Veteran actress K Callan has authored several great reference books for actors, directors and others who need a foot (or a good agent) to open the door to the biz. Here, she recaps her advice for screenwriters answering some of the most immediate questions that writers have.
~~~ Will you read my script?
I could read your script, but I'm not someone who can 'pass you along,' that's not what I do. I've recommended two fine young writers to my agent, and they have still not been read. One of them even had had his film produced and had a copy of the film; my agent still never got around to it. If, on the other hand, either of these young men had just won an important writing contest or gained attention to some project, their scripts would have been read overnight.
~~~ How can I get an agent?
As I say in 'The Script is Finished, Now What Do I Do?' -- you will have to be your own first agent...and the first thing an agent says is: 'How much material have you written? Let me see what you have?'
So, the first thing you need to do is write several scripts. You'll get better with each one, so asking an agent to read your first effort (even if he would), is iffy. IF he reads it and the material is not good, then you've blown it with that person.
After you have 3-4 scripts in your pocket and you think they are all showable, it's time to try to get read. In the meantime, if you live in Los Angeles (or anywhere really), being part of a writer's group is always a good idea. For one thing, this puts you in the company of other writers AND it gets you out of your solitary writing situation. You should also be viewing any and all films in your genre and be conversant with who's buying and who is buying what, so that when you want to send your material to a producer, you are not sending a romantic comedy to someone who only produces dark action adventure.
~~~ Do I need a manager?
Do you need a manager? Personally, I don't think so. Although, it's true that it's much easier to get a manager than an agent (there are about 5 times as many managers in town as agents), not all managers have connections that will do you any good. If you are determined to have one, make sure you do your homework and find out whom he represents. If he's got a star or two, it would be good to know at what stage of their careers they joined him. Did he help with their journey, or is he just there to service the writer now?
The same thing is true of agents -- they could be motivated or not, and they could have connections or not, but at least with an agent, they are franchised by the Writers Guild of America and any WGA contract you sign, you can get out of if you are not getting work. Manager contracts are a whole different thing. No license required, so be vigilant.
~~~ Do I have to live in Los Angeles?
Do you need to live in Los Angeles? Yes and no. Sometimes, the out-of-towner can have the inside shot as agents think you are going to have an 'uncontaminated view' (read: no LA influence), so if you can get read by them, they are primed to think you are a 'fresh new voice.' On the other hand, if you are out of town, it will be more difficult to find some way to enter the system unless you have sold a script. If you live in Los Angeles, you have a shot at getting some kind of showbiz job that will begin to move you into the circles of people who are working in the business who might be interested in extending a helping hand.