Reader Question: Are there differences between seeking representation with a manager versus and agent?

The answer is yes. As one manager put it to me: “Agents wear suits, managers wear blue jeans.” Why that makes a big difference to you.

An email from Dave M:

Hey Scott,

There’s a lot of talk about getting an agent and all that but what about managers? To me, they seem to be especially important for newbies.

What are your thoughts on this and are the rules of pursuit the same or different, easier or harder on getting a manager?

Thanks,
Dave

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“Especially important” is right for one big fat reason: Managers are more accessible to aspiring screenwriters than agents. Caveat: Every management company and agency is different, so you have to check their policy regarding unsolicited submissions, but I have heard more than my share of stories about writers who have queried managers with a strict “No” policy who got through that barricade. Moreover, many managers actually welcome queries. This is in contrast with agencies who generally have moat-like defenses against unsolicited contact.

There are legal differences between the two that speak to why managers tend to be more open to unsolicited submissions: Under California law, agents are licensed, and per state regulations, agents cannot produce a client’s project. By contrast, managers are not regulated and, therefore, can produce a client’s project.

And therein lies the secret: Managers are more motivated to find and develop fresh talent because they can get two bites at the revenue apple: Their management fee, plus whatever producing deal they negotiate.

As long as we’re on the subject, let me re-post an item from the archives titled “How to land representation? Write a great script!”

In a Go Into The Story interview with screenwriter Marc Maurino, he was kind enough to respond to a question in comments from Marc Teichmann:

Q: What tips do you have for getting scripts into the right hands? My partner and I are almost ready to start sending our first script out and I’m searching everywhere to find managers and agents emails, but it’s tough.

A: Marc Teichmann, I know it’s tough, and good luck to you–this is a rocky part of the journey!

The Hollywood Creative Directory, ImdB Pro, and several other pay-sites offer contact information for managers (when first querying, agents are not the destination; managers are.) The discussion boards at DoneDealPro.com have LOTS of insight into the querying process and how to find managers’ e-mails. Check out DDP, and you don’t even need to go ask HOW…just check the archives and you will find DOZENS of posts on this very subject.

Also, check out the Black List for the last several years, and get a feel for who the managers are that are selling things and getting scripts out there, especially if you are writing in a genre similar to what they are repping.

Then find e-mail (resources as listed above, plus Google–it’s all out there); craft a killer query/log line/cover letter (tons of ink spilled around the internet on this as well); and carpet bomb the town. Lots of folks I know will send upwards of fifty, a hundred, a hundred and fifty query letters requesting a read from a management company–and get maybe a 10% read request rate. Those are loose numbers, but just a caveat that it’s a TON of papering the town, but it only takes one rep to love your stuff to push you forward.

FINALLY, please make sure your script is REALLY ready…have you had professionals read it? has someone other than you and your partner proofread it? Have you had a table read with actors to hear the words up on their feet? Have you had five or ten people who will not BS you give you their responses? If and when “yes” to all of these–GOOD LUCK!

Marc is right. There is no secret to getting your script read. You simply contact a shitload of managers with email queries. That’s what Seth Lochhead did with “Hanna”. He reportedly sent out 400 email inquiries: “A lot were one-sentence emails. A girl is trained to be an assassin; would you like to read my script.”

But before you send out anything, do what Marc says: (1) Make sure you’ve crafted a great logline. (2) Make sure you’ve written a great script.

Here’s what Lochhead had to say in an interview about how he approached writing “Hanna”: “It’s always about the script for me. Do I socialize and build my career that way or do I write a really f — king great script and build my career on that?”

If you think you’ve written a great script, but you are getting passes all over town, then it’s likely you have not written a great script.

Go back to square one. Come up with a great story concept. I mean a total, stone-cold killer of an idea for a movie. Do not settle for mediocre. Or fair. Or maybe it’s good. Or even it’s probably pretty good.

No, you want to work with an unbelievably fantastic idea for a movie.

Then write the hell out of it.

Carpet bomb Hollywood with email queries.

If, indeed, you have written a great script, you will land a manager. And an agent. And almost assuredly someone will buy your script. Next comes the Porsche.

But it always… ALWAYS comes down to what’s on the page. That is the bottom line and end of the subject. Nothing else matters except writing a great script.

Now, you can look at that and get really depressed. So much pressure, right?

On the other hand, that is the most freeing realization of all. Why? Because you do not have to worry about anything else. Your sole focus should be on learning the craft and writing a great script.

That’s it. Simplifies things, doesn’t it?

How to land representation? Do what Marc says. Do what Lochhead says. But most of all, do what every buyer, every agent, every manager, every ANYBODY who is ANYBODY in Hollywood says on the subject: WRITE A GREAT SCRIPT!

Everything else will take care of itself.

UPDATE: Ben in comments offers this nifty piece of advice:

To find my first manager I signed up for a two-week free trial at imdb pro because I couldn’t afford a subscription.

If you make good use of that 2 weeks, you can find tons of contact information.

There you have it: Not only an answer to your original question, but solid insight into the subtext of your question — how to land a rep.

If anybody has other ideas or tactics in this regard, please share in comments.

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