jobs you earned yourself, since they’re actively working on your behalf all the time.

The first point is pretty self-explanatory, but it bears repeating (this is going to be written on my g.d. tombstone): always be writing. Have something you’re developing at all times. If you thought this stops once you find reps, think again. The process is ongoing. Always be writing. Always be writing. Always be writing.

The second point was one of the biggest revelations I had during the entire interview. This had never occurred to me. I’d always assumed you write a script and your manager takes it once you’re done. But Quincie’s advice makes a lot of sense: Agents and managers are much more plugged-in to the industry than writers, and they know exactly what studios and streamers are looking for, while we might not. So if you write a project, then drop it in your rep’s lap with no prior warning, they might tell you the script is unsalable, and you’ve wasted everybody’s time. Excellent advice.

The third point is something I’ve seen a lot in movies and TV: the writer who’s constantly waiting for his/her rep to call but never thinks to call them. But agents and managers are people too, with lots of clients and a personal life, and you may just slip through the cracks sometimes. So don’t be afraid to call.

Quincie’s last point is the only one I’m not sold on. While I understand where she’s coming from, that you are a team with your reps, and therefore any job you get yourself still has their fingerprints all over it, I don’t totally agree. First off, I don’t think you need to pay your agent anything for the jobs they don’t get you. An agent’s entire job is to get you jobs so if you get it yourself, they have nothing to do with it. Managers, on the other hand, are more of a grey area. If you love your manager, and they are instrumental in your development as a writer, paying them for jobs you get yourself is certainly something to consider. If not, well, maybe just pay them when they get you a gig. Of course, it’s not actually up to you, so this is basically pointless rambling. Yay!

So there you have it: My key takeaways from Literary Manager Quincie Li’s chapter of Screenwriter Survival Guide. She dropped knowledge bomb after knowledge bomb, and, if you haven’t listened to the chapter yet, go do it! I promise it will deliver some real value to you.

And if you haven’t listened to the entirety of Screenwriter Survival Guide, go do it! In each chapter or the guide, I sit down with a different screenwriter, director, or other industry professional to talk through one specific aspect of the industry, in the order a new screenwriter needs to know it. For instance, we talked about moving to LA in our first chapter, landing your first industry gig in our second, making the jump to professional writer in the third. Click the below buttons to Followscribe wherever you get your podcasts:

And finally, if you’re curious about starting your screenwriting career and want to find an agent or manager of your own, you could use a subscription to Get Me An Agent. Click the big red button below to get a free month, then use the discount code “survive” at checkout for half off your plan forever.

Alright, guys. This has been a lot of fun. I’m hoping to come back and do some more guest posting from time to time. Until then, guys, remember to keep writing! You can write your way out of anything! Peace.

The Four Tenets of ‘Get Me An Agent’

Finding an agent isn’t as easy as attaching your script to a mass email blast and hitting ‘Send’. If you’re going to really devote time to building a career as a screenwriter, you’re going to have to invest real time into the search, and you’re going to need to go through the query process in a very specific way. That’s why we created our process. We interviewed dozens of writers on how best to develop queries, and have amassed their tips into four distinct categories that we like to call the four tenets of Get Me An Agent.

NEVER send unsolicited material. Always ask an agent if they want to read you.

This is the single most-important part of the query process. T there’s a lot of money involved in the development process, which makes agents very wary of receiving unsolicited scripts from would-be clients, for fear they may be hit with a lawsuit if they produce a series or film with a similar plot or characters. And while this myth of IP being stolen from writers is a very rare occurrence (see our guide on protecting a TV show for more on this), it’s a common fear. If you send your script out cold to an agent or manager, you will almost certainly receive a depressing response like this:

Dear Screenwriter Who Isn’t Going To Be Repped By Us,

Please be advised that Big Name Agency does not accept unsolicited material or requests for representation. The Unsolicited Material you sent us was destroyed unread with no copies kept by Big Name Agency. Please note, the Unsolicited Materials were also not forwarded or discussed with any third parties. Accordingly, any future perceived similarity between any Unsolicited Material and any element in any creative work of Big Name Agency or it’s clients would be purely coincidental.

Sincerely,

Underpaid Assistant

Big Name Agency

Not only is this kind of email scary to receive, it also drops your chances of being read by that agent to zero. Don’t give anybody a reason to ignore you. Always send the logline first, and ask “would you be interested in reading?”

Send your script only after at least five friends/coworkers have seen it and given notes.

You probably feel the urge to ignore us on this one. But we’re serious. Even if you’re convinced that your script is the best thing to hit the market since Citizen Kane, you’ve got to show it to at least FIVE friends and/or coworkers (and receive notes from said friendworkers), before you’re ready to send it to agents or managers. Why? Because here’s the painful truth: it’s probably not nearly as good as you think it is.

It takes a script years of development before it’s ready to be made into a movie or TV show. And we know you think you’re the exception. You know how we know? Because we think we’re the exception, too. Every writer thinks they’re the one who’s just “destined” to make it, and that their writing is just so undeniably good that agents will be tripping over themselves to sign them as a client. But here’s the cold, hard truth. Those prodigies are one in twenty-million, and they’re not the vast majority of successful working writers. Almost everybody who’s actually made it in Hollywood did so by working hard, taking criticism well (and frequently), and getting feedback on their work before sending it to gatekeepers.

Have a second script (that meets the requirements of tenet 2) ready to go before you send anything.

We know, this may seem unfair. You have to reach this unattainable level of excellence with not one, but two, scripts?!?! Yes, you do. If an agent and/or manager likes your first sample, they’re going to want to make sure you’re not just a one trick pony. So they’re going to ask you to pull off the impossible… twice. So have a second excellent sample ready to go when you send out the first one.

But what are the requirements for this second sample?

It should be roughly the same genre as the first (both in the drama realm, both in the comedy realm, etc).It should be in the same medium as the first (both TV or both features).It should show off a different area of your expertise. If the first sample is an ensemble space opera, make the second one a more grounded, character-based story.Your seconds sample can be a spec of a different show, but your first one cannot.

Don’t even think about reaching out until you’ve written at least six scripts.

We know you think you’re ready now. We know you think you have such a singular, once-in-a-generation voice that you simply must be heard right now. You’re wrong. Even if you have an innate understanding of character, or a lovely, flowery style of writing, you need to write at least six scripts (note, we said AT LEAST) to have even a hope of being ready to reach out to agents.

Do these six scripts have to be excellent? No. In fact, a lot of them won’t be. As we’ve said above, you must have at least two samples that pass the “Five Friends” tenet, but the other four samples will, no doubt, be worse. But what exactly do we mean when we say six scripts? Each script has to be:

They must be completed (multiple drafts, to the point where you’ve put it away on the assumption that you’re finished writing).They must be a feature film or a TV pilot script (we love podcasts and short films, but they don’t count for our purposes).They must be written for screen, in the correct screenplay format. If you need more clarification on the screenplay format, check out our excellent guide to writing your first screenplay.

Why are we so cruel as to force you to write six scripts before finding an agent? Because no matter how genius/talented you are, you need to write many screenplays before you reach a level of comfort with the form. That’s the deal, plain and simple. The more bad scripts you write, the less bad those scripts become. Your “best work” after script #1 is several dimensions away from your “best work” after script #6. So write all six (or more).

There you have it: the four tenets of Get Me An Agent. These are not all you need to successfully find a Hollywood agent, not by a long shot. But these are the four pillars we believe are the most important when preparing your query letters. Follow all four and you’ll be well on your way to the red carpet. And if you’re not a subscriber to Get Me An Agent, what’s standing in your way? Start your free month today!

Frequently Asked Questions About GMAA

We’re so excited you’re considering joining the GMAA family. We really think you’ll find us a valuable resource on your quest to find an agent or manager. Our staff is made up of real entertainment industry professionals who use our service to get repped themselves. Our goal is to provide you with the complete package, whether you subscribe to us or not. If you’re curious about our plans (or honestly just have a question about the industry in general), please don’t hesitate to shoot us an email. But, in the meantime, here’s a list of the most common questions people have about Get Me An Agent.

Does it really work, reaching out to people cold?

It’s ALWAYS going to be easier to find representation with an “in”. If you know anybody, definitely let the agent/manager know that before you reach out. And you should never just send out cold emails and rest on your laurels. Be proactive. The people who make it in this industry try every way in they can find. But yes, many writers have got their representation through reaching out cold. People will read you. And if they like what you send them, they will rep you. It’s all about the quality of the work and the way you connect with them.

How should I write “the email”

Good question. Check out our full guide on writing “the email” here. But for now, here are some things to keep in mind.

Be nice, polite, and friendly.Know something about the person you’re contacting (we provide links to LinkedIn, IMDb, and Agency Websites to help with this part).NEVER send your script in the first email. This is a big one. Always ask them if they would be interested in reading you. Otherwise your email will be deleted, sight unseen.

But what if I want to send my script in the first email?

Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. In addition to hurting your chances (reducing them to zero), it affects our relationship with agents and managers. We want to cultivate a good relationship with everybody involved in GMAA, but sending unsolicited material puts agents and managers in tricky situations, and results in emails being removed from our directories. Not good for anybody.

What if I’m not looking for reps? Is GMAA still useful?

Absolutely! If you’re developing a project, looking to connect with a writer, or even just looking to send fan mail, GMAA is great for you. We’ve had clients who use us as an everyday resource for connecting with representation in their day-to-day business.

What makes GMAA different from other ‘Celebrity Contact’ services?

Good question. Firstly, agents aren’t really celebrities, so they’re often not listed on sites like that. And even on sites like IMDb Pro that have some agent contact info, it’s sparse and often not reliable. We, on the other hand, have reached out to every agent and manager on our list personally, and are constantly developing and growing our catalogue.

How do you collect your emails?

