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.
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!