Are you sitting there thinking:
You know what would really make a difference? What would get me over the top?
It would be having an agent. That guy/girl would change everything. Tomorrow, the sun would come up and everyone would finally recognize my genius – because this guy/girl has put my script in just the right hands and now I sit back and collect the checks.
It’s a great dream.
I dreamed it. I’m still dreaming it. But as a great man once said – Wish in one hand, spit in the other and see what fills up first.
Let me put this out there right away:
An agent is great. An agent is helpful. But the biggest thing an agent does is help you once you have something going.
There are pages and pages devoted to query letters, conferences, blind script drops – anything to get yourself read. Its so hard to make it in this business and we are always looking for the silver bullet. We write for an industry that hates to read. How crappy is that? To get someone to read your script is only complicated by the fact that for every good script – there are a thousand awful ones. No one sits down to read something thinking its gonna be good. And to actually like something – you have to put yourself on the line – so its hard. And we all think that the best way to navigate through this sh*t storm is to have an agent.
Yes and no.
Let me tell you how it worked for me.
I wrote a script. I did it so I could direct it. I raised a million dollars to do it. I got it to a producer through a friend and he gave it to a second unit director. The second unit director gave it to a BIG STAR. BIG STAR said he’d do it, if second unit director became director on my script.
I said no.
Second unit director gives it OTHER STAR – who also wants to do it. I agree to step down as director and stay on as writer/director. Suddenly – the script is in play with major talent aboard. I am getting all sorts of calls from all manner of bottom feeders and foreign investors who want to do crazy things with my script – like pay me $500,000 to take my name off it and put an Italian writers name on.
An assistant at Lion’s Gate reads the script and likes it. He calls me and tells me so. He asks me if I have an agent – I say no. He recommends one to me. They have me come to a meeting at the agency. They tell me nice things. They are nice guys.
I say yes.
I get an agent.
They send my script out – and it goes around the town. I have no idea how many people actually read it or not – but I do get a lot of meetings. Two weeks worth. Two or three a day. And I get some traction out of it.
So yes. An agent is really worth it. When you have something people want – or heck – if only one person wants, but its a person that people are listening to – you are a hot commodity. And people want to see that. And your agent can capitalize on that.
But when you’re not hot? Not so much.
Eventually my film fell apart. The BIG STAR and the OTHER STAR went and left the project together to go do a giant $150 million dollar film – and I was left at the altar. And what have my agents done since then?
Not a hell of a lot. But that’s not their fault. Its mine. That script was my first. Since then – I’ve written 3 or 4 scripts – but not things that are super marketable. I’ve only given them one script – and it never went out.
I have a good friend – let’s call him Ryan, cause his name is Ryan. Ryan is a model of what a good writer should be. He writes. A lot. It seems like he has a new script every couple of months. He writes so much – even I have trouble keeping up with reading what he puts out. And he is good. Getting better each script. After his second script – Ryan sent our query letters. He had a short optioned on Ink Tip – and had the two scripts. He got a couple of requests back for the script – and one of them turned into his agent. Since then, he’s written 4-5 more scripts and his agent has sent them out. He’s gotten meeting based on one of them – and he keeps going. Just like a real writer should. Follow his lead. This is how it works.
In my 20 years at failing on the edges of this business – here’s what I’ve learned:
How to make it in the film business
1. Know somebody.
Have your dad be Spielberg. Or Katzenberg. Or Cameron or Ford… or somebody. Or rich. Or be best friends with someone who knows them.
Sad reality – even if you know them, and even if you could get a project in front of them – it has to be good. Not just good – it needs to be great. Or you won’t go anywhere. But at least you get read.
2. Get Lucky/Be a genius.
You could argue I got lucky with my script. I would argue different – sitting here eating take out pizza instead of caviar. But the people who cut through the noise and somehow write one script and now are hailed as brilliant are one of two things: lucky or geniuses. Diablo Cody wrote a blog for years before she was tapped to write a script which won her an Oscar. Her next film didn’t do well – but no one is arguing that she can or can’t write. She can write. There are plenty of others who write one script and disappear. Just like in music. One hit wonders. There are those who can capture light in a bottle for whatever reason one time only and then go away. They might get paid for more – but that was their shot.
I’d love to be a genius – but I’d settle for lucky….
3. Hard freaking work.
Day in day out. Write write write. If I had more than one project when I got my agents – I might not be the sad pathetic bitter man I am today. With writing – each project is your first. Your last increases or decreases your chances of being read again – but your present project is judged on its own merit each and every time. You need to keep writing because – A. you get better each time and B. it increases your odds of making it. And each day you wake up is a chance to do it again. Day after day – wash rinse repeat.
And then an agent can help. He can negotiate. And get you more money. Cause when others are interested in you – your agent loves you. Nothing makes him happier that to not have to sell you – but instead make those who want to buy you fight it out.
Until then – it’s just work.
So how do you get an agent?
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice.
And an Agent? Writing. Getting better. Having more scripts to go out with.
And then do the other things. Get your friends to read your stuff. Get a writers group. Send query letters. Try to find friends of friends in the industry. Get them to read it. Be a pest. But not too much of a pest. Enter contests. Win contests. And eventually – you’ll get your stuff to someone who knows someone – and if its good enough – an agent will come.
And then the world is still not your oyster. It’s still the same. You still write. And wait. And hope and pray. And keep writing.
But you’re one step closer.
Now all you gotta do is keep climbing.