Signing with an Agent
"Excerpts from Big Apple Film Festival Agents and Managers Conferences"
Perhaps you finally polished your movie script. Maybe you’ve recently screened your film at a festival. Now that you have a completed piece, it seems like the next logical step is to get representation to sell that work, right? Not quite. It’s great that you have some experience under your belt, but any manager or agent who might be interested in your work will want to see a bit more.
At the Big Apple Film Festival Agents and Managers Conferences, we interviewed five representatives with decades of Hollywood experience to get their insights on what they are looking for as a rep, as well as how you can get on their radar. Their thoughts are summed up in our list, but you can find links to their entire interviews below. If you are intrigued and want to dig even deeper into the entertainment world, you can also sign up for BAFF’s Industry Networking and Mentorship series to help further your craft.
Network, Network, Network
Agents and managers work on a referral or word-of-mouth basis. If they don’t have a personal connection to you, they likely will not represent you. One of the best things you can do to connect with representation and other industry peers is network. Cold calling and queries can work, but oftentimes the labor does not pay off.
Networking can take various forms. There are many alternatives to informational interviews and phone calls. You can attend film festivals and speak with creators, panelists, or other attendees. Many smaller festivals have workshops, conferences, and receptions full of opportunities to meet others. You might even meet someone who is open to connecting you to their own agent or manager. Also consider signing up for conferences and workshops that focus on your craft or joining a filmmaking group. Whatever you do, you should be meeting and connecting with others in the industry.
It can be great to know the president of a company or the head of casting, but one of the best relationships you can develop is one with an entry-level assistant. People in these roles have a direct connection to producers and others who make decisions, and they will be on the lookout for the next best thing. While they might be low on payroll, they have tremendous power.
If you do not live in Los Angeles, you should still network with people who do live in LA. Phone interviews and video meetings still work, however, the best way to network is in person.
Make Sure Your Work is Polished
Whenever you are submitting anything for review, whether it is a script, reel, or something else, it should be the best version. There should be no typos, and formatting should be to industry standards (Final Draft if you are writing a screenplay). Never submit something that is not the final version.
Your writing portfolio should feature your best pieces. It is great if you have more, but what you present really needs to represent you and your expertise. Quality matters more than quantity. If you have a writing portfolio, include a table of contents that includes project names, page numbers, log lines, and a brief bio, in addition to one-to-two-page synopses of your works. If you have a reel, make sure it best represents your body of work and not just one project. Or if you are pitching an episodic show, you should have a show bible.
Use your voice and connect your own personal experiences to your projects. Someone will take notice of a project or idea if they can personally connect to it.
You Can Shop Your Ideas Around
If you have a great idea you want to produce, don’t go to an agency for representation. Figure out who in the industry might be a good producer to work with. Work on getting in contact with their assistant or networking to reach them. Build a relationship and see if you can share your work. If a producer, director, or showrunner is attached to a project, the project will be more appealing to any studio, agent, or manager for production.
It doesn’t matter what streaming service or film studio or television production company chooses to work with you on your first project. What matters is that someone is selecting your work, and you are adding to your credibility. You may not get creative control, but you are on the road to success.
Other Important Thoughts
The best thing to do to get representation is to get some credits on your resume. Don’t be afraid of getting your work out there. Enroll in professional development programs, screen your film at a festival, or spend time taking a class, showing your commitment to your craft.
Agents and managers will look at different sources to find new material, such as Black List, Substack, Clubhouse, and Coverfly. They may also look at the lineup for a film festival. But this isn’t the key to being discovered.
Now, go network, polish your portfolio, and sign up for our mentor series if you haven’t already.
A special thanks to the agents and managers who contributed to this advice. You can find their full interviews below on our BAFF YouTube Channel.
Roy Ashton, Partner/Head of the TV Literary & Packaging Department, The Gersh Agency
Michael Klein, Manager/Producer, Magnolia Entertainment
Tiuana Jackson, Agent/Founder, Jackson Agency
Sara Alexander, President, Alexander Creatives