Nine years ago I discovered I wanted to be a screenwriter.
A few weeks ago I became one.
That’s not true. I’ve been one for nine years, but a few weeks ago somebody else finally gave me an opportunity.
Can you appreciate how weird that is? You spend nine years aiming at one goal and then one day there it is, all up in your face and suddenly your priorities shift from desperately waving your hands around to get somebody’s attention to realizing you suddenly have to back up all your talk? I’ll tell you how it feels. I wanted to throw up.
You spend nine years aiming at one goal
and then one day there it is.
I got the job for two reasons. My manager put my script in the right hands and I got along swimmingly with the producers who already liked what I wrote. But I wouldn’t have been there without my manager. My manager. I’ve been saying that a lot lately, really loudly in public places while flicking back my hair. My manager says…. My manager told me…. My manager’s reading my script right now…. My manager can beat up your manager. Oh you don’t have a manager? I’m so sorry for you. It’s great. One day you’ll understand.
Nine years, people. Give me my moment to gloat.
All my posturing aside, the woman really is terrific and I liked her right away and I do whatever she tells me because her clients have made movies you’ve heard of and I’d like to be like them when I grow up. I always wanted a manager because I like having a personal relationship with people and feel more comfortable working with someone I call a friend. Maybe it’s my Southern upbringing. I don’t know. You may not care if I’m friendly with my manager, but you should. Because that’s one of the ways you get one.
You may not care if I’m friendly with my manager,
but you should. Because that’s one of the ways you get one.
The truth is, I don’t know how to get a manager to read your script. I did the usual number for years – the cold queries, the contest entries, whatever else we all do to get attention. I got a few reads but no follow-ups. Then one day I had an idea – what if I aimed my queries at reps who like action? That’s my thing – I’m that girl who writes action. There aren’t many of us. So I thought, what if I target reps who like action, and what if I go even further and target female reps who like action, because I have a yen for feminist issues and I work really well with women. I posted my question in a couple of places online seeking names of possible targets and poured over the Blacklist scripts looking at reps for scripts like mine. I had a new script almost finished and this time I would send out all my queries to people I knew would be interested in what I had to offer.
Did it work? I don’t know. It might have. Before I could send anything out, she found me. I don’t know how – probably something I posted online. She seemed to know I was looking for her. We chatted. She liked me. She read my script. She liked it. The end. Well, not really. More like The Beginning.
I’m not going to lie – it definitely helped that I like to write things that sell. I don’t know if she would have picked me had I handed her an indie drama. So if you write nothing but indie drama, well, godspeed my tragic friend. I hope you like to direct and produce.
If you keep putting yourself out there on line and in person,
eventually you will have your script in someone’s hands.
And there it is, at least for me. She liked me. She liked the script. That’s all you need. No matter who you are, if you keep putting yourself out there on line and in person, eventually you will have your script in someone’s hands. It’s your job to make sure that’s a damn good script. Then just don’t be an ass.
Emily Blake teaches public high school in South Central Los Angeles. In her spare time she blogs and writes screenplays about fistfights and explosions. She just landed her first real job in the industry, although she still wakes up every morning and wonders if it’s all imaginary. She has a dog and a cat and a big scary boyfriend who will beat you up.
photo road: Ben Fredericson (xjrlokix)
Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in acquisition, development and production. He has trained students worldwide, and worked with half a dozen Academy Award nominees. Karel speaks more European languages than you have fingers on your left hand, which he is still trying to find a use for in his hometown of Sydney, Australia. The languages, not the fingers.
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5 thoughts on “The Road to Representation”
Woot!!! Chalk one up for the screenwriting bloggers. Congrats Emily.
Well done Emily!!!
Good on you, mate!
Congrats Emily! Thanks for this article, I really enjoyed reading it.
What you were saying about “just keep putting yourself out there”: it’s what my acting coach constantly tells us in class. We just need to be creating and working on our projects and telling everyone what we’re up to. And if we keep doing that, the things we seek will just find us (like how your manager found you).
A hearty congratulations, Emily. You are spot on when you said, “And there it is, at least for me. She liked me. She liked the script. That’s all you need.” Yes, it appeared that easy (and I can feel for your journey) but I know it took nine years of your life to be prepared for WHEN that time did come. Writers are so anxious at selling a script rather than building a career, and writing chops takes time. You obviously put in the time and work and with your talent and drive, found the combo to that lock—it unlocked and there you have it, the door opened. Feels good, right? The best ever.
I have always believed (and have proven in my own career) that a solid manager is everything. Someone who hopefully has a background in producing or development and offers a reassuring hug when thing go badly—and frequently does on our screenwriting journey. Every time I’ve had an agent, it was my manager who had a personal relationship with them. The odds of hooking an agent are very difficult because if they are an agent of merit, they will already have clients who are commissioning and they usually don’t want to break a new writer. It simply isn’t something they want to do. Managers are a different breed. My own manager has no become my producing partner and has expanded my network.
I love reading uplifting stories of this. I try to teach in my workshops and to aspiring writers that patience is necessary for this long haul.
“The professional understands delayed gratification. He is the ant, not the grasshopper; the tortoise, not the hare… the professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the stars time to align in his career, but to keep himself from flaming out in each individual work. He knows that any job, whether it’s a novel or a kitchen remodel, takes twice as long as he thinks and costs twice as much. He accepts that. He recognizes it as reality. He conserves his energy. He prepares his mind for the long haul. He sustains himself with the knowledge that if he can just keep the huskies mushing, sooner or later the sled will pull in to Nome.” — Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”