Here’s How to Get an Agent for Your Screenplay

Here's How to Get an Agent for Your Screenplay

Writer, director, and producer Brian Koppelman (“The Girlfriend Experience,” “Solitary Man,” “Ocean’s 13”) is constantly being asked how to find an agent. So he decided to answer the question in a blog post, which he has given Indiewire permission to republish below.

I remember, with crushing specificity the week in February of 1997 that every single talent agency in Hollywood passed on the chance to represent me. And I remember it felt like absolute fact, like irreversible judgment, from on high, that the screenplay my partner and I wrote was not only unsalable, but wasn’t even strong enough to suggest that we had any promise as screenwriters. I was so shaken up by these rejections that I wrote down what each agent told the person who had submitted us for consideration. One said, “the script is overwritten.” Another that “these characters are underwritten.” A third that “nobody is going to buy a poker script,” and a fourth, I swear, that “there are already three poker spec scripts in the market right now.”
Not one agent asked for a meeting with us or to read any further material.

Less than a month later, Miramax bought the screenplay in question (which would become the film “Rounders”). And by the end of March, each agency had calls into us requesting meetings, offering to fly to New York to take us to coffee, asking us to allow them the privilege of explaining why they, and their team, were the absolute best and only people who should represent us. Because they were true fans of what we did, had real understanding of our work, and, from the moment they had read our screenplay, knew we were going to have a long and distinguished career, if, of course, we had the right people around us to guide us through the difficult Hollywood maze.

Here’s the best part; I read each of them the comments they had made on the script a month earlier. Being agents, none of them skipped a beat: “that wasn’t me, I had an assistant read;” “oh, well, I fired that reader; “I only read coverage.” Not one of them owned it, said, “I was wrong,” or “I didn’t think it would sell,” or, even, “it didn’t reveal itself the first time, but after Harvey bought it, I decided to read it again, And now I get it.”

READ MORE: Six Second Screenplay Tips from Screenwriter Brian Koppelman

This doesn’t make the agents evil or bad people. But it does, I would think, give lie to the idea that their judgement is, in fact, a judgement on the intrinsic value of the work in question. And it’s as good an explanation as any for the reason that most professional screenwriters roll our eyes when asked, by up and coming writers, how to get an agent.

Agents are, for the most part, reactive, not proactive. They have to be; their days are spent servicing current clients, movie studios, producers, deal flow, all of it. And, they know, most screenplays that get sent in by amateurs are not going to be game changers, million dollar sales, the beginning of an auspicious career.

“Yeah,” I can hear you saying, “but my screenplay is a game changer, a million dollar spec, the beginning of an auspicious career.”

Let’s assume, for a moment, that it is everything you think it is. What then? Well, then, I believe you will find representation. But it may not be by submitting it, blindly, to the top agencies. More likely, if you have written something of real quality, you can also write emails, letters, blog posts, tweets and Facebook statuses in an inviting, memorable and witty way.

There has never been an easier time to attract attention to yourself. To make yourself and your work stand out. All you need to do is convince people that it would benefit them to invest their time in you and your material. Because that’s how the business works.

Every day, execs in the movie business, and screenwriters, directors and producers, are online, engaging, participating, looking for something great. Your job is to find a way to get them to ask you to read your stuff. The way to do that is not by asking them. It’s by creating a smart, inviting, entertaining persona, by not seeming crazy or desperate or scary,

“Yeah,” I can hear you saying, “but that’s not fair. All I should have to do is write the great script. I don’t want to have to be some kind of online trick monkey.”

Okay. Don’t create an online persona. Take a scene from the screenplay and film it. Cheaply. And put it on YouTube. Or on your own site. If it’s really great, other people will start linking to it and before you know it, agents will be asking you to please send them the entire screenplay.

READ MORE: Here’s Why All Screenwriting Books Are a Waste of Time

“Yeah,” I can hear you saying, “but I’m not a director. I don’t have the money, I don’t—”

Okay. Don’t film it. How’s this. Submit the script to The Blacklist. It’ll cost you about fifty dollars, you’ll get reviewed by professional readers, and if they like it—

“Yeah—”

So take a trip to LA. Find out where assistants at the various agencies go to drink or party, make friends with them—

“Not very social—”

Fine. Put the screenplay up, in its entirety, on your site, then buy some online ads in places film people go, cheap ones, to drive traffic to the site—

“No money to do that. Why can’t it just work like this: I send the script in to CAA or WME. They read it and call me and then send a dump truck filled with money and fame to my house?”

Hmmm.

The point is this: there are huge barriers to entry in the movie and television business. There always have been. It’s a simple question of numbers and reality. And your choice is, really, to complain about how hard it is to get representation or to go out there and do something so amazing that the representation finds you.

