Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Big Submission

If you have been following the posts about this, you already have: 1) The Plan -- this is the list of all the folks you want to work with, who you think will understand your work, and/or folks who you have personally interacted with who have expressed an interest in hearing from you again (or at least haven't taken out a restraining order on you or had your number blocked on their phone); 2) Materials in a quantity and quality appropriate to represent what it is you hope to get paid to do; 3) Persistence, a can-do attitude and an account at Bev-Mo to see you through it all.

There are any number of ways to get into "play" at an agency. Write in and let me know what your particular journey is, since it's great for all of us to learn from one another. Within my own personal observation (and experience) the best way in is personal -- meaning, submitting to a friend. I like to do a short "pitch" of the types of things that I'm working on, find out what types of clients an agent is representing, see what their "agenting philosophy" is and tell them how I'd like to run things to see if we are compatible. I also have the advantage of knowing many of the executives I want to submit to, or avoid. Keeping an active social life helps in all of this, so once I finish up my latest samples I'll be hitting the bricks and showing up at homes all over LA....

If you haven't toiled in the belly of the beast long enough to know (m)any agents personally, then you need to get really good at cold-calling and writing query letters. The letter itself isn't really that important. It has to state: your name, what you write (e.g. I write action films), give a one-liner about whatever your best sample is (e.g. My latest script is a character-driven action film. Set in the year 2029, the ruling super-computer, Skynet, sends an indestructible cyborg, a Terminator, back in time to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor before she can fulfill her destiny and save mankind.) and ask if they are accepting submissions for representation. I do not recommend submitting to places that ask for a reading fee. Places like that tend to be run by folks who can't make money otherwise, since at the big agencies readers are on staff, and assistants are motivated to look for new clients because they know this is how they will make their bones.

DO NOT SEND YOUR SCRIPT IN WITH YOUR QUERY LETTER.

I'll repeat that for the ambition-impaired.

DO NOT SEND YOUR SCRIPT IN WITH YOUR QUERY LETTER.

Wait until the agency tells you if they want the sample, and for them to send you a release form. There are a lot of terrible things that can happen to a sample. Many of them you've heard about, but one of the worst is over-exposure. Once a sample has been read around town, folks just start reading the coverage of the sample. Which is why it's important to have quality samples to send around. No matter how long it takes you to write them.

If you are getting poor responses, or no response, then your sample just isn't good enough. Tough break. It sucks, take solace in the fact that even folks who've worked consistently get mixed responses from different agencies and readers at those agencies. It's important to keep writing new samples, working on your craft, and always thinking ahead to the next point on your Plan.

I recommend submitting in batches of no more than 2-3. I think submitting up to 10 can work in very specific circumstances, but since there really aren't that many agencies, it's better to stay a little "below the radar" and pick the agents off one by one. The blanket submission approach works best if you have a sample that has gotten such strong response that it really is only a matter of where you'd like to be repped and by whom. Submitting in small batches is better because if you get a positive response you can follow up without distractions or stressing yourself out with difficult ethical questions -- like what to do if two agents are lukewarm and one has a slightly better plan for you, but the other one is more powerful. Multiply that by 10 and you could end up with no agent and a reputation for being deceitful, flaky or, worse, too Hollywood. Not good.

OK, so, go write your query letters. Next time we'll go back into this Plan business, I'll refresh your memories and talk about how to follow up once the letters go out.

P.S. Jutratest -- if you want to be specific I'm happy to add my 2 cents (and I hope everyone else does, too) into your idea-hopper.

2 comments:

Jutratest said...

Thanks for the offer.

I did acquire an agent recently. However they are only working for me on a case-by-case basis. Meaning, I find the deal, they negotiate. They don't actively find me work, which is fine for the moment.

I'm just curious about how to encourage him/her to aggressively sell my material.

However, I am still working on that material at the moment, so I'm getting ahead of myself.

From what I can tell, the Canadian system is a tad bit different from the American system.

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify. Is the deal with short films the same? Do you write a query letter and ask to submit your short or is it better to get your short into festivals?