Monday, February 24, 2014

How to vet a potential agent or manager

I often get asked for advice about pursuing agents and managers.  A lot of the questions I get revolve around how to get an agent to read your work.  It's not often I get asked questions that deal with the scenario of "I've caught him, now what do I do with him?"

So let's say a potential rep likes your work and calls you in for a meeting.  What now?  The most important thing to remember is that it might not always be best to go with the first agent or manager to show interest.  Not all agents and managers are created equal, and if you're selecting someone with that much power over your career, it's pretty damn important to determine if they're right for you.

The best rep isn't necessarily the guy at the fancy agency with three letters.  There are pros and cons to everyone.  It certainly sends a message about your place in the food chain when your rep is that bigshot WME agent with half of the hottest writers in town on his client list.  On the other hand - with that many whales demanding this guy's attention how much of a priority do you think you'll be?

In that light, the advantage of going with a smaller rep could be that you're more of a focus for them.  Also, they might have a little more hustle and the virtues of that can't be over-estimated.  But then again, smaller reps might not have as many doors open to them.

So how can you break the tie?  After polling a number of professional, working writers I know, I've distilled their advice into several questions you can ask in that initial meeting to figure out if this rep is the right rep for you:

What are your overall plans for me? 

What are your goals for first year? 

What is your strategy for [the spec that got you this meeting]? 

(If dealing with a manager) What agents do you want to pair me with? 

What are your expectations for development of new material? 

(If dealing with a boutique agency or management company,) how involved is the senior or named agent or manager?

How many notes do you give before sending out? 

How important are attachments? 

Do you send out "naked" specs?  (specs that don't have actors, directors, or producers attached.)

How much do you work with other agents/managers at the company? 

It's very important for you to go in there with a strong sense of who you want to be, and to communicate that vision to them at the meeting.  Regarding your next two or three projects, have an idea about what your brand is. This is the time for you sell them on who you are and show that you're doing the things you need to do to get where you want to go.

As an example, if you want to direct, how are you going to make a case for it? What's the next short you're gonna make? If you want to write studio films, what's the spec that's going to get you on that list? Whatever your long-term goals are, bring them up in the meeting.  This should be about getting as much information as possible as well as getting a sense of how this person would be to deal with.

Yes, the agent or manager is there to interview you to see if you mesh with them, but they also have to mesh with you.  Don't go home with the first guy you dance with just because he asks.  A bad rep can be worse than no rep.

Please feel free to leave any other advice in the comments.  I'd like to make this post an easy resource for those seeking representation.


  1. What a great post. That helped me a lot. Thanks.

  2. Thank you for this! So helpful. And timely!

  3. Does the axiom "wait til you have another rep before firing your current one" still apply?

    1. Not with managers. No manager worth having will take you if you're still with someone else. You have to fire the manager first, then pursue another. With Agents, I think it's a little more loose.

  4. Nice post. I was recently in a situation where I met with 7 or 8 management shops, and I didn't go with either of the top two because I would have fallen through the cracks. I went with the 3rd largest shop on the list because they were the most passionate about my material and I knew they were going to push me in the right direction.

    Some of the questions I asked:

    1) How are you going to represent me? What are my strengths? My weaknesses?

    2) How will you handle a situation where other clients want the same job as me?

    3) What does your development process look like? How do you do notes? What's your turnaround time?

    4) What projects should I be focusing on?

    5) Where does my material need to be?

    6) What are your plans for me?

  5. I'm liking all the articles on managers in the last few days. :) Finally, a topic that most writers have on their minds.

    Should you weigh what's good for you in the beginning versus down the road? Early in your career, you might want the nurturing manager who's patient and willing to go through a ton of drafts to develop that project.... but down the road, you might need that high powered manager at the packaging houses that can pretty much package any movie (but has little time to develop client material).....and that might be especially helpful if you have directing ambitions or want to be a showrunner/creator.

    By the way, how should you behave in your initial meeting with the potential manager? The blog above brought up an interesting point about the directing ambition.....if you're meeting a potential manager, should you be bringing up that directing ambition? They might be thinking a screenwriter would make them money, but a director who hasn't done anything would take a long time to set up and might not make them a dime.