Emails are collected from many sources, including IMDbPro, agency directories, client websites, social media, and other such sources. Unlisted agents and managers may also submit themselves directly to Get Me An Agent, here. Get Me An Agent’s catalogue is compiled using ONLY public information. We never use private emails, and refrain from using personal email addresses, even when the agent has made them public. This is to protect agents and managers from unwanted spam, but also to protect you. We are providing a service to agents and managers as much as writers, but we never want to inundate their personal inboxes and private emails with queries, as this leads to angry agents (not good for anybody).

Will my emails bounce?

If you see contact info for an agent/manager on GMAA, you can be sure it’s real. We’ve personally reached out to every agent and manager listed on our website, and only included those that don’t bounce.

Are there contracts? Catches?

Nope.

How do you verify the email addresses are real?

In some cases, we reach out to agents and managers directly. However, to avoid spamming them, we also use services like Hunter and Nymeria, online tools that help verify whether an email address is real, without ever bothering the person on the other end.

What if I can’t pay for GMAA?

LA’s expensive, we know. And working your way up doesn’t pay super well in the beginning. So we want to help you out. If you can’t afford GMAA, shoot us an email and explain a bit about your situation. We’ll try to help out!

Do you have an app?

We do! We have what is called a Progressive Web App (PWA). This means it lives on your phone just like any other app, but you don’t get it from an app store. Our PWA has all the same features as our website, but saved on your phone (and available offline, too). To install our PWA, simply visit our website on your phone. A little banner should appear at the bottom of your screen that says “Add to Home”. Simply click the banner and follow the directions. If the banner doesn’t appear, try these steps for Android and iOS.

Okay, but what if I really want to send my script in the first email?

Please don’t.

How do I search your directory?

Members can break down their searches by genre (Drama or Comedy), and medium (Features, TV), or peruse our entire catalogue all at once. Have a specific agent or manager you want to connect with? Navigate to either the ‘Agents’ or ‘Managers’ page, and select Cntrl (Cmnd on a Mac) + F, and search for their name.

I’m an agent. How do I get myself listed? (Or Delisted )

If you’re an agent or manager and want to get listed in our directory, update your information (such as your Picture, Email, or Useful Links), or get removed from our directory (sad face), click here to visit our Agent Center)

This sounds great! Where can I sign up?

What an excellent question! You can check out our plans and signup here.

10 Tips for Crafting The Best Cold Emails to Agents

One of the most arduous parts of being an aspiring screenwriter (or aspiring anything in the Entertainment business, for that matter), is reaching out cold to agents and managers. We all want reps, and we’re all doing the same things to get them. How do you stand out? What are the best things to do? How about the worst things to do. The big no-nos. Today, we’re going to break down 10 Tips for Crafting The Best Cold Emails to Agents (or managers). And don’t forget, if you’re not already a member of Get Me An Agent, join today to make the experience that much easier (we’ll have some more shameless self-promotion at the end). But first, here are the tips:

What to do

These are the best things to do to craft the best cold emails.

1. Keep it short and sweet

Agents and managers get tons of these emails. We all think they want our life story. They don’t. Keep your email short and to the point. I usually have a few sentences about myself, a sentence or two about the agent and why I’d love to work with them, and I cap it all off with my project’s logline.

But don’t forget the sweet part of the equation, either. Show your personality. Don’t be a robot. You’re not applying for an internship at a bank. If an agent or manager is going to rep you, they’re going to do so because they think you have a unique voice that can make them money. Have a personality. Throw in a few jokes. Be informal but not too informal. If the agent’s name is “Brad”, call him “Brad” (not “Mr. Pitt” on one hand, or “Dude” on the other).

2. Pick the right sample

Firstly, make sure you proofread your sample like a million times before you send it in. And make sure the first 10 pages or so are killer. If an agent doesn’t like the first ten pages, they won’t read the rest. And the reverse is also true: If they do like the first ten pages, odds are they’ll read to the end. Make sure you’ve had notes done on your sample. You only get one chance once somebody offers to read you, so don’t send your first script. Wait until you’ve got something really good.

PRO TIP: A successful showrunner once told this to me. If somebody offers to read you and you think your sample would be much better if you work on it for a week or two, tell them that (maybe not if you’re reaching out cold. If you’re reaching out cold, get it good before you start emailing).

Don’t pick your Slice-of-Life sample to send to managers. You want things that pop. Loglines that will make them go “Hell yeah I want to read that.” Don’t worry so much about selling this sample. Just make it something they’ll remember. Which brings us to…

3. Have a killer logline

This one is important. You’re not going to be sending your actual script in the first email, so make sure your logline pops. Here are some keys to crafting the best loglines.

Irony. Loglines should have an element of irony to them. A logline like “a depressed housewife deals with the day-to-day lives of her children” is boring. It’s expected. Take instead, “After waiting decades for her children to move out, an empty-nester works to find purpose after her children leave the house”. This logline has an element of surprise. This mom was waiting for years for her kids to leave but finds her life pointless once they’re gone. I’d read that script.Specificity. You want your logline to express the uniqueness of your sample and your voice. This is an example of a bad logline for a popular show: “An out-of-work sitcom star muddles through his post-fame life”. This is boring. It doesn’t tell you anything interesting about the project. Consider it’s actual logline: “BoJack Horseman, a fat horse, was the star of the hit television show “Horsin’ Around” in the ’80s and ’90s, now he’s washed up, living in Hollywood, complaining about everything, and wearing colorful sweaters.” This logline tells you the exact specifics of what makes this show unique. Much better.Set-up. Knock-down. You want your logline to have the cadence of a joke. The first half of the logline should send the story in one direction, and the second should knock down that expectation. Read the book Save The Cat for more on this subject.

4. Personalize the email

This is a numbers game, don’t get us wrong. The more people you reach out to, the more will respond. But that doesn’t mean you should send out bland Copy-And-Pasted emails. If you use a service like GMass (outlined below), you can customize each email without writing a new email for each person. Look into each agent you reach out to (if you’re a Get Me An Agent member, we include links to LinkedIn, IMDb, and each agent’s website with each email) before you send the email. Look through their clients (you can find this information on some agency websites, or with a service like IMDbPro) and find at least one who’s worked on a project like the one you’re pitching. If you like any of their clients, tell them! And if you personally know any of their clients, reach out to the person you know and ask them to put in a good word for you.

5. Use GMass

If you’re sending out mass emails (which I’d recommend doing), use the service GMass, which allows you to send out mass emails customized to the person in question. With GMass, you can personalize the email and send follow-ups. And no, they didn’t pay us for this

You can find GMass here.

6. Send Follow-Ups

This one’s pretty straightforward, but super important. Many people won’t reach back out the first time you email them. Either because they think you’ll stop bothering them after the first email, or because they literally just forget. They’re people too.

I usually make a point of sending three to four follow-ups, roughly five days apart. In my second or third follow-up, I start to mention how I’ll “stop bugging them” if they respond. I tended to get the most responses at the first follow-up email.

NOTE: I would not recommend following up more than, say, four times. Keep in mind these are people you’ll hopefully have to work with some day, and you don’t want to annoy them to the point where they remember down the road.

What not to do

Just like there are plenty of ways to craft the right email, there are many ways to guarantee nobody will read you.

7. Don’t send the sample in the first email

If you come away from this article with only one lesson, let it be this! If you send your sample in the cold email, before they’ve asked for it, NOBODY WILL READ YOU. This is all because of the fact that many aspiring writers attempt to sue TV Shows and Movies for copying their ideas, despite the fact that this rarely actually happens in the industry. To protect against this, almost every agency and management firm, studio and production company, have a policy to immediately destroy any unsolicited content. People try very hard to get around this. I worked for a famous director at a well-known production company a few years back and somebody showed up on our doorstep with a paper bag full of canned goods. Confusedly, many of us fished through the bag only to find, hidden under all of it, a crappy Avengers-knockoff feature. That wasn’t important to the article, just a funny story.

Point is, always ask the agent if they’d be interested in taking a look at the script. Anything else is a recipe for an empty inbox.

8. Don’t use your vanity email

We all have fancy websites with cool Parallax effects and all of our projects lined up in one beautiful spot. And many of us have our own vanity emails (carolyn@caroylnmaguirefilm.com type of thing) — Quick aside, that’s not a real email — But, even though it may seem far more professional to use your fancy website email, don’t. Use GMail!

GMail has many faults, but bounce rate isn’t one of them. I can tell you from experience: Using GMail has the most delivered emails. Many 3rd-party servers’ email clients bounce every fifth or sixth email. And even if your email does make it through to the agent or manager in question, they’re far more likely to delete it immediately because it looks like marketing.

9. Don’t be sleek

This is an extension of number 8, but it’s really important. We all have a tendency to try and be as professional and sleek as possible. Fancy email signatures, nice headshots, professional inquiry subject lines. I’m telling you right now: cut it out. The best subject line is this: “quick question”. The best signature is your first name and maybe a link to your website. And, as previously stated, the best email is @gmail.com. Agents and managers are just looking for reasons to turn you away, sight unseen. The more you look like a professional corporate entity sending out mass emails, the more they’re likely to ignore you and move on to the next email. The emails that get responses, in my own experience, are the emails that are friendly but reserved, personal but not stalky, professional but not corporate.

10. Don’t be a one trick pony

What does this mean? You shouldn’t be reaching out to reps until you’re ready. This means you have not one, but TWO or more samples you’re super proud of, samples you’d show to Stephen Spielberg himself if he asked to read you.

