Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Reader question: using prior experience to get an agent and how to dodge the moving to LA issue

Hoss has a question:

About ten years ago, I wrote a couple of screenplays that were made into B movies, then I got sucked into an 8 yr Deadbooks web project, now I'm free again and am back to screenplays...

And need to get an agent.

If you were querying - which I'll probably have to do -

Would you mention the movies?

The web project?

And since I have no intention of moving back to LA, but love to visit ( I know the obstacles that that will create), when would you mention that?

Thanks for your help

Yes, mention any relevant experience. I've you've written professionally, mention it, scream it from the hills. Anything you can do to show that your hand has been stamped by someone on the inside can help. Having a few B movies produced gives you a serious leg up on a lot of the wannabes who are submitting.

Depending on what the web project is, I might suggest mentioning that too. I'm not very familiar with Deadbooks, but if money exchanged hands for you to produce some sort of creative writing, that speaks in your favor.


Agent seeking is not the time to be modest - you've got an edge, so use it.

As far as not wanting to move back to LA... don't put that in the query. Don't put anything in the query that gives someone a reason to consider not representing you. Don't even bring it up until they ask. If you're lucky, that won't happen until they've read your stuff, decided they love it and might even have a stake in working on it even if you refuse to move to LA.

But if you tell them beforehand, "I'm not moving," what they hear is, "I am making this harder than it needs to be" or worse, "I have a naive view of how this business works." (You note you know this comes with problems, so I'm not calling you naive.) If you can hook the agent before this becomes an issue, then it means your writing is strong and possibly marketable.

90% of the people who tell me, "I want to write but I never want to move to LA. Why can't I just do everything over the internet?" are the sort of pie-in-the-sky dreamers who'd probably never cut it in this business even if they were in L.A. If I was in the business of responding to queries, I'd never request anything from someone who actually put that in their query because the numbers tell me that the writing wouldn't be worth the time it takes to skim.

(Yes, I'm sure that you, sir, the one about to write me an angry comment or email, is a complete exception to the rule and that once you lay out all the particulars of your situation, I'll have no option but to concede you know what you're talking about more than I do, but surely even you can agree that 90% of the people like you aren't that exception.)

I never would have said, "I'd love to play for the Detroit Lions, but I hate Michigan. Can't I just work from Seattle?" or "I one day want to be a Silicon Valley CEO, but can't I just do that from Vermont? It's all computers anyway." And I sure as hell wouldn't bring it up in a job interview.

But let's say you're a tech CEO who's so brilliant that the company is beating down your door. Then you can name your terms. You can say, "If I'm so awesome, I'm going to telecommunte from home and you can all work around me." When you're coming from a position of strength, you can make demands like that and be taken seriously.

In other words, with regard to your residency, if they don't ask, you don't tell.


  1. A corollary to this is if you're trying to get a script read and it's been around for a while. In that case, if it placed in several competitions, only a few years and rewrites back, isn't it better to say nothing and try to market it as hot off the presses?

    My old writing partners and I faced this problem -- we had one script that kept getting a lot of heat, then ended up not selling, not once, but several times. We had to keep changing the title!

  2. I've gone as far (now) as to get 2 projects submitted to the majors from the east coast....I kow enough now...if one produces a check...I'm LA bound...