Because that’s what the story of our first screenplay is really about. I’m not saying the screenplay was amazing. But the fact that Harvey Weinstein bought it was. To the industry. And they reacted in kind.

Worry about the work. Do the work. When it really is undeniable, your challenge won’t be finding an agent. It’ll be choosing from all the ones begging you to sign with them.

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Comments

Mario A. C.

Hopefully, writers will be recognized if they are good. Hopefully, it isn’t just a nepo game that is only played by a few sharks waiting for blood, as in … Fill in the blanks. God bless America! May all good writers find a job regardless of their background. You obviously didn’t need an agent to get in. Good.

@ColeSonMusic

I really liked the article… I’ve any rejection known to man in this town and eventually gave up… But i’m back after 2 years meditating in the jungles of Africa. I had to face all my demons and forgive all the past. I literally reborned myself and wrote four new scripts as well as an empowering book called "Power of the Thinking Mind" – I AM nack with a bang and know all the doors are open. It’s just a state of mind.

alex greiss

I fish to play in a movie

Alex greiss

I am 12 year old

stella

I love how he never answered the question about how he sold his screenplay…typical

Tim Rees

Can I ask how effective The black List is?

    Joe

    You will get meaningful coverage from Blacklist. How effective the posting is for you depends on the quality of your script and its marketability. Being a good writer isn’t good enough. You must write for the market. Only after you are successful can you write for sake of your passions and expect an audience. First, you must create the same formulaic crap that producers view as high concept, and bankable. it has to be similar to other movies that have made money. it has to be a vehicle for an A list star. It has to be everything they are looking for. And they are not looking for great art.

simon oneill

My novel Blood of the Eternal Moon was passed by every agent in UK, 1 said I should be locked in an insane asylum for writing it, so I self pubbed and it went to #1 amazon for 7 weeks.

    Christina

    Hi Simon, I get the same response about my writing too. I get this response “Are you fuc**ing nuts?” LOL

Matt

I never wonder how I would get an agent, I only think about how to be a better writer, and what does the script need to work as best as it can. I just assume if I have something great I’ll find an agent somehow and it’s nice to know a professional said that’s exactly what I should be doing.

Audrey Clare

audreyclare@centurylink.net
Help me find the right person that will make a movie out of my book.
CAUGHT IN A TANGLED LOOP:
By:Audrey Clare
a psychological thriller
Caught In A Tangled Loop is an uncompromising story of a young man’s struggled to survive his terrifying experience in a foster home, his escape, and finding the smuggled icon, that will change his life forever. This mystery story takes place early on in Huston Texas and moves on into Jalisco Mexico
When Danny’s curiosity leads him into the mysteriously locked stockroom at the Mexican Variety Store where he works, he has no idea that what he is about to find there will change the path of his life.
Danny thinks he accidentally breaks an artifact in the storeroom and decides to take it with him to hide the evidence. However, the artifact is far more than it first seems: it not only has historical importance but his boss, Joe Garcia, will stop at nothing to get it back.
Danny finds himself on the run and in danger. With the help of the love of his life, Garcia’s daughter Jean, Danny must solve the mystery of the artifact’s history, face his own painful and tangled past, and learn how to make peace with his future.
THE TANGLED LOOP is my thirty-five thousand word- a novella about family, friendship and the bonds that stretch over generations to connect our ancestral past with our present life’s journeys. I am also the author of Night Songs, a book of artwork and prose, and have a short story “A Spirit Near By” published in Unity Magazine. My short story, "Reflection" and my poem, "Take Me As I Am,” is published in Saturday Writers Anthology 2015
MY book, "Caught In A Tangled Loop" is available upon request.
Thank you for your time and consideration,Yours Sincerely, Audrey Clare
1983 Hanley Rd. Apt129 O’Fallon Mo. 63368 USA
636 2933494
O’Fallon Mo. 63368 USA
audreyclare@centurylink.net

shepherd ncube

I need an script or movie idea agent who can please submitt my movie idea to icon productions for Mel gibson

Tim

My name is Grizis Efthimios and I am from Greece.
last year I felt that i had a story to write and I wrote it. I have finished it and now it is a scenario. I am looking for someone ho wants to work up on it.

I have to apologize about my bad english.
I am waiting for your answer.
Thanks a lot :)

George Thomas

Writers of fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, any kind of work other than agents for film scripts, can find lists of bonafide agents. Why are there no lists of agents who represent film script writers? Can anyone explain it?

Nic Penrake

Yup, so true, all of it. And doubtless even more so with every day that passes.

Edna

Thanks for this article. It was short and right to the point.