Because here’s the thing: let’s say an agent agrees to read you. Then gets back to you and is interested in taking the next steps. YAY! Now what? Now they ask for a second sample. And you’d better have it. Because they’re never going to rep you off of one great thing. Don’t spend your whole life writing the next Great American Screenplay. Write fifty good screenplays, take the five best and polish them till they’re excellent. Here are some tips to consider when picking your backup samples:

They still have to be good. Your main sample should be your best, definitely. But it shouldn’t be so much better than your backups that they’re indistinguishable. Make sure you’ve got at least two scripts edited to near-perfection.Be different. Any prospective agent wants to see versatility. Don’t send them two takes on NCIS. But don’t be too different either. If you send one My-Brother’s-A-Zombie comedy, don’t send a gritty Handmaid’s Tale-esk show as your backup. Show you have range, but also that you still have a defined voice. They need a way to sell you.Pick a lane. This may seem like a polar opposite to the above tip, but it’s not. As somebody famous once said: Show me a writer who can write anything and I’ll show you the writer who doesn’t know their voice. If you send a half-hour pilot for your first sample, don’t send a feature as your second. Agents need to know how to pitch you.

And that’s it. Ten useful tips for writing those cold emails to agents. While nothing’s guaranteed in life, following these 10 tips will put you well on your way to getting repped. And here’s a bonus tip:

11. Subscribe to Get Me An Agent

We’ve got plans from only $19.99/month and over 400+ verified Hollywood lit agents and managers in our system. Each email in our system has been verified by our team, so you know it’s real. Plus, with our Unlimited plan, you can send us your script and we’ll Match You with up to five agents and five managers who’d love to read your script. What are you waiting for?

How to Get a Job as a Script Reader

Okay, so you want to move to LA (or New York) and start a career as a screenwriter? Great! So you’re gonna come to town, leave your Great American Screenplay at Paramount reception, then go home to wait for the life-changing call? If only it were that easy. That cliché thing they tell you in every movie about Hollywood is painfully true: it’s hard. You’ve got to go out and network, reach out to hundreds of literary agents, write every day, and probably get a side job to pay the ridiculous LA rent. A lot of screenwriters take a part-time gig at Starbucks or drive an Uber to keep the Netflix-bills at bay while they hustle, but that may not be the best option to get your foot in the door. A job as a script reader (also look for “script analyst” or any job with “script coverage” in the description) may be the best way to get your Hollywood career on it’s feet. So today we’re breaking down why you want a job doing script coverage and how you can go about getting one.

Let’s start with the basics.

Why you want a job as a script reader

Nobody gets rich reading scripts. At least not when their title is “script reader”. According to Glassdoor, the average hourly late for script-reading is $17. That may sound amazing, but consider this: you’re probably not working very many hours. It takes 4 to 5 hours to read and analyze a feature script, and less for a TV pilot. Considering you’ll often only read a handful a week, these jobs won’t exactly pay for your house in Malibu.

Am I telling you this to discourage you? Not at all. Because while you probably won’t get rich reading scripts, it’s still an excellent starter job. Here’s why.

You’ll read a lot of scripts – This probably seems a bit obvious. And it is. But reading scripts is the best way to get good at writing them. You could, of course, go on a site like Script Slug and read famous movies. But there are two issues with this. (1), nobody’s paying you to do it, and (2), reading a bad script is infinitely more helpful than reading a great one.You’ll really analyze scripts – Reading a script is one thing. But if you’re just reading to read, it’s easy to zone out and pay little to no attention to what’s actually going on in the story. When you read scripts for a studio or production company, you have to develop real opinions about them. And you get feedback for your opinions. In a way, it’s like film school, but a film school where entertainment executives actually pay you AND give you free writing advice.You’ll make a lot of connections – One thing you don’t get from a job at Starbucks is connections. Sure, it’s likely that some (if not all) of your coworkers will also be in the entertainment business, but they’ll be hustling just like you. If you work as a script reader, you’ll be making connections with the very people you’ll eventually be pitching projects to.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Does a job as an assistant at one of these companies provide you the same benefits? Yes and no. Unlike assistants, script readers are paid to show their bosses their writing.

What is coverage?

As you go about applying for script reader jobs, you’ll likely come across the following terms: script coverage and script analysis. So what do they mean? It’s actually not all that complicated. Coverage and analysis are the same thing, they both refer to the second part of a script reader job. Once you’ve finished a script, you have to condense the plot and characters into a few short paragraphs and add your own thoughts to the mix, finishing off with an overall assessment of the work.

We have a section below that details how to go about writing coverage.

What to do before you apply

So you’ve decided to go for a job as a script reader (Yay!). But you don’t know what to do next. Hollywood isn’t like most other industries, it’s not as simple as putting together a killer resume and letting Indeed do the rest. There’s a lot you have to do before you actually send out any queries. Here’s a quick checklist.

Read. A lot. Of Scripts. – Yeah, this one may seem obvious. But lots of aspiring writers don’t read scripts. This isn’t going to bode well for them when they’re going for a script reader job. Because other applicants will be reading lots of scripts. In 2021, it’s ridiculously easy to find scripts to read. My favorite place is the aforementioned Script Slug, but there’s also IMSDb (Internet Movie Script Database), SimplyScripts, and countless others. And if you’re in LA, you can also visit the Writers Guild of America Script Library.Write Sample Coverage – Every studio and production company has different things they look for in their coverage. Some places will want pages and pages of analysis (akin to a high school book report). Others are looking for only a paragraph or two. The exact format isn’t super important now, most places will want you to write sample analysis for them as part of the application, anyway. All that’s important now is to train your mind to get used to looking at scripts with a critical eye. If you are curious about what your coverage should look like, WeScreenplay has a great article on how to format your findings.Learn What The Industry Wants – At the end of the day, you’re not writing a book report. You’re telling a multi-billion dollar company whether or not they should spend hundreds of millions making a movie (don’t let it go to your head). It’s important to learn what the industry’s looking for. Watch TV and movies that align with the type of coverage you want to do. And lot’s of them (yeah, watching TV is part of your job, isn’t it great?). Read the trades (Variety, Deadline, and THR), subscribe to Get Me An Agent or similar services to keep up to date on the movers and shakers in Hollywood, listen to podcasts about the industry (Scriptnotes, The Big Picture, 3rd & Fairfax, The Director’s Cut). Soak in every detail you can.

Okay, it’s time to apply!

Great! You’ve done the work to make yourself the best possible applicant for a script reader position, now it’s time to apply. But before you do, make sure to have the following ready:

Your resume – You still need a resume. I won’t talk much about writing one here because a quick Google search will tell you everything you need to know on that front. Sample coverage – Don’t send this with your resume. Most places will want you to do coverage on a script they have in-house. But have a sample in your back pocket before you apply. Re-read the above section about writing coverage. Double-check your spelling. Make sure to have a solid “take” on the script you’re analyzing. In terms of picking what script to analyze, DON’T use anything you wrote for another company. If you were paid to write it, they own it. I’d suggest using a movie or TV episode that’s well-known. Whoever’s reading your coverage will need to have knowledge of the piece you’re analyzing so they can tell whether they agree with you.Good old-fashioned references – A lot of places want these. So make sure you have them (but don’t send them right away). Keep them in your back pocket so you don’t have to scramble to find people to say nice things about you when when you’ve made it to that step of the interview process.

Once you have your application materials ready, it’s time to apply. Like everything else in Hollywood, applications work a little differently out here. Do the following (in order) when looking for jobs:

1.) If you have an “in”…

This is the best way to get a script reader job. If you live in LA, you’ve probably met somebody who can help get you a job. If you’re friendly with anybody who works at a studio or production company, ask them in passing if their boss is looking for script analysts. But don’t reach out to somebody you haven’t spoken to in a year to ask for a job. It’s rude.

2.) If you work at a studio or production company…

Lot’s of you reading this probably already have a low-level job at a studio, agency, or production company. Don’t be afraid to ask around your company to see if they’re looking for anybody to do coverage (unless you’ve only been there a week). Don’t outright ask for a promotion. Just float the idea. And try to float it to assistants one or two steps above you, they’re often the ones making the hiring decisions anyway.

3.) If neither is true…

If you have no “in” and don’t already work at an entertainment company, don’t fret, you can still get a job as a script reader. Here’s how to reach out cold:

Entertainment Jobs sitesEntertainmentCareeers.net, MandyThe UTA Job List – This is a list of assistant jobs in Hollywood (including script reader jobs) created by The United Talent Agency that comes out on a weekly basis. Again, ask around. I’m sure you can find somebody who gets it (if you’re a GMAA subscriber, talk to us. We’ll see what we can do).Facebook Groups – There are plenty of script readers jobs to be found on Facebook. Here are some of my favorites: I Need A PA, Production Assistant Jobs In Film & TV, Awesome Assistants (Many of these require an invite or an application. Queue the mantra of this article: ask around. Somebody you know will be a member).Reach Out Cold – Here’s where we shamelessly promote our product. Many agencies hire readers. And the best way to contact agencies is with a subscription to Get Me An Agent. For production companies and studios, find a phone number and call. Ask if they’re looking for script readers. Speaking from experience, sometimes you get lucky with this approach.Job Sites – Getting a reader job off Indeed is extremely unlikely. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to try as a last resort. Some entertainment companies do post script readers jobs on Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Monster.com, etc.

And that’s it! Hollywood is definitely a competitive business, and lots of other people will be competing with you for a small pool of jobs. But if you keep pushing (loooooong after everybody else has quit, mind you), you will get a script reader job.

I’ll leave you with a quick parting thought. A successful showrunner once told me something that made me rethink my entire career trajectory. He said “these assistant jobs are just as competitive as writer jobs. So why not go for the writer jobs?” When that sunk in, it changed the entire way I thought of myself. And not long after that, I got my first paid writing gig. So instead of putting your blood, sweat, and tears into becoming a script reader, you could put your blood sweat and tears into becoming an actual screenwriter. If you want to go down that path, the best way to do it is with a subscription to Get Me An Agent. We have plans starting from $19.99 / month. Why not take a look?

10 Steps to Get an Agent for Screenwriting

So you moved to LA, you found a starter job at an agency or a studio, you’re writing every day, and… nothing’s happening. After telling your family, friends, and the mean kids at school that you’re a screenwriter, the forward progression has stagnated. You knew it would be hard to get into Hollywood, but you weren’t ready for the endless hours of waiting and the feeling that no matter how close you get, a successful screenwriting career is always just out of reach. We’ve all been there. During these frustrating time, it’s important to find projects to keep you moving forward. And one of the best projects you can embark on as a young writer is finding an agent. So today we’re breaking down 10 steps every aspiring writer should take when looking for an agent.

