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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Screenwriter's Guide to Success Part 1: Representation

It’s tough doing this by yourself. I know. I’ve been there. You work on your stories for hours every day. The days turn into weeks. The weeks turn into months. And all this time you have no guarantee that ANYONE will ever see this new masterpiece. Sure you can show it to friends and relatives and they may tell you you’re great. But at the end of the day you’re faced with the very real possibility that all your hard work will just end up papering your walls.

I used to be there. Now I’m not. Now I’ve got representation.

It feels so much better. I don’t have to worry about getting my stuff submitted. I don’t have to worry about the follow up (though I do have to follow up with my people). When I go to a conference and meet producers and actors I can relax, be myself and not be so desperate. I’m not screaming out for attention. I can concentrate on being a writer and putting all my energy into that script that will get me six figures. Every writer should make it a goal to find either a manager or agent that they can work with. Some people make the mistake and just settle for any agent or manager. Way back in the early days I made contact with an agent who said he’d be glad to represent me. He wouldn’t actually take my stuff out himself, but he’d field any offers I managed to generate.

How nice.

My current reps do all that work. They work up a list of companies, make the submissions and do the follow up. But more than that they talk to me about my work, help me with it, fine tune it. But it works both ways. They don’t just take anything from me and send it out there. It’s their time and money they are spending, not to mention their professional representation. So now I always work on new projects with them well in advance, starting with concept and logline and working through treatment and final manuscript. By the time I’m done I have a piece that not just my mom and my sister love. I’ve got people with actual IMDB credits who are in love with it and will fight for it. It’s a great place to be. The only better place is on the other side of the professional wall, with that check in your hand. And in today’s Hollywood it’s less and less likely that you will get that paycheck without having to chip off ten percent to that somebody who made it possible.

How do you get repped? There’s no easy answer. You have to be with somebody you are simpatico with. You can start by submitting to those shops that accept queries and manuscripts. But the more personal approach is better. If you can start a relationship with them, work with them as a freelance reader, grab a few drinks with them. Get to know them and have them get to know you. This is your first and most important professional relationship. Make sure its one that’s going to last. Because once you’ve got that first relationship down, then it’s about your next relationship which will be with a producer or publisher. And from there…well that’s up to you isn’t it.

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