Evelyn mariwo

I am a script writer from zimbabwe looking for an agent

Evelyn mariwo

I am a script writer looking for an agent i am a zimbabwean

floy oneal hochenedel

i think i need a black agent as my screenplay is a true story about blacks being kept out of the oil business, and have been since the 1920’S. can anyone help with that?

SHADRACH WINSTEAD

I NEED A AGENT BUT THATS NOT RIGHT

John Provo

Any agents looking to rep a new client? I’m sitting on a bunch of scripts and material.

Katt

I think basically what you’re trying to say here is, try different avenues, don’t give up, find a way to make yourself/your work stand out. But I would like to know the secret of how, without representation, you got someone at Miramax to call you. Please at least give us a hint! And, thanks for the advice.

Lazarus Murray

I’m confused….so, dude, do I need one or what?

ALEX

MAY SOMEONE TO CONNECT ME TO ANY SCREENPLAY AGENT ANY WAY?

Larry

Oy Veh!

Franklin Colletta

This article showed up as #1 in my Google search for "best agent for screenwriters" so I assume that many agents are reading this. If an agent wishes to read a screenplay of mine or my father’s (Vince Colletta) drop me a line. Mine is about a likable black guy named Willie Prophet who is a great street racer before becoming involved in NASCAR racing encountering a demonic rival in the process. My father’s are Mafia comedies, one of which had James Farentino, Heather Locklear, etc. signed on. Vinnie pulled the plug due to the homogenization of his script.

Ryan

So your advice essentially is sell a script to Harvey and you’ll get an agent? Could you possibly offer worse advice to new screenwriters? Oh yeah, don’t read any books on screenwriting. check

Franz Wolf Germany

Franz Wolf

Serafim

Honored to have read an article by the cat who co-wrote one of my favorite films.

Leonard Zanello

I have written 4 scripts , I would like any agent to represent me and help me launch my scripts to become a screenplay then a movie.

Lola Jackson

What a great piece. It’s even greater to know I’m on the right track! I was thinking most of what is said by the author. Wow.

Lanre Ayanlowo

I really like the story of Brian. But, come the think of it. it’s really difficult getting agent, as several of them have turned themselves to tin-god, making it impossible for unknown screenwriter to be noticed because of their impatience. have watch many films and at the end of the day, it makes no sense to me. why do trash out good films and go for unthinkable ones?

Noluvuyo Mangali

Am selling a Xhosa screenplay

Ann

OK Brian here it goes!
No one has posted anything to this site since July of last year.
Let’s see if this approach works… I have THE screenplay
It’s quite good. I’ve submitted it
to 29 people, some professional
some not. Everyone who has read he work cannot put it down. This screenplay was finished 6 days ago so it is getting good "buzz".
I’m not sitting on a mountain top
waiting, I’m not waiting at all.
I don’t need an agent, everyone
loves it.
Now what do I do?
That’s the question. Do you sell it to the first bidder? I don’t think
I need an agent as the feeding frenzy has begun. I think I need
an entertainment attorney to
negotiate for me.
I’m stressed but it’s good stress.

mohammad

Hi
Good time
I want to sell my script
You can you do?
I am waiting for your response

Warren Sims

how do i contact an Agent for my Screenplay

joseph deschaine

I have a book and screenplay about the rescue of MIAs from Vietnam that is getting great reviews from Vietnam Vets. what do I do now?
I have a book and screenplay about the rescue of MIAs from Laos. It is getting great reviews from Vietnam Vets. What do I do now?

Terry Cohea

I noted all of the advice, however, it does not appear that the author of the article did all those things he suggests. A) He was able to get agencies to accept his work to be read. B) He was able to get it in front of Weinstein. It suggests to me that he knew someone who knew these people. I spoke to a well known writer, he said that he gets irritated because his agent doesn’t read his scripts now. I am 60 and I have studied the industry over the past 5 years. I believe that getting in with other film makers and starting small in the Indie market is the way to go. Unless you know a guy!

Mark Aznavourian

Practical, sage advice. Thanks. I have been in a rut. A ton of scripts written – zero interest. I’ve got to creatively market my writing. Currently, the scripts take up a nice chunk of shelf space in my closet. Time to move. Thanks again.

Anthony Pittore

The major difference between then and now is the ’90s were huge in the spec script world. Agencies, producers, etc., were begging and pleading for the writers. Now, film production is so hard to profit from that they only want tentpole features from pre-determined moneymakers.

Hard to really get in that game unless you get very, very lucky.

J.C Jasmine

Why give advice that you yourself did not even take? You knew someone in the business. And the Blacklist has helped FEW…It is a service that makes money off reviews and the poor fools that are desperate, pay them.