1. Know your brand

I’ve always hated the term “personal brand”. But finding a way to sell yourself in Hollywood is important. If an agent is going to be able to pitch you to showrunners and/or studios, they’re going to need to know what they’re pitching. Every writer thinks they’re great at Features and TV, Drama and Comedy (and maybe you are), but the best advice I ever got when looking for an agent was to pick a lane and stick to it. Once you’ve made it, you can make all the wonky, experimental projects you want. But for now, pick the thing you do best and make that your thing.

There are two questions you have to answer when defining your writing brand. They are:

Am I a Feature writer or a TV writer?Am I a comedic writer or a dramatic writer?

PRO TIP: Drama writers get paid more, go home earlier, and win more Oscars. So if you’re having trouble deciding, I’d go with Drama.

2. Have a great script

This may seem a bit obvious. But many aspiring writers don’t actually write all that much. It should go without saying that you shouldn’t look for an agent before you have a script under your belt. And the more the better. I’d recommend writing at least six or seven scripts (two or three of which you’re really proud of) before starting your search for representation. But not every good script makes a good sample (industry jargon for the script you’ll send to would-be agents). Here are some things to keep in mind when picking your sample:

Be Original – If you’ve written a spec script (an original episode of an existing show), set it aside for now. If your agent can’t get you a job on an existing show, they will try to sell your script to make into new show. They can’t do that with a spec script. So write something new.Big Ideas – Slice-of-life stories are great. But make sure your first sample is a big idea. Agents are more likely to read scripts whose loglines stand out from the crowd.

3. Have a great script

It’s not a glitch in the Matrix. If an agent likes your first sample, they’ll want to read another. Which means you should have a second great sample to follow up with. If not, they’ll likely forget about you. And try to make your second sample different. It should show another side of your writing. If you went big with the first sample, show a more tender, intrapersonal side with your second. Remember that awesome spec script you set aside in Step 2? Now’s the time to send that. Agents love writers who can capture another show’s voice, since that’s most of the work you’re going to be doing in your career anyway. But always make sure to stay within the confines of your medium (Features or TV) and genre.

4. Have a social media presence

Don’t expect to be “discovered” on social media, you don’t need to be Justin Bieber to get an agent. But agents want to get a sense of your personality and character before they’ll rep you. So in addition to the usual “job interview” test (no alcohol, drugs, sexy pics, etc), make sure to do the following:

Show your personality in your feed. Have pictures of yourself, your writing, and any projects you’re actively working on. I’ve found pictures with a face in them perform the best.Display your work. Anything you’ve written that’s been produced (including tiny web-series and short films) should be prominently displayed on your profiles.Have a couple-hundred followers. Agents want to see you’ve got a following. Getting to 200 Instagram followers isn’t very hard if you start following a large number of people. (But be careful. Instagram can lock your account if they think you’re using a bot to get followers)

5. Use your connections

So you know what kind of writer you are, you have a great script, and a another one waiting in the wings. You’ve bolstered your social media with projects and frequent, personal posts. Now what?

Don’t get discouraged when I say this, but the easiest way to get an agent, yesterday, today, and until the end of time, is with strong connections. So don’t turn up your nose at this option. If you have any good friends who are writers, ask them to read your work. If they like it, ask if they’d ever consider showing their reps. Go above and beyond for your superiors at work, especially those you ‘click’ with. Make them want to help you. Eventually, when the time is right, ask them to reach out on your behalf. Ask your parents and their friends if they have connections in entertainment they could connect you to (you may think they don’t, but I grew up in rural Rhode Island and still had three different distant entertainment connections). Here are some other places to look for connections:

Writers groups, Meetups, etc.Your LinkedIn network.Alumni of your college or high school.

Nurture your connections, and protect your network at all costs. Don’t reach out to anybody if you think it will hurt your relationship. But most people want to feel helpful, and everybody wants to say they found the next Steven Spielberg.

6. Find agents yourself

Using or building your network of connections is great, but it can only get you so far, and it can easily land you back in the painful holding pattern we discussed at the top of this article. At some point, you’re going to want to actually start reaching out to agents yourself. But how do you find them? There are a few ways (and fair warning, shameless self-promotion ahead):

IMDbPro – The biggest repository of free agent emails is, undoubtedly, IMDbPro. Roughly one in five agents have emails or phone numbers listed here. Simply search for an agency and go through their Staff List.Agency Websites – Some smaller agencies list their agent’s contact information on their websites, but most of the big guys (CAA, WME, UTA, ICM) don’t.Using Nymeria and Hunter – If you know the agent’s name but can’t find their contact info, my favorite tools are Hunter and Nymeria. Hunter helps you find all the emails associated with a given domain, and Nymeria is a Chrome Extension that helps scrape emails from LinkedIn profiles (legally).Get Me An Agent – Save the hassle (and cost) of combining the above services and do it all easily with Get Me An Agent. Every email in our database is verified to work, and you can search for agents depending on your niche. Plus we can match you with agents who might be interested in reading you. Plans start at $19.99/month (cheaper than Hunter, Nymeria, and IMDbPro).

7. Send the emails

It’s the moment of truth. You’ve got the scripts, and you have a list of agents to reach out to with said scripts. How to actually write the email? Here are some tips to consider:

Keep it short and sweet – 2 to 3 short paragraphs (1 to 2 sentences per paragraph).Include a logline for your script, a sentence or two about you, and something personal about the agent or agency you’re reaching out (so they don’t think you’re sending mass emails).DO NOT INCLUDE YOUR SCRIPT. Ask the agents if they’re interested in reading your script, but never send it in the first email. It will be deleted, sight-unseen, for legal reasons.Have a personality. Agents get a lot of these emails. Be personable, but not overly chummy. Use correct grammar and be respectful, but use the agent’s first name. Don’t be a robot.

We have a whole article about how to format your cold emails, here.

I suggest using GMass, a free service (if you’re sending under 50 emails a day) that allows you to send emails to many agents at once and adds in the custom bits by default.

8. “Just circling back…”

Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. If you’re using GMass, you caneasily setup automatic follow-ups. I’d suggest sending follow-ups to anybody who hasn’t responded after 5 days, 10 days, and 15 days. In my experience, you get the most responses after your first follow-up (yes, more than from your initial email). Lot’s of times, agents simply forget to respond.

PRO TIP: Say something like “If you’re not interested, let me know so I can stop bugging you”. This will get you a lot more responses so you can check uninterested parties off your list.

9. Keep at it

Remember: you’re playing the long game. Right now, Get Me An Agent has over 200 emails, and that number is constantly growing. Keep reaching out. In my experience, one in thirty agents who respond will be willing to read you. And five-to-ten agents have to read you before you’ll get a ‘Yes’. So we’re talking about sending hundreds of emails. It really is a numbers game, and it’s easy to get discouraged. But getting an agent isn’t impossible. If you grew up outside of LA, like I did, you probably see Hollywood as a mythical city, and becoming a screenwriter as a near-impossible goal. I promise you this isn’t true. I got an agent. I got scripts sold. It IS possible. You just have to keep fighting long after everybody else has gotten bored and given up!

10. Join ‘Get Me An Agent’

Okay, hear us out! You can cut your work in half (especially in step #6) by subscribing to Get Me An Agent. Plans start at $19.99/month, and offer unlimited access to our catalogue of hundreds of verified screenwriting agents. Plus, if you signup for our Unlimited plan, we’ll read your script and match you with agents and managers who are a good fit with your project. You can sort agents by:

Medium (Features or TV)Genres (Comedy or Drama)

Plus, you can talk to a real person on our support team 24/7/365 using Live Chat or Email. If you want a month at half the regular price, check us out on ProductHunt.

The Ultimate Guide To Writing Your First Screenplay

So you’ve always wanted to come to Hollywood and pursue a career as a screenwriter, but you’ve never written a screenplay and have no idea where to start. Screenplays are written very differently from prose writing (novels, shorts stories, etc), and even once you know the basics, there are quite a few quirks and details in screenwriting that easily give away a green writer. And if you’re looking to get an agent and have your movie or TV show produced, writing something that actually resembles a screenplay is an important step. So today we’re breaking down how to actually go about writing your first screenplay.

BEFORE WE BEGIN: This piece will focus mostly on structure, software, and basic do’s and don’ts of writing a screenplay. If you’ve never written fiction before, I highly suggest you read Stephen King’s book On Writing. It’s a much better crash course on how to write than I could ever teach.

So, what is a screenplay?

Good question. A screenplay is Hollywood lingo for “movie script”. If you’re writing TV, the technical term is “teleplay”, but this guide will cover both, and nobody’s gonna look at you funny if you call your TV pilot a screenplay. While we’re at it, let’s define some more industry terms:

Feature – A full-length movie, usually between 90 and 120 minutes.Short – A short film.Pilot – The first episode of an original TV series. Usually, you don’t write further than the pilot when pitching a show to studios and networks. Spec – Broad strokes, a spec script is a script you write without being commissioned by anybody. You own the rights, but you have no guarantee it’s going to be made. If you’re reading this, chances are your script will be a spec.Spec episode – This is a confusing bit of industry jargon that means something completely different from the above definition of spec. A spec episode is an episode of an existing TV show you write to show you can emulate another show’s voice.

Okay, now that we’ve covered the definitions, let’s go deeper.

Read scripts

Seriously, listen to this. No, really, you need to read scripts. A lot of them. The first few will be tough, but it will get easier and more enjoyable as your brain learns how to read them. I’d even suggest reading scripts of movies and TV shows you’ve never seen, and then watching said movies / TV shows to see how they convert to the screen.

Before you attempt to write your first screenplay, you should read at least 10 scripts. I can already feel people scrolling past this section, but I’m telling you, don’t. Here are some great places to find free scripts to read online.

