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Jeff Kimball

A Guide to Agents and Managers for Screenwriters

By Advice, Screenwriting 101

One of the most common questions we get at Coverfly is “how do I sign with an agent or manager?” There is no clear answer or path, and it is one of the aspects of the business of screenwriting with the most mystery and uncertainty swirling around it.  With the help of several industry professionals, we decided to demystify this for you.

And to be clear: just because you may have representation does not mean the rest of the screenwriting journey is smooth sailing. In fact, many writers have multiple reps over the course of their careers. Like any human relationship, the writer/rep relationship can be fraught with difficulties. Issues with personality, work ethic and expectations for your career can derail what should be a positive and symbiotic relationship.

Fortunately, the panelists in the Coverfly Career Lab’s second panel shared a lot about great ways to ensure that you have the right representation for you.

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT

As an up and coming writer, jumping at any agent or manager interested in repping you can set you up for trouble. You as the writer should know your wants and needs, and it is important to know these at the start of the representation pursuit. “It’s like a relationship,” says Matt Dy, a lit manager at Lit Entertainment Group, and he’s completely right. The best relationships develop naturally and are the ones where wants and needs are aligned.

Parker Davis, a lit agent at Verve Talent Agency, offers the helpful tidbit that “new writers should seek new managers.” Writers will often go through more than one manager or agent during the course of their career. Starting with a rep who is closer to your career level can help you team up with someone who is hungry, driven, and eager to get your work out there.

RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH

Another way you can know who the best reps are for you is to do your homework! “Do your due diligence” says Parker. By doing your research, you demonstrate that you’re proactive and understand the industry., Managers and agents are always eager to work with writers who aren’t afraid of doing the work.

It can also help to lean on other writers to get this homework done. Matt suggests writers groups as a great way to figure out the right reps for you (as well as commiserate with people going through the same journey as you). Not only that, but according to Ava Jamshidi, lit manager at Industry Entertainment, “building your network is how you build your opportunities.” Always remember that writers can help other writers! 

Another effective way to connect with managers and agents is via reputable screenwriting competitions which showcase their winners and finalists to their industry partners and judges. Hundreds of writers have signed with their first reps via industry writing competitions. Coverfly has a list of reputable screenwriting talent-discovery programs with upcoming deadlines. Click to submit your script here.

FIGURE OUT YOUR WORK PROCESS

Difference in work schedules and processes can also create a divide between writers and their new reps. You may be a seven outline kind of writer, but you could find yourself with a manager who wants to read a full draft first. Or you could have a micromanaging manager when you work much better independently.

So how can you avoid this pitfall? Write a lot of material (especially at the beginning of your career). “Make an effort to give us stuff to do stuff on your behalf” says Ava. It is important to remember that high output is vital. Telling reps how much you write is really important. Also, Matt Dy offers a good piece of advice; “operate like a working writer”. That means treating your writing like your job and showing up every day to write pages and make progress on your scripts.

DON’T LOSE YOUR VOICE

You’ll probably see this running motif through these blogs, but having a unique voice is one of your most important assets as a writer. Finding and keeping your voice establishes your brand as a writer. Your unique voice helps showcase your passion as a writer, and “passion stands out” says Parker. Matt also encourages writers to use their “voice to stand out in a crowded field.”

So how does that translate into getting reps? It is important to use your voice to keep the work you are presenting consistent. This helps a rep know how to market you to the industry so you can get hired for writing assignments, sell your projects and get staffed on television shows. Also, it is crucial to learn how to keep your voice present in writing script after script. “Don’t dilute your voice writing in ten different things” says Ava, which is important to establish for a successful career.

And be sure to write a great professional bio for your Coverfly profile. Agents and managers are perusing Coverfly’s database every day looking for emerging writers who are ready to sign with professional representation. Having a great Coverfly profile can help you stand out.

Curious about the difference between agents and managers? Check out this blog post from our partners at ScreenCraft: 8 Differences Between Agents and Managers

4 Tips for Improving Your Brand as a Screenwriter

By Advice, Events, Screenwriting 101

So you have a few really strong scripts under your belt that you’ve been rewriting constantly, and now you’re ready to use them to start your writing career. But before you simply send those scripts out, you need to figure out your brand.

At the end of the day, reps look at your writing and your brand. This not only includes what you love to write but also your background, your personal connection to your projects, and your unique voice as a writer and a person.

Here to help are the panelists from the Coverfly Career Lab’s first panel, who had a lot of helpful advice on how to improve your brand.

Be Open to Pivot

Even if you think you know what your brand is at the start, it is important to be prepared to make a change as you start taking meetings and getting your work seen by professionals. You may think of yourself as the romantic comedy expert, but a producer could see potential for horror or thriller based off of a meeting with you. A good example of this comes from panelist Monica Macer, the showrunner for Netflix’s Gentefied, who remembers how an early pivot from action to character driven work helped her establish her brand and that becoming “a better character writer has made [her] a better action writer.” 

Another writer who shared a similar experience is playwright and television writer David Rambo, known for his work on Empire and CSI, who found himself having to pivot in order to focus on story instead of character. “I was always known as the character guy,” says David, “it took me a long time to learn story.” Being open to these changes can change what you believe your brand is, but could show you aspects of your writing you may not have considered as your strongest assets.

Maintain Your Voice

No matter how much you pivot, it is crucial to maintain your distinct voice and keep it consistent regardless of what you are writing or demonstrating as the strongest part of your brand. You are a distinct person with a unique perspective to bring to the table, and it is important to see this in your writing as part of your brand. This is something that can really help your brand stand out, and when you’re taking meetings, according to Monica, it’s a great way “to be memorable in a day of ten meetings”. 

Maintaining a clear voice is something that Eric Fineman, the senior Vice President of Pascal Pictures, really values when it comes to finding new writers to work with. “Find a personal connection to each project…you want to feel a real passion and urgency to write the script, which hopefully will translate to the urgency for the audience to want to watch it.”

Be Open to Opportunities

Both David and Monica emphasized the importance of being open to opportunity, both for brand as well as for career. “No job is too small. Put in the work…opportunities need to be capitalized upon” says Monica. It also helps to take these opportunities to test the waters and see new genres and stories that could really help your brand. These opportunities also help create a bigger backstory for you as a writer, providing pieces you can use to help contribute to your brand.

Bios and Loglines

So after a lot of deliberating, opportunity taking and pivoting, you’ve finally figured out your brand that combines your voice and the work you excel in. The last step comes with putting this into a package that is easy for managers, agents, and execs to read and understand who you are. This comes both with a bio for you as a writer as well as loglines for the scripts in your repertoire.

Eric’s big piece of advice? “Consider bios and loglines from an analyst perspective” and ask yourself “how does the information correspond with what you’re seeing in the industry?” For more information on writing a strong bio, check out Coverfly’s blog Writing a Great Writer Bio for Your Coverfly Profile.


Jeff is a Los Angeles based writer and a Senior Story Analyst at Coverfly. He has served as a reader for various production companies including Blumhouse and Valhalla and is a lover of genre and creepy stories.