How To Get An Agent the Right Way

Posted by Marisa D'Vari on

Learn how to get an agent the right way in this exclusive screenwriting article by Marisa D'Vari.

You're a hot writer! Already you can see your name on the front page of Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. But to make the magic work, you need an agent.

Or rather, you think you do.

Like a savvy cat who'll only agree to come to you when cream is forthcoming, an agent worth his or her salt is the same way.

I was an agent trainee at ICM in what had to be the kindest office on the seventh floor. My boss, a woman, took pains to write 'nice' thank-you notes to writers who didn't make the cut. She did find some great writers (notably a TV team) and turned them into a 'name' in feature writing.

But that was then and this was now.

The reality is that no one is going to discover you, or work hard on your behalf for a 'promise.' Like a cat, they need to see evidence of the cream before they'll come your way.

And the 'cream' isn't necessarily the words on the paper of your script.

I'm not suggesting agents they don't know quality when they read it.

They're intelligent beings. They've been to Stanford and Harvard and many have law degrees.

But, great words aren't the only thing being a writer is about. Here's a story. One agent, well connected through his family, got his start when he took some screws out of a big agent's chair and 'fixed' it before the gratified agent's eyes. As a result, he was promoted out of the mailroom and is now one of the town's top agents.

So if it's not just about the words, then what is it all about?


The 'cream' agents want to see is how you're promoting yourself without his or her help. Have you won festivals? Have you even applied? Do you work for some big shot whose name will help the agency sell your script?

Or are you just writing away on a mountaintop someplace, hoping the magic of your words will sell.

If you are on a mountain, relax. Script sales happen all kinds of ways, and for you, writing from a remote mountaintop might be one of them.

But the subject is agents, which is a different topic entirely.

First, realize that they won't be interested in you until they need you. Most often, this has nothing to do with their reading your script over the weekend and determining that you're 'hot.'

Usually, they want you when another agent wants you and you're enjoying a certain buzz around town. So it's great in the sense that all top agents will want you all at once. But then again, when no one wants you, the world is a pretty lonely place.

So, how do you get an agent's interest?

Obviously, write a great script, but don't expect words alone to propel you!

Here are 5 exclusive ways to get buzz! Good luck:

  1. Win a festival. But not 'any' festival. Only spend money and time applying to ones that will get you 'buzz.' Don't be shy to try for the top ones (i.e. Sundance).

  2. Apple polish. Try to get to know influential people who teach Hollywood-related courses who have pull in the industry. Be shameless!

  3. Get a job in the industry that will plug you into the network.

  4. Keep writing. Agents want to see a factory.

  5. Compile a list of 'dream agents' by tracking their deals and clients.

Keep the faith! And don't expect an agent to do anything more than sell you for big bucks. Like a cat, they're all about getting the cream.

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