November 4

THIS IS HOW HARD THE GAME IS, FOLKS

Oklahoma GifI am publishing this entire question from Jack of Oklahoma despite its length because his experience is unique only in his perseverance, not in the difficulty he is having getting a break.

Hi. This is a combination question/remark/plea. I have been writing since the 1980s and have had my share of agents representing me. As of now, I have given up. I have written 30+ original screenplays and 6 (completed) novels. I need help. Lately, I have been posting my scripts on InkTip.com. They are legit, because I’ve seen and read about the results they are receiving. To attempt to make a long story short, is there anyone out there who can lead me to a site that can help me in gaining “real” representation for my scripts? Two years ago, I had two of my scripts pushed all the way to the top of Hallmark Hall of Fame and HBO, by my then-agent, only to be shot down from the top after the scripts being okayed by everyone between here and the words ‘the check is in the mail’ being spoken. Anyway, I have, in the past year, on my own, since my agent and I parted ways, been asked to write a script for an Indie Co. They found me on InkTip.com, liked what I had posted (the entire script) and then asked me to sign a contract to write a script using one of their ideas. I did so, and now I am waiting for word…any word, from them. So, still trying to make a long story short here, I am desperate, to say the least, in my search for a reputable agency to represent me. I used to have those thoughts running in my head, like I’m a hack, and can’t write my name, etc., but now that I know people like HBO and Hallmark, and Indie Co’s., believe my writing doesn’t suck wind, I know now I can send out my original scripts and not be embarrassed by them. So, to end, can someone give me any ideas as where to go to find reputable representation? What to do?I read the previous page from this site and looked over the “paying agents” article. Believe me, I’ve been there…and just recently, paid $79 for a critique of one of my novels, and being asked for another $79 for each and every critique rendered…(I know, I’m stupid for doing this, but desperation doesn’t exactly bring out the best in me)..and these are the same scripts and novels I already have had edited by reputable outfits. So, if this letter is answered, thank you, because I believe I have what it takes to make it, going by what little track record I have, but I need help getting to a WGAw signatory agent. I don’t mind paying for copies of my scripts to be sent out, it is just I don’t like paying for something I am not getting, as in deeper in debt. I can’t afford to be paying for critiques by someone who won’t do anything with it after the job is done…I have two daughters, a wife, a dog, and a bird to feed…besides trying to write while working two jobs. So, if there is anyone out there who can point me in a somewhat right direction, I would truly be grateful. Thank you.

I can’t refer you to an agent, Jack, but I can tell you that many, many writers get their first breaks without an agent. You obviously have a great deal of experience and probably have at least a reasonable personality if you’ve gotten as far as you have. You may want to change tactics and take to the phones yourself to contact producers directly. It will take regular efforts and many, many rejections, but when isn’t that the case in entertainment. A good place to start would be to call the people who liked your writing in the past – the folks at HBO, Hallmark, etc. Writing careers are all about making fans in the industry and you have already made some. Capitalize on it. When you call, pay attention to sounding professional, not desperate. Remember, you are talking your way through receptionists who get yelled at if they waste their boss’s time. Know what you want to say and be ready to pitch your ideas. No matter what you do, do not let lack of an agent stop you.

If anyone out there has any concrete suggestions for Jack, now’s the time to speak up.




Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved.

Posted November 4, 2005 by TW in category "The Business

6 COMMENTS :

  1. By The Moviequill on

    Hey Jack, if you’re anywhere near Oklahoma City I am in a local Screenwriter’s Group that meet once/month at Full Circle Book Store…next meet is Sat Nov 19 1.30 PM

  2. By ScriptWeaver on

    I attended the Austin Film Festival this year and met several successful screenwriters who do NOT have an agent. One of them was Bill True, whose film RUNAWAY won the audience award for narrative feature.

    So – though easier – you definitely don’t need an agent to break in.

    I’ve had some moderate success without an agent, but I think it just comes down to passion, drive, and belief in your material. I send out lots of query letters. I networked the heck out of the Austin Film Festival. And believe it or not, contests do help. I was a Quarter Finalist in the Nicholl’s Fellowship this year. And the emails from producers started rolling in. Just for being a Quarter Finalist! I’ve sent out 6 scripts in the last week. Do you get the Inktip newsletter? That has been more productive for me than actually placing a script on the site.