Robert Payne

Thank-you for your comments, I’ve spent three years writing a romantic-comedy, I thought my work was mostly complete, but maybe it is, I hope. Robert

Agentnigel.tv

Cobra and Huhwhat – don’t be jealous little bitches :). Brian worked hard and it eventually paid off. Do some work, put in the hours, believe in your project and you MAY see your dream come true. Seems to me all you want are handouts and tips on how to make it quickly – a mentality which, ironically, the article is ridiculing. Went right over your heads, didn’t it?

Brian – thank you for the inspiring and uplifting article! Very cool you made it the way you did, man.

Ernest W. Baker

After retiring from the advertising agency business I wrote a novel which was published titled "My Brother Danny." Charles Cirgenski read it and adapted it to a screenplay. Charles won an Emmy for a screenplay he wrote. We need an agent to get the screenplay produced.

Brandon

What Cobra said…|

DR KATHLEEN WEISEL-PLUMB PSYD

I wrote a wonderful screenplay and I am waiting for a miricle to happen. I need all the angels powers to destroy the walls of evils

peppi

so, I have a screenplay, it’s my first work. I have no idea if it’s good or shit. I just wrote it because it was too hard to keep the idea in my heart. now I’d like to sell it, why not? be my agent and I’ll give you 50%. Yeah, 50%. No, I am not silly one, I just need to open the door.

Gregor

Koppelman is not the best example. Advice on struggling and getting an agent from him is like asking Kiefer Sutherland for advice. Koppleman is from a well known show business family and before Rounders had discovered Tracey Chapman and produced her debut album along with working at a couple of record companies (Elektra being one of them). Sorry Brian but most likely you had a better in to get people to read your scripts without an agent because of your family rep and connections.

Kim Jay

I don’t normally comment but I’m noticing a lot of pieces like this one popping up and it’s frustrating because they’re all misleading. The anecdotes here aren’t helpful at all. "I remember, with crushing specificity the week in February of 1997 that every single talent agency in Hollywood passed on the chance to represent me." Passed implies that they were approached. How? Did he look up a list of talent agencies and send a query to all of them? Then he says Miramax bought the script. How? How did they get their hands on it? Who approached who? It would have been better to name this something like "why agents are reactionary not proactive".

Stefan Avalos

As someone who has been in the business for a good while now and as someone who has both begged and dreamt about representation and also told agents to get bent — I can honestly say that is…

the best article about getting an agent that I have read in a long time!

Charles Billups

I thoroughly enjoyed the post! I see where most say they didn't get any usable information out of the post, but I sure did! The post is written by a screenwriter y'all, it's supposed to be suggestive rather that exact! I believe he is accurately describing this industry! You can't pin point it, and you're not supposed to be able to, because if you could, everybody and their momma would have a job in this industry. It's sort of like magic if you get what I'm trying to convey. It's like the doors will open for those that successfully do the secret knock. Well, what is the secret knock? If I have interpreted Brian's post correctly, I believe he is saying that if you are truly a good screenwriter, you will keep writing because that's just what you love to do, and while you are already doing what you love to do, the doors to the industry will fly open for you because you would have done "the secret knock" without even trying.

Huhwhat?

"…what each agent told the person who had submitted us for consideration"

Sorry, what? You have… an agent for your agent? That sentence makes no sense.

Cobra

This didnt really make much sense and seem to give 0 amount of information on how to get an agent. It's basically the same old tired speech of "It's a numbers game, if your stuff is good enough, you'll get noticed." Come on. I was expecting hey just pay X website to get a list of agencies that represent your medium. I also love the way he goes from
"Not one agent asked for a meeting with us or to read any further material." to
"Less than a month later, Miramax bought the screenplay in question". Not trying to sound jerky cause on the internet giving any kind of criticism now a days amounts to jerkiness but come on dude, How did Miramx get to calling you? The obvious is that you knew someone in the industry and passed along the script and crossed you fingers and lit a candle. That's more information and helpful than what you wrote.

Frank D

Great read. Honest. And covers every base. Ironically – if I understand it – Koppelman didn't even need an agent to sell "Rounders" to Miramax. Well, that's pretty darn cool.

If I may add, even when one is produced and has "made it," it's still a dogfight every day. Because it simply is a "business."

Danielle Winston

Thank-you for writing this post, Brian!

I would honestly LOVE to hear the story of how you went from sheer obscurity with a screenplay that no agent requested, and yet miraculously got it through the doors at Miramax, and into the hands of Harvey Weinstein, who actually bought Rounders from you. Please elaborate…

Anita J.

Elephant in the room: How did you get to Miramax?

Lanre Ayanlowo

Captain Casablanca and his pirates lay low waiting when the royal ship will sail along the seas to kidnap the only heir to the throne of Queen of England.

Jim A

Crappy movies lately! Why don’t the studios ante up?

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