Scriptslug.comScripts.comIMSDB.com

Choosing software

Can you just open up a Google Doc and start writing? You can, but you’ll likely be laughed out of any pitch meetings you manage to get. No matter how much agencies and studios say “they only care about unique voices”, nobody is going to take you seriously if your screenplay doesn’t look like a screenplay. Simple as that. So pay a bit of money (or use a free one), and get a screenwriting software. Here are a few of the most popular ones:

Final Draft

Final Draft is the industry standard. If you ever want to get an assistant job in the industry (and trust me, you do, even as a writer), you should know how to use it. It’s pricey, though, at $199.99.

Fade In

I’ve never used Fade In myself, but it’s a good deal cheaper than Final Draft and it’s beloved by many writers. A license costs $79.99.

Highland

Named after a major thoroughfare in Hollywood, Highland is only available for Mac, so I hate it. But it’s also a creation of screenwriter John August, so I also kind of love it. And it’s only $29.99 for a license.

WriterDuet

I used WriterDuet for a while. It’s killer feature is Online Mode, which is great if you have a Chromebook and can’t get Final Draft. It’s also a subscription, rather than a one-time fee. Plans start at $7.99/month.

There are also a bunch of less popular software to choose instead, if you want to be a maverick: StudioBinder, Celtx, and Scrivener, to name a few. I even found a Chrome Extension called YouMeScript for those of you who really just want to use Google Drive. But I strongly recommend shelling out some dough and getting a license for one of the above.

Outlining

You have your software, great! You’re one step closer to typing “FADE IN”. But before you do, you might want to consider whether you’re an outliner or not. And yes, it is a choice! Many great writers, such as the aforementioned Stephen King, don’t like outlining, saying it drains their creative process. It’s a perfectly acceptable approach to simply have an idea and start writing (although if you ever work on a TV show, you’re going to have to write outlines. Sorry).

I myself find outlining very useful, even though I despise every minute the process. It’s slow, and I’m very aware that the outline is the easiest place to mess up the major beats of the story, my personal weak point. But it’s a benevolent evil (oxy moron?), and I find that when I don’t outline, I lose my the thread of the story 20 to 30 pages into any screenplay. So I end up having to go back to outline anyway.

So how do you write your outline? There are a few different ways:

Save some cats

Bullish outliners usually agree on the best starting point for an outline: Blake Snyder’s book Save The Cat. I highly suggest every aspiring screenwriter read it (yes, even those who don’t outline). But in broad strokes, here’s an example of his famous Beat Sheet (this one is for a novel, but the beats are the same for a feature):

QUICK NOTE: Snyder has a very strict adherence to outlining that I don’t necessarily use myself, so use what works and dump the rest.

Source: https://www.savannahgilbo.com/blog/plotting-save-the-cat

Major story beats

If you want to let the cats die, but you still want to outline your work, here are some general structure rules for a screenplay (and remember: rules are made to be broken, especially in creative fields):

ACT I – Pages 1 – 20

This is where you set up your characters, the setting, and the central conflict. By the end of Act I, your protagonist (hero) is aware of the antagonist (villain), knows the mission, and has taken steps to move forward in the mission, albeit for the wrong reasons.

ACT II – Page 21 – 75

Act II is the meat, and it’s where a lot of screenwriters get bogged down.

PART I of Act II is what we call “Promise of The Premise”. If your movie is about a vampire hunter, there should be a lot of vampire hunting in this Act. The protagonist is getting their legs, facing the antagonist, and learning the ropes of their new world. As of now, things haven’t become dire yet. (Pages 21 – 45)

The MIDPOINT (Page 45ish) is when things get serious. This is either a huge failure for your protagonist, a huge victory that turns into a failure, or a twist. This is usually where the protagonist realizes they’re not as equipped to handle the antagonist as they thought.

PART II of Act II (Pages 46 – 72) is where things spiral. Everything that got serious in the midpoint is now getting exponentially worse. Try to be sadistic to your characters. What are the worst things you could do to your protagonist to destroy them and bring them to their…

LOW POINT. This is at the end of Act II, pages 72 – 75. This is where everything has fallen apart. The Nazis have the Arc. Loki has escaped. Kevin’s parents are never coming back and the burglars know he’s home alone. Everything comes crashing down at this exact moment. And then, as a final twist of the knife, you have to let your characters sit in the wreckage for a while before…

ACT III – Pages 76 – 90

This is where everything comes together. You’ve got to bring everything to a clear, concise finish (or maybe not, if you’re setting up for a sequel). And remember, as Anton Chekhov said, “If there’s a pistol above the door in Act One, it must be fired in Act Three”. This basically means you have to remember to pay off everything you’ve set up throughout the film.

Start writing!

The big moment. You’ve found your software, outlined (or at least developed an idea in your mind), and you’re ready to sit down and start typing. If you’re like me, you get very overwhelmed at this point. What was so exciting to you mere moments ago is now giving you a heart attack. You’re making something from nothing. It’s tough. Here are some tips to get over writers block.

Ideas. Ideas. Ideas. – Force yourself to write down ten ideas for movies or TV shows (or ten smaller ideas for the screenplay you’re currently working on) to get the juices flowing.Set a daily quota – Sometimes it’s helpful to give yourself a quota. Start with 1 page and work your way up.Set a deadline – On the flip side, set a date when the first draft HAS to be done, as if you’re turning it over to a studio. This will, most likely, light a fire under your behind.The vomit pass – I learned this one from genius filmmaker Judd Apatow, and I still use it to this day. Don’t give yourself any expectations on the first draft. Just start writing, acknowledging it will probably be terrible. You can always go back and change anything (or everything) later. Here’s the twist, half the time it’s not as terrible as you think it is.

Okay, so you’ve gotten past the fear of the blank page (just kidding, you’re gritting your teeth and forcing yourself to write anyway). How do you actually write the darn thing? Well, I’ll tell ya!

Slug lines

Slug lines indicate a new scene. They’re written in ALL CAPS and look like this:

INT/EXT. LOCATION – TIME OF DAY

Here are some examples:

INT. OFFICE – MORNING

EXT. STREET – MANHATTAN – NIGHT

INT/EXT. CAR – COUNTRY ROAD – AFTERNOON

EXT. STREET – CONTINUOUS

Let’s break down the pieces of a slug line:

INT./EXT.– In 99% of slug lines, the first thing you’ll see is INT, to indicate the scene takes place indoors, or EXT., to indicate it takes place outdoors. If you have a scene that changes from inside to outside (ie: Two people leave a building and walk across the parking lot), you can either write a separate slug line when they exit the building, or write both as one scene under the slug: INT./EXT.LOCATION – The location, or locations, come next. Don’t be too descriptive (bad slug line: FLOWERY DRIVEWAY OUTSIDE MANHATTAN WITH KIDS PLAYING IN THE STREET). Keep your locations straight to the point.TIME OF DAY – The time of day is the last piece of a slug line We don’t need the exact house, just a general time of day. Most common are DAY, AFTERNOON, EVENING, and NIGHT. You may also see CONTINUOUS or CONTD. This means the scene directly follows the previous scene (Again ie: Two people leave a building AND walk across the parking lot).

Action

This is the section that’s going to be the most comfortable for prose writers, but don’t let the familiar form lull you into a false sense of security. In the action, you describe everything we see in the scene in real time (always present tense for screenplays, people). Note I didn’t say “anything that’s going on in the characters head”. Here are some examples of BAD action lines:

Jenny walks down the street in a daze, thinking about how terrible that job interview went.

The camera can’t show what’s going on in Jenny’s head, so this action line is useless to a director.

Billy and Joe sit in the office chatting. The receptionist comes over a few times offering them coffee and then to tell them Ms. Welch will see them now.

Firstly, action should be in REAL TIME except for very specific cases. Secondly, there’s dialogue implied here, so unless we’re not in the room with them, we should hear what Billy, Joe, and the Receptionist are saying.

The sun glows bright and gold on the waves of Boston Harbor, each one roaring in anger like Jenny’s mood.

Too flowery. Keep action lines simple and to the point. Each page of your script is supposed to equal one minute of screen time. This ratio gets inflated by flowery language.

These are the two biggest errors new screenwriters make, writing action that can’t possibly be filmed, or writing like flowery language of novelists. Think of your script as a blueprint. It can have a little bit of cheek and attitude, but too much and it gets in the way. Here are the good versions of the above action lines:

Jenny walks down the street, not paying attention as she steps into the road.

HOOONK! A Semi swerves to avoid Jenny, knocking her back to reality.

Billy and Joe sit in the office. The receptionist comes over with a coffee pot.

The sun sets over the choppy waves of Boston Harbor.

Characters & dialogue

Arguably the most important piece of writing a screenplay is dialogue. Many screenwriters say is “you can teach structure but you can’t teach dialogue”. I don’t know if I believe that, but I know the most telltale sign of a rookie screenplay is bad dialogue. Here are some things to avoid:

Tropes & Clichés – “Let me get this straight”, “you better come take a look at this”, “you don’t know what [insert situation] is like”, Russian villains, Bad guy mentors, etc.Exposition & Voiceover – Narration is usually a big no-no. The only time it’s okay is if it’s character driven, and not being used as a crutch to explain things about the world. Otherwise, it’s a lazy crutch. Same goes for lengthy blocks of dialogue in which a character explains how something works to another character who should definitely know how that thing works. Crime shows do this all the time.Characters saying exactly what they feel – We see this all the time, even in Oscar winners. But think about it: In real life, who do you know who says exactly what they’re thinking, especially in a charged emotional moment? If you have a couple falling out of love, don’t have them talk about how they no longer love each other. Instead, give them a really specific thing to argue over. Like whether the dude was checking out another girl on the bus. That’s a cliché, so don’t use it. But the point remains. People in the real world say EVERYTHING except how they really feel.

