I am a literary manager, which is much like an agent. My job is to read screenplays, mostly by my clients, who are experienced and produced writers of both film and television, and help develop them to the best of our ability to get sold and made.
by Jenny Frankfurt
For some of course, this is not a hard task; they know how the world of entertainment works whether they be in LA, London, Australia or NYC and they follow the rules with the help of a representative like myself.
Some people however, want to be in this world and don’t have the ‘in’. Here’s a little help in the right direction. What everyone is looking for: A good script that tells a tale that will be commercial or poignant and will appeal to a big enough audience to get financed. If you think a story about an alien in disguise who sells ice cream to pensioners in an old folks home is going to sell you’re likely wrong.
You don’t have to think big but you have to see a broad appeal.
But how to get started while you already have the skills but not the contacts to get to these people who are going to help? It’s the old joke of not being able to get a job unless you have an agent and not being able to get an agent unless you‘ve had a job. For me at least, for writers, this isn’t necessarily so. I am always open to listen and to read. I will know fairly quickly if you’ve got what it takes.
It takes talent, it takes a clear vision and it takes a willingness to listen and be guided. Easier said than done! To me though, just as if someone hadn’t heard Barbra Streisand sing they wouldn’t know she could have, all writers with talent deserve the chance to be read to see if you might be the next Aaron Sorkin or Julian Fellowes and just haven’t been found yet.
Preparation for being read is very important.
It’s just as important as preparing the story to be written.
The more classes and seminars you attend the better, as more and more professionals are teaching and speaking at classes. If you have something good to sell and approach people correctly and with your passion on your sleeve you will be heard. As long as the instructor is someone who has worked in the business and had a script sold or has gotten to some form of development they can likely lead you down the right path.
If you haven’t structured it right, no respectable rep will read it. It tells me right there you’re not really that serious about what you’re doing and since I’m going to help you and hope you’re going to help pay my bills, you better take it seriously. There is formatting and act breaks for television and character arcs and A and B stories, etc… It’s a job so prepare for it like one. Get it to the best place you believe it can be and have some people read it. Go to networking events, make friends with assistants. HUSTLE.
When it’s truly ready, continue to work the schmooze. Get involved with other writers and intern at companies. Hang out with the people who are doing what you’re doing; at a Writer’s Store, a university, a friend of a friend or through researching on the Internet, you will get it to an agent or manager. There are many websites in the US where you can have your screenplay on show and managers, agents or production companies can take a look. Make sure you write a clear synopsis.
If you are going to send a query letter, do it as carefully as possible. If there is anything impersonal or out of sorts with a query letter I will not respond to it. I have accepted scripts via query and some have been good! Everyone needs a break and I understand that; but not everyone will.
I will read scripts from friend’s abroad, a suggestion from a client or anyone. I am honest and you have to prepare yourself for cutthroat criticism. If your script is not at its best you will know it soon enough.
It’s easier than ever to contact people now that there is Twitter, Facebook
and other social media sites giving you almost instant access.
The good news is that the industry outside of Hollywood is smaller and therefore more people are looking for new talent. Also, some places like Australia and London have great film commissions and sending your scripts to them in hopes of getting financing already puts you ahead of others, without a rep.
It all comes down to the work you’ve done. If you’ve got it right so far, then nothing can stop you.
Jenny Frankfurt has been a literary manager for the past twenty years, and runs her own company Highstreet Management, based in Los Angeles, where she represents writers and intellectual property around the world.
Prior to this she was Head of the Literary Department for Handprint Entertainment and has worked at both The William Morris Agency and ICM.