There comes a time in your screenwriting career when it makes sense to find representation. But different reps are useful at different stages of your career and for different tasks.
So what kind of reps are there and which one should you seek first? Today, we will talk about the main three.
The main kinds of representation for screenwriters are managers, literary agents, and entertainment lawyers. They take on different roles that help you in several areas.
We’ll take a look at their roles, how to find them and how to maintain a good relationship with them.
Managers – the first step
Managers are usually the first piece of the puzzle.
Their main role is to oversee your career, day by day.
You can talk to them about your new ideas, and they’ll advise you on which ones are worth writing about first.
You should also share your screenplays with them, listen to their notes, and work with them to create a clear strategy for your writing career.
Most managers, if not all of them, will work with you after a verbal agreement, a handshake. You will not sign a paper or contract with your manager, don’t be surprised!
As far as a percentage, managers charge 10-15%. However, they are not legally obliged to any percentage from the WGA, so they can charge as little or as much as they want. However, the average in big management companies tends to be 15% of the money they help you make.
Managers are also allowed to produce their client’s work, which is a great addition to what they can do that an agent cannot.
When you approach a manager, you can keep in mind that they might be interested in producing whatever you’re presenting as well.
Since managers help you build a career, it is much more common for a manager to take on an unknown writer or read unsolicited material.
Managers will submit you for writing assignments but they cannot legally negotiate a deal for you. That’s why they work with agents and/or entertainment lawyers.
Your relationship with your manager is usually a lot more personal than with any of your other reps. They’re the closest to your work, your dream, your wishes, and your fears. They’re the ones you talk to about pretty much anything and everything that has to do with your career.
We have plenty of tips here on how to get started in Hollywood and get yourself in a good position to find a manager.
Agents will get you working
CAA, WME, UTA, APA, Verge, and Gersh, are some of the biggest agencies in the world.
While a manager gives advice on the day-to-day and reads your screenplays, agents usually come into the picture for negotiations. They will be interested in you once there’s enough traction around your work.
Agents are the ones that actively go out there and find you work. Their main focus is to get you working and paid. Sell a script of yours or get you a gig.
They’re not involved much in the day-to-day and aren’t there to give you advice on your writing. Agents mean business.
Agents are not usually what a writer will go after at first. You might want to wait to seek an agent once it makes sense. Agents aren’t usually interested in representing a screenwriter unless there are big deals on the table and money to be made on both sides.
Agents are not allowed to be producers and need to carry an agent license, at least in the state of California. That’s how they can legally secure work for you.
Generally speaking, agents get 10% of the money they help you make. Actually, the WGA limits agents’ commission to 10% in the state of California.
Agencies will most likely if not always make clients sign a contract that states that they are now represented by this agency and agent.
The best way to find an agent is through referral. Your manager could recommend you to an agent and so can an entertainment lawyer.
Another way to land an agent is if you land a big contract. Agents will most likely be interested in you if you can show concrete success.
If you won a competition such as the Nicholl Fellowship, that will also help you get the attention of literary agencies.
Your entertainment lawyer is the person that will negotiate deals and money for you.
They go out there like sharks, getting you the best deals.
It’s no secret that contracts and money tend to break relationships in Hollywood. That’s why it’s so important to have entertaintment lawyers to do the dirty work for you while you can focus on the art and never appear as “the difficult one.”
While many parts of the law are very specific, entertainment lawyers work in several different areas of the law, protecting Intellectual Property (IP), employment, contracts, litigation, and more.
Some entertainment lawyers will work on the basis of a percentage of 5% to 10% on an entire deal, and others will ask for a fixed fee, especially if you only have a few contracts or hardly any at the beginning of your career. In some cases, the lawyer will suggest an hourly rate but it will most likely be over $250 an hour and you will get charged for every phone call, email and even text exchanged.
Make sure that it is clear to you how your lawyer wants to be paid and that you agree to it.
Entertainment lawyers can also be great to introduce you to managers or agents since they know many people and are well respected.
So do you need an entertainment lawyer? It depends on where you are at in your screenwriting career. If you currently don’t have any or hardly any contracts, you will not need an entertainment lawyer just now. But as soon as bigger deals come in, you should definitely consider approaching entertainment lawyers.
Most entertainment lawyers will give you a free consultation where you will have an opportunity to discuss their expertise, what they can bring to the table, their background, and what strategy they have for your career.
If you wonder what kind of screenwriting contracts writers might sign, you can find the most common ones here.
How do you keep your reps happy?
Too often, screenwriters think that they can sit and relax once they are signed with representation. It’s the opposite that’s true.
You need to bring more than your writing to the table. While managers, agents, and entertainment lawyers will open doors for you, you need to bring additional opportunities to the table. Those opportunities will be explored by your reps with their connections and they’ll build on what you brought.
Continue to network and find interesting connections you can tell your reps about. Keep an eye open for job opportunities you hear about and let your reps know you’re interested.
The game with your reps is the ultimate team sport. Don’t ever become passive in the relationship. Show your reps that you value them, that their opinion matters, and that their advice is being listened to. They’re here to support you and help you go further in your career. Those are your biggest allies.
Good luck going out there and building your dream team!
Article by Lena Murisier