Dialogue is centered on the page, under the character’s name, which is also centered. Dialogue usually only takes up the middle third of the page (1.5 inch margins on either side). All together, it looks like this:

BILLY

Oh, no thank you.

JOE

I’ll have a cup

RECEPTIONIST

Wait, you’re that guy from Sharon’s party?

The one with the Hot Chili Vodka? Yeah,

none for you!

QUICK NOTE: Characters should be introduced in action before they speak. The first time we see their name is ALL CAPS, and followed by their age in parentheses and a short description:

JOE (22), a stoner bro trying to dress up nice.

BILLY (20), who reeeeaaally doesn’t like that he’s here with Joe.

In addition, here are some parentheticals you can add on the end of a character’s name to qualify their dialogue:

O.S. – Off screen. Typically used if the person is in the other room.O.C. – Off camera. Typically used is the person is in the room but not currently in the shot.V.O. – Voiceover. Typically used for narration or a character’s thoughts.PRELAP – A character’s dialogue from the next scene. Used in transitions.

Putting it all together

Here’s what a sequence looks like with all the elements:

INT. UPTOWN OFFICE – DAY

JENNY (20), dressed to impress, runs out of the office, clearly holding back tears. She streaks past…

…JOE (21), and BILL (22), who enter and sit, looking curiously after her.

EXT. STREET – MANHATTEN – CONTINUOUS

Jenny pushes out of the office and starts sobbing. She steps into the street, not seeing…

…HOOOOOONK! She jumps back just in time as a Semi SCREECHES past her.

JENNY

Holy-

INT. OFFICE – CONTINUOUS

BILL

-sh*t. What was her problem?

JOE

No idea.

RECEPTIONIST (O.C.)

Coffee?

The RECEPTIONIST comes over with a coffee pot.

BILL

No thanks.

JOE

Sure, I’ll have some.

RECEPTIONIST

Wait, you’re that guy from Sharon’s party?

With the Hot Chili Vodka? Yeah, none

for you. In fact…

She turns as MS. WELCH (50s), strong and imposing, comes into the room.

RECEPTIONIST (CONTD)

Don’t hire these guys. They had everyone in

my friend’s dorm drinking milk for a month.

Hire the Jenny girl.

BILL

(to Joe)

Aw man?! Nice work, d*ckweed!

EXT. BOSTON HARBOR – AFTERNOON

Jenny sits on the pier, watching the the sun setting over the choppy waves of Boston Harbor. When…

BUZZ BUZZ. She looks down. A new call from “MS. WELCH”.

Off Jenny, confused and excited…

Once you’ve finished your draft

Keep writing, even when you can’t see the end point. And eventually you will finish the draft. Have a drink. Pat yourself on the back. Take a few days off. And you know what you get to do then? Go back to the beginning and start editing.

The best screenplays are rewritten five, ten, fifteen, sixty times. So don’ be afraid of rewrites. Show your screenplay to friends, colleagues, and industry mentors. Get the advice of screenwriters, Hollywood professionals, and people who just really like movies. I like to use Google Forms to put together a cohesive note-collection strategy. And keep rewriting. Until you reach the point where you feel you can’t rewrite anymore.

And then…? Put it away and start on your next screenplay. It will be better than your last one. And the next once will be better than that one and so on and so forth. And that, my friends, is how you become a screenwriter.

Getting your script sold

You may have noticed I’ve left a glaring hole in my guide. How do you actually sell your screenplay? Well, 1999 times out of 2000, it happens because of an agent. And that’s where we come in.

Get Me An Agent has catalogues with contact info for 400+ screenwriting agents and managers, and we’re constantly expanding. Every email in our catalogue is guaranteed to be real. Subscribers get unlimited access to our catalogues with any plan, no complicated credit system to be found. We have plans from $19.99/month, and an Unlimited plan, where you’ll get unlimited access to both catalogues AND we’ll read your Great American Screenplay and match you with agents who might be interested in you. Sounds to good to be true? It’s not. So click that fancy red button and get started today!

How To Write Killer Action Lines (and Great Character Description, Too)

What’s the worst note you’ve ever received on your screenplay? How about the worst note you’ve ever received multiple times? For me, the answer to both is “write better action lines”. Whenever I got that note, I had no idea what to do with it. Because it’s meaningless, it gives you nothing to work with. All it does is diagnose a problem without doing anything to provide a solution. But just because the note is unhelpful doesn’t mean it isn’t true. People talk a lot about dialogue as being the biggest indicator of a newbie writer, but I think bad action lines are far more of a dead giveaway.

So with that in mind, I thought we’d take a look at some tips on how to write killer action lines (and some ideas for creating awesome character descriptions, too).

The basics

Before we get to deep in the weeds, it’s important to go over some general best practices for writing action. If you’ve already written a few screenplays, you can probably skip this part. But for the rest of, us, here are some general rules to follow:

Read our guide on writing your first screenplay. It covers a lot of the basics that we skip in this article.Don’t write dialogue in your action – Any time a character speaks, it should be dialogue. Even little things like “Okay” and “Yeah thanks”. This may seem obvious, but I often see a lot of new writers putting small bits of dialogue into their action lines.Present tense – Screenplay action is written in the present tense. That means “does” and “is”, not “did” and “was”.

Okay, onto the fun stuff!

Get to the point already

One of the biggest mistakes new screenwriters make when writing action lines is being too flowery. Especially fresh out of film school, many screenwriters have a tendency to write their screenplay like they write prose. That is to say, chock full of metaphors, similes, and adjectives. Cut it out. Your screenplay is, first and foremost, a blueprint. Your job is, essentially, to relay to a bunch of other people how to put together a film (or TV show). Think about it, somebody is going to have to decipher what your beautiful words mean in order to set up lights, design a car chase, dress the actors, and everything else involved in a production. I’m not saying you should write a dry, lifeless shell of a screenplay, but never let your action lines take over the story.

Here are some examples of action lines that are too flowery:

Dale looks out over the beautiful dunes, rising out of the pancake-flat desert like two titans frozen in the middle of a battle, ages gone.Regina stops, frozen in fear, as her world comes crashing down around her like a thousand tiny needles shredding her skull.

And here’s how to fix them:

Dale looks out at the majestic dunes across the desert. Awed.Regina stands, trembling and afraid, as her world collapses around her.

Show, don’t tell

I know. I know. It’s the biggest cliché in the book, I get it. But it’s a cliché for a reason. And that reason is that it’s just more interesting to see something happening than to hear somebody talking about it. When people watch movies, they want to feel like an active participant in the narrative. They want to piece story beats together themselves. And the easiest way to give them that experience is through your action lines.

Many screenwriters seem to be scared of action, and so resign themselves to writing endless pages of dialogue. While dialogue-heavy movies and TV are great, they’re not the only great type of entertainment. For decades, silent film had to be very deliberate with it’s dialogue and spend most time on action. And, more recently, movies like Gravity prove that you don’t need a ton of dialogue to tell an excellent story.

Here’s a general rule of thumb: Whenever you start explaining something through dialogue, stop and ask yourself: can I convey this through action instead? The answer is usually yes.

Remember, just like a picture is worth a thousand words, so is a look, a nod, or the lack of words.

Leave room for the performance

I do it too, believe me. Whenever I write, I’m trying to convey the best possible version of the story I’m developing. And so I end up adding a bunch of little details that step on the performance. Remember, your screenplay is going to change a lot between now and premiere night, and your actors are getting paid the big bucks to figure out how to turn your words into something that approximates reality. There’s nothing more annoying to an actor than being noted to death within action lines. So just like you shouldn’t be afraid to write action, you shouldn’t be afraid not to, either.

Here are some times when action is important:

A character is entering or exiting.A character is performing some action within the scene that’s important to the narrative (ie: pulling a gun out of their boot under the table. Probably important to show that).A character is having an emotion that’s important to the scene (ie: a husband is happy at the news his wife is dead. This is important to mention).

Here are some action lines you don’t need to write:

Every little movement a character makes in a scene, especially when it’s not pertinent to the story.A character dialing a number on their phone (I usually just say “she places a call” or “she answers”. It accomplishes three lines of action in one).Every tiny emotion the character has (that takes all the fun away from the actors).

Of course, don’t be afraid to show some emotion in your screenplays. Emotion is important. But try to keep your action lines to only the most important beats of the story.

Take a beat

This is sort of an offshoot of the “Leaving room for the performance”. A beat is typically a pause in the story. It tends to be a quiet moment before, after, or during a line of dialogue. It’s usually used to show subtext, something NOT being said. And I love beats. Many writers do. Remember what I said above about Showing, Not Telling? Beats convey so much because they’re about what the character isn’t saying. Some of my scripts are absolutely riddled with beats. So I’m not exactly following my own advice here. Because, in general, you should use beats during only the most important moments of your script. Just like action lines in general, an actor is perfectly capable of deciding where to takes pauses in your dialogue.

Write in real time

Each scene should happen in real time. You should never have a single action line that tries to describe a number of different things happening over a period of time. Here’s an example of the wrong way to handle elapsed time:

Jamie walks over to her friend Melissa, gets some beer, and peer pressures Melissa into drinking it. Melissa gets drunk.

That is actually better served as several different, unique action lines. So let’s see how to fix it. Some of this can be fixed by simply hitting the magical ENTER button. For instance:

Jamie walks over to Melissa, then pauses.

She doubles back, heads for a cooler. She grabs a few beers and heads back over to Melissa.

We watch through the window as Jamie holds out the beer. Melissa declines. Jamie doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, and keeps trying to get Melissa to take the beer. Finally. Melissa relents and takes a swig.

See what I did there? By adding a few lines, you can give the impression of real time and successfully account for how long it will take an actor to perform the scene. Also, since peer-pressuring would usually require dialogue, I cheated and specified that we’re outside the window, looking in. That way, we don’t need to deal with dialogue.

NOTE: Some people will tell you not to use “we see”. Those people aren’t writers.