    Anyway, I know I didn’t help any, but take pride in the fact that 90% of all screenwriters trying to break into the business haven’t gotten as far as you have. I know you’ve already been on a long journey, but I’m convinced I’ll be taking a million baby steps before I get to my destination…

  3. By shecanfilmit on

    Have you tried contests?

    If you believe your work will stand against the cream of the crop, submit your best screenplays to the best screenplay contests. If you win a big contest like Nicholl or Austin, you’re virtually guaranteed a bunch of agents knocking on your door. However, if you find your screenplays don’t place (high) in contests, you are probably not ready for an agent.

    Over the past few years, I’ve seen two non-LA based writers break in through contests. Both were women in their 30s. One won a Nicholl Fellowship, got an agent, moved to LA and now gets nice writing assignments. The other one won a less prestigious contest, still got an agent, still lives 10 states away from LA and gets nice assignments. Both of these writers I met when they had only completed one or two screenplays, and were just getting their sea legs by workshopping their first screenplays at Zoetrope.

    Both are outstanding screenwriters.

    Sometimes, I think writers blame “not having an agent” for their working not getting out there. But the real reason their work doesn’t get attention is because it isn’t outstanding, it’s merely competent.

  4. By The Film Diva on

    OK, you have done a tremendous amount of work to push yourself forward already. You’ve COMPLETED more material than most working writers in Hollywood. Congratulate yourself on that EVERY SINGLE DAY. It’s important.

    Your big issue isn’t just “breaking into Hollywood,” it’s rethinking your approach to your work. Screenwriting is the starting point in the filmmaking process. That said, move past GO. Look for FILMMAKERS, not just executives and agents. It’s fine to think “I’ll get an agent, then I’ll get writing work, then it will all be good,” but the reality is that there is a finite number of jobs being advanced at any given moment in Hollywood. The name of the game is to get the movie made. An executive will watch a film before they will read a script. (Sad to say since it is a literacy based business.) It also makes you look like you’ve got something on the ball — someone else has already believed in your work enough to commit a tremendous amount of resources. Buy the Hollywood Creative Directory for production companies and start sending out intelligent, targeted query letters. Look for independent directors, producers, and actors with production companies (meaning they actually have producer credits). Don’t forget those little financing companies that make direct-to-video/dvd movies or that supply films to domestic and foreign television (like the ones who go to AFM). You have to get your movies made.

    I’m assuming you don’t (and can’t) move to Los Angeles, to really do the type of networking a working writer must do at some point in his/her career. I’m also assuming the type of writing you do isn’t a) sufficiently high-concept enough to attract major attention and/or b) Hollywood isn’t ready to recognize your talent. Don’t let any of these things discourage you. Consider hiring a manager (I know this is a controversial suggestion, but manager’s frequently have more invested in their clients, can provide services like notes and development, will spend time developing a strategy to get you more than one gig at a time, and, because they are able to take a producer credit, will usually push harder to get the movie actually made, as opposed to just getting you the initial gig). You may not need a manager for years and years, but I know a decent number of filmmakers who hire managers who later become producing partners.

    Well, I’ve said my piece. Best of luck to you.

  5. By Rod on

    Maybe Jack should unplug the phone, lie alone in a dark room, and take some mushrooms. One needs to be in contact with energy beyond his/her own mind in order to really have something to say.

  6. By Barry on

    Stop writing immediatly. 30 screenplays should produce a sale. It is time for the harvest. Devote most of your time to selling. Believe you are an accomplished writer. I can only dream of your body of work. You have spoken to HBO and Hallmark. Make calls to your connections and drop a quick pitch about a new screenplay you have written. Ask them to call you if it sticks in their minds. Always be brief never giving them a chance to say not to call with future quick-pitches. If you believe you are on the list, they will believe too. You’re foot is in the door dawg, work it. Make them read your screenplays. The dollars are in the writing.

    Good luck.

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