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How do I get an agent or manager?

There are as amany ways as there are writers, but usually it will either be by referral of by query. You develop relationships and ask people to read your screenplays.

Whether it's a pitchmart or Expo or a website or e-queries or good old-fashioned snail mail, it's all about making the producer, manager or agent interested enough in your script that they ask to read it. The same effort you put into a query letter to an agent or manager goes into your letter to a production company.

On paper or in person or by e-mail, you will need a clear, concise, description of your screenplay. Try to keep it three sentences or less, but have a longer version on tap if you are pitching in person. You want this to be the most exciting pitch you can come up with, so chose your words carefully. Remember: your query letter is a writing sample. If you can't write two dozen brilliant words, why should the producer read over 20,000 of your words?

QUERY LETTER

I like to start with a great one sentence hook - a question. Then go to your synopsis.

What if the man claiming to be your husband was an imposter?

Martin Gere was chosen to be on the first shuttle to land on an alien planet, but when he returned two years later he was... different. Kathy Gere begins to suspect that this man who shares her bed, her life, and takes the kids to soccer practice every weekend isn't the hero-astronaut she married. Is he an alien in disguise? A spy from another world? Or a refugee hoping to begin a new life on Earth... pretending to be her husband?

Then I'd give some information about yourself - how many scripts have you written? Also, look for an angle that makes you an expert on your script. Hollywood loves people with real world experience. If you're just a writer-type (like me) you might try mentioning how this is the story you HAD to tell - be PASSIONATE about this script.

Don't ever say "It'll make millions" - that's their job to decide. But tell how much you needed to tell this story. If there's a personal side to it, mention it without looking like a wacko. Again - you're turning yourself into the expert: no one could tell this story with as much passion as you have!

Don't forget to end with that question - can I send you the script? Don't be afraid to put them on the spot - worst that happens is they say no. Hey, a hundred people are probably going to say no, so it's not a big deal.

LICKING STAMPS

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Once you have your query ready to go, you probably *won't* be actually licking any stamps. Though only a few years ago the idea of querying by e-mail was frowned upon, it's a whole new world and most queries will probaby be electronic these days. The format of the query is the same as paper, with the subject heading of your e-mail being the only difference. Usually: Name Of Screenplay - Genre. You also want to make sure you send it to the head of development - to their e-mail address.

Where do you find producers and the e-mail addresses? The Hollywood Creative Directory used to be your best source for producers - but they seem to have gone out of business. They used to be published four times a year, it lists addresses, phone numbers, and the names of the creative personnel at almost every production company. For a while it was more of an online thing - and by subscription... then they vanished. Now you'll just have to do more legword - follow sales in the trades or online at sites like TrackingB.com and note who the agents, managers, and production execs are. The info is out there! The AFM, Cannes, and MIFED issues of Hollywood Reporter also feature a list of companies attending the Independent film markets along with a list of their new films. Often they have an e-mail address for the *sales* person, so you'll need to do some digging to find the VP of Development. E-mail addresses follow a pattern, so if the salesman's address is JoeSalesman@Producer.com you can just substitute the Devo's name. If they use initials or underscores, just follow that pattern. . Elsewhere on the site is an article on Sherwood Oaks "studio meeting class" which visits a different studio every day for a week. There are several pitchmarts held every year in Los Angeles, plus Expo and now we have a couple of Virtual Pitch companies. Several producers have websites, and some even have a submission form or e-mail address.

Don't expect a response. You are playing a numbers game - for every hundred queries you may only get three people who want to read your script. But you only need one producer who wants to buy your script to make a sale. It's YOUR career. Getting people to read your script is the first step in getting them to buy it... and it's a big step!

CHECKING YOUR BAIT

If you aren't getting any bites or nibbles on your query letters, look at your bait. What is going to get people to request your script is a great logline, and a great logline isn't some magic sentence or three, it just tells the reader what your script is about. Though this is not advocating lazy writing - your logline doesn't have to be Shakespeare, it just has to tell what your script is about.

Which means it all comes down to what your script is about. I'm Mr. Commercial - and I think if you have your choice between telling your story in a way that 10 people will like or in a way that a million people will like - I vote for the million. If a producer is going to have to invest their time to read your script, or their money if they pay a reader... and the only reason to read your script is to either buy it and make it (even more money - about $100 million investment) or hire you to write a project they have (which they plan to make - we're back to that $100 million), then it all comes down to money. And lots of money. Reading your script is a big commercial investment... so you want to have some sort of script that a producer thinks will pay off. And that comes down to the concept of your script. The bait. Is it something that a producer will think can make hundreds of millions of dollars? Or is it something that *might* make a few dollars if they can figure out some way to market it? Or something that only appeals to a small number of people? Or something that you might watch when it shows up on HBO, but you're not going to leave the house and stand in line and pay $11.50 to see? Look at your bait - will hundreds of millions of people worldwide pay to see this story?

The main reason why a producer or agent or manager requests your script from a query letter is the concept is exciting and commercial. Something unique and interesting that they think people will stand in line to see. The reason why most query letters fail? No one wants to invest the time and money to read a script with a bland or boring or over-used idea. Getting people to read your script usually comes down to connections or concept - which is why it is important to write the very best idea, not the first idea you came up with. If your query isn't catching anything, it may be the bait. If your bait is fresh and attractive, maybe you just need to fish a little longer.

BE PERSISTANT

How to sell a script:

1) Send query letters to production companies, agents, managers (or make cold calls, or send e-mail queries).

2) Send query letters for your next script... and your next script... and your next script.

3) The goal is to keep your name in front of producers, agents, managers until they *remember you* and note that you are not a one script wonder, but someone who is a *writer*.

4) Now, somewhere along the line you may have a concept that is so amazing they ask to read the script... and then the script needs to be equally amazing.

5) Also, you want to try to make connections - one good connection is equal to a thousand query letters.

6) Stick it out. You need to take chances and be the last man standing. Know that the average WGA writer wrote 9 scripts before they made a cent, so don't expect to sell anything before #10. Hey, might happen, but don't bet on it. You just keep plugging away until something happens.

More on this in the BREAKING IN Blue Book.



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