There are some other issues, however, with the action line above that can’t be fixed by hitting ENTER and adding a window.

The line specifying that Melissa “gets drunk”, however, requires a more thorough reworking. There’s two ways to accomplish an action line like this. We can either, (A), create a new scene that picks up after some time has elapsed, or (B), we can use a montage. Here’s what that would look like.

Melissa relents and takes a swig.

We begin a SERIES OF SHOTS:

-Melissa finishes her beer.

-Jamie opens another one.

-Melissa dances while drinking. Loosening up.

-Melissa stumbles over to the cooler for another beer.

-Jamie looks a little worried as Melissa drinks.

-Melissa downs another beer.

-And another.

-And another.

That montage more accurately conveys the amount of screen time needed to accurately portray the sequence of Melissa “getting drunk”. Which brings me to the next tip…

1 Minute = 1 Page

Use a screenwriting software when you write, because screenplay formatting rules aren’t arbitrary: they’re formatted so that every page of script roughly equals one minute of screen time. So if you have a 120 page script, you’re looking at a two-hour movie. This is yet another reason to avoid the dreaded flowery action.

Here are some other things that throw a wrench in the timing works timing:

Action lines like “Melissa gets drunk” used to convey half-page sequences.Not using Slug Lines to show the passage of time.Adding lots of jokes and meta references for the reader in the action.Adding symbols or pictures (or links, yeesh) in the action.

The action IS the tone

The last and most important tip for writing killer action lines is to remember that your script (especially if you’re trying to convince someone reading it to pay to make it into a movie or TV show), has to convey what’s happening onscreen. This may sound contradictory to my earlier “your script is a blueprint” tip, and in a way it is. But you have to figure out how to do both at the same time. Here are some great ways to convey the tone of the finished project in the action:

Use sentence fragments during particularly intense sequences (things like “She ducks. Gets up. Runs for cover.”)Reserve longer, more thoughtful sentences for slower, more character driven sequences.Use descriptive words (sparingly, of course).Come up with really great character descriptions (see below).In emotionally jarring confrontations, stay out of the dialogue’s way. Scale back on your action.Crack jokes for the reader in the action (again, very sparingly and only if it makes sense with your tone).Use notes – If there’s something really important that you need to say to your reader, and you can’t think of a way to put it into the flow of the story, you can use a note by adding a new action line in Italics and labelling it “NOTE:”.

Your action shouldn’t just convey your voice as a writer, it should convey the voice of the project. What kind of movie are we watching? Your action lines are the key place to show the reader what the finished movie or show will feel like.

And that’s it! Action lines are the best way into your movie or show’s tone, and the best way to show would-be producers what kind of script they’d be buying. It’s a very find line you have to tow, being personal and emotional, while not stifling the story. And, like everything in writing, repetition is everything. The more you write and rewrite, the better your script (and action lines) will come out. I promise.

If you’ve edited your action lines and you think you’re ready to take the next step and actually get your project made, the first step is to get an agent or manager. And the best way to do that is with a subscription to Get Me An Agent. Our plans start at only $19.99/month, and come with unlimited access to contact information for over 400 agents and managers for screenwriting. Plus we have guides and templates, and a team of real entertainment industry professionals standing by 24/7/365 to help you find representation. Like the sound of that? Every plan comes with a free month, and there’s no commitment. Check us out by clicking one of the buttons below:

NOTE: As always, don’t take everything I said as gospel. It’s true that you need to know the rules to break the rules. But you also need to remember to actually, you know, break the rules sometimes.

BONUS: Writing great character description

Character description is one part of action-writing that the screenwriting community is quite split on. I can only give my own personal preference on the matter.

There are some writers who’ll swear up and down that you should NEVER give any information whatsoever about a character within action lines (not even their age), and there are others who like to write entire paragraphs each time a new character is introduced. I fall somewhere in the middle. Here’s my policy regarding character description:

The basic format

Almost everybody agrees on this part. Character description is written in line with action. The first time you meet a character, their name is written in ALL CAPS, followed by their age in parenthesis. This is either followed immediately, or in the next sentence, by an explanation of who they are/what they look like. Here’s an example:

The door bangs open and in walks HERMES (55), the kind of guy who spends his weekends at the shooting range and his weekdays behind the wheel of a semi truck.

JESSICA (35), sits at the table. She wears a bright red dress and an attitude of complete disdain for her surroundings

You can introduce minor characters without much fanfare. Like this:

The WAITER (36) comes over to their table.

Or even:

As Daryl steps up to the counter, the BANK TELLER hardly glances at him.

The details

For main characters, it’s good to add a little bit of detail to the end of your character description. Something to ground us in the story and make your character feel more real. Even a small anecdote can go a long way towards making us believe in the person you’ve created. Here are some important things to keep in mind when writing detail about your character:

Make it brief– Don’t give us every your character’s whole life story, just something to make them memorable.Make it important – Whatever detail you choose should be integral to what makes your character who they are . Something that’s tied to their wound or past trauma, or seriously informs how they interact with other characters.Make it one sentence – Kind of like making it brief, we don’t need a paragraph. One sentence (or, preferably, less)Make it recurring – Giving your character a detail that recurs every time we meet them, like an accent, a lisp, or the TAP TAP of a cane will do wonders towards making them feel real.Make it memorable – If it’s super important that we remember your protagonists clothes, you should write the description in such a way that it sticks in our mind. Even if the actual detail is boring. For instance. If your hero’s grey suit is constantly mocked by his family for being “too boring”, give him the detail: “GREG (50), with the most boring name and most boring suit in the world.”

Here’s a great video that explains how to write character description (if you’re into videos):

NOTE: This is largely targeted to novelists, but the idea still carries through to screenplays.

And there you have it! Remember, writing character description is the best place to show off those writer flourishes I told you to hide in the rest of this article. Go crazy (for a sentence or two).

10 Ways To Come Up With Great Short Film Ideas

One of the best ways to make your mark in Hollywood is by making a short film. Many of the greats, from Robert Eggers, to the GOAT himself, Stephen Spielberg, got their start after somebody powerful fell in love with their short film. In fact, hardly a month goes by that I don’t hear about another writer or director who broke through with a killer short film. Why? Here are a few reasons why a short film is an excellent entry point into Hollywood:

They are quick – A feature film is usually between 90 minutes and 2 hours long. This means that a hypothetical agent looking for new clients has to take hours out of their day to watch your film. Considering this agent probably has to go through hundreds of submissions to find a good fit, your two-hour epic is a poor use of their time. Shorts, meanwhile, can be an excellent show of your talent in as little as 5 minutes.They stand out – Even the best features have only a few standout scenes. Think about your favorite movie: Is every scene riveting? Is there no moment that you wouldn’t miss? Chances are, you said ‘no’. Even the best films only have a few truly standout moments. A short film, on the other hand, is comprised only of the standout moments.They are everywhere – Features (even more for TV episodes) are usually difficult to find. Our hypothetical agent would have to rent your feature, find it on a streaming service, or click through your Vimeo link and type in a password. Short films can be proudly displayed on your YouTube or social media, or downloaded to an agent’s computer in a matter of minutes.

Yes, short films can be an excellent way to show off your writing/directing style and promote yourself to agents and managers. But how do you come up with an idea for your short film? It may seem tricky, especially if you’re used to writing longer form screenplays. Short films don’t have complex stories or rich, full character arcs. This can be very frustrating to a writer. I know I’ve struggled to write a short film before, simply because my ideas generally come out too big. But never fear, because I’m going to end that brain fog for you today: Here are ten methods to come up with great short film ideas.

1.) A scene from a longer project

IP is king. What does that mean? It means that studios and/or production companies who might be interested in you are infinitely more likely to jump on board your project if it’s based on existing content. One of the best ways to come up with a short film idea is simply to rework one of the best scenes out of your existing feature film or TV series as a short. If you choose this route, you’re killing two birds with one stone. You’re making your short film, and you’re adding more value to your feature/TV pilot for when you decide to shop it around town. And who knows? Maybe a studio chief will watch your short film and decide to option it out right. Then you’ll already have an entire pilot or feature ready to go for them.

You can’t just pick any scene, however. It needs to be attention-grabbing and visceral. Here are some tips to pick the scene you’re going to adapt:

Make sure it shows the world of your longer script. If your feature is a romantic comedy about two people with human heads finding each other in a world where everybody else has goat heads, make sure the scene you pick has some goat heads in it.Keep an eye on budget. You don’t want to adapt your short film from a sprawling car chase sequence. The more stunts or VFX you need to employ, the worse the final product will look (unless you have a massive effects budget).Make it dramatic. The scene you choose should involve (probably no more than 3) characters grappling with profound issues, preferably those directly connected to your longer script’s overarching story.You can totally make your short film a comedy, but it must be the most funny scene in your entire feature or pilot, and it must follow the above rules (except it has to be funny instead of dramatic, obviously)

2.) The world around you

Let’s talk about budget. If you’re reading this, you probably don’t have one. You’re probably making this short film for pennies, if not less. Your friends are probably working for free (or, if this is a college film, for credit), and most of your budget is probably going to props and food. So write towards that. It’s not shameful to write within your means when first starting out. Oren Peli, who wrote and directed the worldwide phenomenon Paranormal Activity, wrote his film around the fact that it could take place entirely in his house.

Think about the assets you already have. Your own apartment. Your car. The bus or subway (although you’ll have to be discreet). Your college campus or workplace (if you’re allowed there after hours). Find the most interesting spot you have access to (preferably not outdoors, as the sound will be affected), and ask yourself: “What kind of story could I set here?”

3.) A picture

The 1990s film Miller’s Crossing, directed by the Coen Brothers, was based on an image one of the brothers imagined: a hat blowing in the wind. Obviously, they spun this idea into a sweeping crime noir film, but it works even better for a short film. So how do you do this?

