Understandably, the biggest question I get from clients is "How do I get an agent?" That's because, like the rental market in Manhattan, you can't get anything without an agent. However, unlike the Manhattan rental market, when it comes to screenwriting (or acting) you usually can't just start out with an agent.
This is because you need to have your own "agency" first. No, I don't mean some sign on your apartment door that reads, "Sally's Talent Agency." I'm referring to the other definition of agency which means"the capacity to act or exert power."
If you opened this blog post, you might be getting pretty irritated right now, thinking, "Just effing tell me how to get an agent!" So okay. Click here to jump ahead to where I tell you how to do it.
If you're willing to dive deeper, let's talk about how having agency is key in getting an agent.
I coach my daughter's running team, which is part of an organization that teaches girls running skills alongside social and emotional development. Our lesson a few weeks ago was about how having agency, and sticking up for yourself, is important.
To get an agent, you need to have your own agency. That is to say, you need to have your own capacity to act or exert power. Stand up for yourself. Promote yourself. Take action. Exert your mental and emotional power. You are not a day-player in your life; you're the producer. (I know- that sounded crazy cheesy. But cheese is yummy.)
When clients ask me how to get an agent, my response is often something like, "That shouldn't be your goal right now." Getting an agent is of course important, and essential in most cases, but it's hard to get someone to buy a product that isn't ready to be shown yet.
You know when you're online shopping and every product has a photo of it, and then you come across the rare one that says "Image Not Available?" I don't know about you, but I usually skip by those.
An agent will sign you if they believe they can make money off you. Simple. It's a business. So you need to show them you are a money-maker. You can do this by
Showing them that other people have voted for you in the past (i.e. you've won contests)
Showing them just how darn amazing your body of work is (i.e. all the roles you've had or the multiple extraordinary scripts you've written.)
Telling them Francis Ford Coppola is your uncle and he told you to write to this agent specifically (note: don't tell them FFC is your uncle, unless he actually is.)
Being Charlize Theron and getting angry at a bank teller in Beverly Hills and have some big talent manager notice you (though I wouldn't hold out for this one.)
If you're a writer and all you have is one script, I suggest you write a second one before you look for an agent. You don't want them to say, "Okay, what else do you have?" and you're like, "Um, my winning smile?" If you're an actor and you have no credits, I suggest you get some by auditioning for a bunch of non-union gigs and/or by making your own (good) short films.
There are a million ways to (ahem) skin a cat. But here's one direct method you can potentially put into action today:
How to get an agent:
Note: This is assuming you already have 2+ completed scripts (if you're a writer) or great headshots (if you're an actor.) Don't pursue an agent until you have these things. You wouldn't open a restaurant and say to the customers, "We'll have great food here one day. We just haven't hired the chef yet."
Do something worth promoting. Write a script, shoot a movie, perform in your one-woman show, produce your own web-series, do well in a reputable competition. Check out my article on screenplay competitions.
Make a list of agents. Get an IMDb-Pro account, and look up all the agents who might be interested in someone like you (i.e. If you're a 65-year-old actor, don't seek out an agent who only represents children, and if you're a comedy screenwriter, don't seek out agents who only represent 65-year-old actors.) Check out my article on making your VIP contact list.
Write an awesome query letter. Send your query letter via email. Don't include any attachments. Instead, include links to your website, your IMDb page, or other. Compile a list of everyone you sent to, and any responses you received. You'll use this to start building your list of contacts. Check out my article on writing query letters.
Make sure it didn't suck. If no one responds, check to make sure your letter and your product (your log-line or your headshot) are ready. If you think they are, then make a second list of agents and keep going. If that still doesn't work, then go back to building your portfolio. Book a session with me so I can review your letter and your portfolio.