How to get agents to ask YOU to read your script

how hollywood works: TV, representation, writer's room
quality time

Last week, I showed you a note requesting help from my friend, Jeff. Jeff’s friend wanted his contacts, so he could pitch a script for representation.

Jeff is a good dude. Instead of telling him to spend 4 years of his life building his own contacts (as others would have) he decided to help.

He showed him how to get agents to read his script.

Jeff’s email I’m sharing below is specifically about screenwriting, but the same principles apply to acting, music, photography, etc.  

A little context: Jeff moved to LA with no contacts, no car, and no job in 2010. Today he’s an associate producer on Vanderpump Rules and writes and produces the web series “Quality Time”. He drops A LOT of knowledge in this email, so I hope you enjoy.

Here’s his response.

Got your message about passing your pilot along to some people.

It honestly depends on what you want to do with your script. If I recall correctly from when you reached out to me before, you were hoping to get representation off this script? Not sure if that’s still your goal, but I’ll assume it is for the purpose of my response.

If there’s one thing I’ve gleaned from my so far attempts to get read and repped it’s this:

You’ll get much more enthusiasm from people who ask to read you than from people who you ask to read your script.

Hopefully that makes sense, but let me tell you a tiny story about me first:

I signed with a manager about six months ago (woohoo!). He’s hip-pocketing me, but I’ll take whatever I can get. This is a guy I met through my last job, and we interacted for almost a year before he ever asked to read anything of mine. It happened almost by accident.

I went to lunch near work and bumped into him. We joked around a bit and without prompting he asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I’ve been on a big kick for the last two years about just flat out telling people what I want to do, so I told him I want to write and produce. He asked me to send him something, completely of his own volition. I sent him a webseries I did about a year ago, which he dug. So he asked to read a script of mine and from there, we were off to the races.

That glosses over the four and a half years prior to that where I was really trying to get read let alone rep’ed and totally falling flat on my face. I’d send my script to people and hear nothing. If I was lucky, I’d get notes back. I still do. It can get very frustrating, but it’s much easier to stomach when people ask me to send them something instead of me forcing it on them. At least now I know the notes are coming from an honest place.

I know plenty of people who are good writers with legitimate credits who still struggle to get someone, anyone, interested in rep’ing them, working with them, producing their scripts. It all makes me believe that how you present yourself to the outside world is just as important as what you’re presenting.

That’s a tough pill to swallow, because it means that it’s about more than the writing. It’s not a very Horacio Alger thing to say, but I choose to interpret it differently:

You can always be doing more to reinvent yourself and the way that people look at you.

If people aren’t responding to your current script, write a new one. Or make it a novel, or a comic book, or shoot a sizzle yourself.

If you want to get rep’d, keep writing, meet agents’ assistants, meet producers, meet anyone who might know anyone. Talk to them about what you want to do, but equally as importantly listen when they tell you about themselves. I guarantee you that those meaningful relationships you forge with someone who doesn’t seem like much now will reap benefits years later.

If you want someone to do something nice for you, do something nice for them first. It’s the Golden Rule for a reason. And don’t keep track of who owes who what. 99% of this stuff won’t matter a year from now. Movies live and die every day. TV shows get canceled, rebooted, adapted, and continue on. But the people will still be here. Their title might change and their stock will rise and fall, but if there’s one thing people in Hollywood are good at it’s finding ways to reinvent themselves.

I’ll gladly read your script, and I’ll happily pass it along if I think it’s worthwhile. My only request is that before I do so, you give me 100% of your effort and make sure that what I’m reading is the best you’ve got in you. I expect nothing less.

Best,

Jeff

P.S. I apologize if this doesn’t qualify as the kind of advice you’re looking for. It’s what I’ve gleaned from my brief time trying to peddle my own wares, and nothing more.

Final thoughts

This isn’t to discourage anyone from asking for help. You should ask — everyone needs it in this business. However, think carefully about what and how you ask.

Here’s what Jeff’s friend didn’t recognize: If Jeff passed a sub-par script, or recommended someone who didn’t do the work, it reflects poorly on him.

A surprising number people don’t recognize this. They’re too busy thinking about themselves. So if you just get a handle on that, you’re already years ahead of everyone else.

Jeff Girten is a writer & producer of television and digital content. You can check out his new webseries, Quality Times, and follow him on Twitter @girtenjeff.

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