Spend some time looking at pictures online. Download any that really speak to you into a folder on your computer.Narrow it down to between three and five of your favorite pictures.For each picture, start jotting down any characters you see. If there are people in the frame, start there. If not, imagine the kind of person that might be in the picture and write towards that.Once you have loose notes on a few pictures, step away for a while. When you’re ready, go back and re-read your notes to find the picture you’re most interested in adapting. Start outlining based on the notes you’ve just taken.

If you need help finding pictures, I’d suggest using Google Images, Flickr, Pinterest, a stock photo site like Shutterfly, or Instagram.

NOTE: Be sure not to use the actual picture in your final film unless you have the rights. Don’t be a copyright thief.

4.) A dream

There are two ways to come up with a short film idea based on a dream. We’ll go through each one individually.

A.) WRITE A SHORT STORY BASED ON A DREAM YOU’VE HAD

This is pretty straightforward. We all remember at least some of our dreams, even if only in fragments. Take some time away from your computer. Go for a walk. Try not to focus on remembering your dreams (that’s a trap it’s very difficult to get out of). Once you’ve successfully cleared your mind, try to think about the craziest, most intense dream you’ve had recently. Avoid sexy dreams, unless you’re a very specific kind of writer. Instead, focus on wild, crazy, unique dreams. Once you find one you’re interested in adapting, start writing down anything you can remember about it. Usually, after a short while, the floodgates will open and the ideas will pour out onto the page.

B.) WRITE A SHORT STORY THAT IS A DREAM

This is the second way to use dreams as fodder for your short films is by making short films that consist of dreams. There are some excellent benefits to this method. Firstly, you don’t have to worry about formatting your short film in a traditional way (or about continuity, for that matter). In addition, many editing and shooting mistakes will also be forgiven as style in a dream sequence, which is very useful for first-time filmmakers. Also, a dream sequence allows you to play with many different emotions and sequences in rapid succession, and even to tell tiny character arcs all in a single scene. Dream sequences are one of the only times audiences entirely suspend their disbelief and allow themselves to completely open up to whatever you’ve put in front of them.

5.) A Zoom short film

I know, everybody is done with the pandemic (if you’re reading this in the future, we’ve been dealing with this thing called COVID for a year and a half, now. Look it up, it’s wild!). We’re all itching to get back in the real world. But Zoom cinema isn’t going anywhere. The days of films like “Unfriended” being oddities are gone forever. Today, there are mountains of Zoom films and TV. From Aneesh Chaganty’s “Searching” to an episode of the Emmy Award-winning series “Modern Family”. So why should you consider making a short film that takes place over Zoom? Here are a few great reasons.

Budget considerations – As we’ve said before (and will say again), budget is key when coming up with your idea for a short film. And the great thing about Zoom is nobody is expecting killer production value. People will forgive audio and video quality issues that they certainly wouldn’t forgive in a traditional film. You may even be rewarded for your “authenticity”.It does the work for you – Everybody knows what a Zoom meeting is. The moment you see those boxes appear on screen, you know what you’re in for. Which means you can save a lot of time on setup and introductions, and just get right into the meat of the story.They force you into a box (literally) – This is, after all, an article about coming up with short film ideas. And there’s nothing better for a blank mind than putting restraints on yourself. Once you’ve settled on Zoom as your set, you’ve narrowed down the scope of your project so much that it will be far easier to start writing.

6.) Two characters in a room

This is similar to method #5. Shrinking your location down to a single room, and your cast down to two people, gives you a number of guaranteed boosts right off the bat. Not only do you get many of the same budgetary benefits you get with a Zoom film, but you also get something else that’s priceless: you’re automatically dealing with one relationship. You have endless options for that relationship, but your short film will revolve around two characters in a room, working within the bounds of a relationship of some kind. Many great movies and TV episodes take place all (or mostly) within a single room. Movies like ‘Saw’ pit two characters against each other in one room, while ’12 Angry Men’ (which, admittedly has more than two characters), forces resolution between many different strongly-held beliefs. There’s magic to a single room (and two characters with opposing views in that room) that is short film gold.

Need help deciding what sort of relationship your characters will have? Start here:

They could be…

A couple (either breaking up or getting back together)Two strangers (falling in love or trying to kill each other)Two friends (learning a secret about on another)Two enemies (becoming allies or backstabbing each other)

They could also be…

Detectives (solving a murder)Parents of a bride to-beSiblings left home aloneCannibals planning their next killA couple trying to make love for the first time but messing it up

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The opportunities are nearly endless when you put two people into a room and force them to interact. But, if “endless opportunities” stresses you out, start with one of the ones I’ve listed above. I won’t sue you, I promise

7.) Genre-smash

This idea is pretty straightforward: take two genres and smash them together. Many great films have done it. The Coen Brothers, for instance, make a second appearance on this list. Their films are almost always a blend of genres. ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou’ is a blend of Western and Epic, ‘No Country For Old Men’ is a Crime Noir and a Western. Come to think of it, they often genre-smash using Westerns. But you don’t have to. Not all genres smash as well, and some are just cliché (saying you’re making a dramedy doesn’t count as genre-smashing). Here are some genres you can try smashing together. See what you come up with.

Science Fiction

Comedy

War

Thriller

Western

Horror

Musical

Crime Noir

Fantasy

Biopic

Mockumentary

Time Loop

You can be the one to write the world’s first ever Horror-Mockumentary or Comedy-Crime Noir. And these are just sample genres. Start smashing and you’ll be well on your way to finding the perfect short film idea.

8.) Use a life event

Suppose you want to make an “important” short film. In that case, welcome NYU Undergrads. Just kidding, not everybody wants to make a Western-Time Loop movie. And for these people, it’s best to find subject matter that’s a bit more personal. Any great film or TV series is at least partially inspired by real life. While your important film doesn’t have to be based on an actual event from your life, there’s no rule that says it can’t be. So why not base your short film on a major life event that made a real impact on you. The best writing always comes from a place of true, raw emotions. So find an event from your life that really spoke to you and get writing.

Here are some sample events, broke down by the tone of film you want to make:

Positive Events: Graduation (high school or college), marriage, birth of a child, first kiss, first time having sex.

Negative Events: The death of a loved one, The anxiety of starting a new job or relationship, first kiss, first time having sex.

As you can see from above, many of these life events can play as positive or negative depending on how you spin it. An interesting exercise would be to take one of the happiest life experiences you’ve had, and write as though it was the worst thing that ever happened to you. Or vice versa.

PRO TIP: I’m not saying you should literally write a short film about your own life (you probably shouldn’t). Instead, I’m suggesting you write about a fictional character experiencing one of these life events, and learning the same lessons you learned (or failing to learn them).

Feel free to put your own spin on this method. Maybe mix one of these life events with a genre-smash or two.

9.) Write for your budget

Once again, it all comes back to budget. This is going to be the single biggest factor in getting your short film made and looking beautiful. And I’m going to say it one more time for the people in the back: There is no shame in writing with a budget in mind. For many writers, there seems to be a stigma around writing towards a budget. It’s seen by many as “selling out” or “hampering their creative vision”. I’m here to tell those people that they are wrong. Even among the most expensive films in the world, screenwriters have to write towards a budget. And that means you can too. So how do you do this?

Make a list of everything you have at your disposal for your film. This means, your car, your apartment, your iPhone (yeah, it has a camera). Do you have any bedside lamps you could use for lighting? Do you have access to a college campus or production company with cameras and other equipment?Actually write down your budget. Do you have one? How much personal money are you willing to spend on this project? Are you willing to use your credit lines (don’t)?Do you have a grant from you school or a fellowship? Do you have any investors? Do you have producers and/or other partners who can throw in some money or help you find some? Be realistic here. At the end of the day, how much money do you really have to make your film a reality?

Write towards this. Can you afford to pay actors? If so, how many? Great, now you know how many characters are in your short film. Do you have a cool apartment or neat courtyard at your office you can use after the workday ends? Great, there’s your location. How many people can you afford to buy lunch for? That’s your crew size, which effects how much you’re doing in terms of effects and fancy camera moves. For how many days can you buy lunch? That’s your shooting schedule (and, therefor, your runtime). You’d be surprised how much you can figure out, story-wise, simply by getting real about how much money you actually have to spend. And guess what? Doing it this way will make it less likely that you go over budget.

NOTE: This isn’t part of the story-idea generation process, but I highly suggest all new filmmakers checks out StudioBinder’s free Budget Topsheet Generator. It will help you get really granular about how you’re going to pay for this. Get it here. (We didn’t get paid for this)

10.) Use a story generator

Story generators are frowned upon, and there’s a reason this is the last method on this list. But writers block is a real struggle everyone faces at least once in their career (even those of you who claim you don’t). Once you get in your own head, you doubt your talent. And when that happens, it’s no wonder the ideas fail to materialize. So I’m not necessarily recommending that your finished product be based on a random story generator, but it can definitely help to get the juices flowing. Services like Plot-Generator.Org.Uk will randomly write a story based on variables you enter (and if you’re really really stumped, they can fill in the variables, too). Once you read the (admittedly terrible) story that’s written for you, you can take any pieces you like and begin work on your new-and-improved short film based (very loosely) on that story.

NOTE: If you don’t want your entire story to be written be a machine, but are only looking for some ideas, there’s a really nifty free service called Story Dice that can get the ball rolling nicely by randomly selecting six story elements you can incorporate into your story.

So there you have it, now you should be ready to start writing. Good luck! It’s going to be a long road, but I promise it’s worth it. Once your short film is written and produced, you’ll want an agent or manager to help shop it around to Hollywood studios and production companies. And the best way to get an agent is with a subscription to, wait for it, Get Me An Agent. Plans start at only $19.99/month, and every plan comes with your first month free. With a subscription to Get Me An Agent, you get all this and more:

Unlimited access to the contact information for 400+ agents and managers.Free templates for your inquiry emails.Weekly articles just like this one to help you to kickstart your career in entertainment.Free 24/7/365 live support with a real entertainment professional who will walk you through the processm.

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