Getting Ready for Your Agent or Manager Meeting
A part of the BREAKING IN: REPRESENTATION series
It’s a good time in a career coach’s life when a lot of clients who didn’t previously have representation are getting ready for agent or manager meetings for the first time in their writing journey, or else, getting ready for rep meetings and wanting to do it right this time, as opposed to how they’d done it in the past, when they signed with an agent or manager, and the relationship went absolutely nowhere.
Sitting with a writing client in just such a situation the other day, I was reminded once again, as I often am, of all that the writer should think about when preparing for such a meeting.
First, and just as importantly, how does an agent or manager meeting come about?
Agent meetings come to be usually, and almost exclusively, through referrals. The agent will have had the writer referred to them by a manager, a lawyer, a showrunner, a producer, a studio or network executive, or the organizer of a screenwriting competition or writing program.
Manager meetings happen by referrals as well, but can also be initiated through an online pitch (via such services as Stage 32 or Roadmap Writers, query letters (check out my blog post, TO QUERY OR NOT TO QUERY), through high profile competition placements or entry into the prestigious TV or feature writing programs. Still, it’s important to remember that this is a relationship business, in which referrals are king.
As renowned TV manager Zadoc Angell of Echo Lake Entertainment told me when I interviewed him for my book BREAKING IN: TALES FROM THE SCREENWRITING TRENCHES:
“It’s a referral business. How does a baby writer get on my radar? It’s someone in the business that I talk to with regularity saying, “This is someone that I think is exciting, and I’ve read their material myself and I think it’s great, and I think you’d be a match, and you know, you should look at this.””
But I digress. To learn more about how to land representation, check out my previous blog posts in this series, HOW TO GET A SCREENWRITING AGENT and HOW TO GET A SCREENWRITING MANAGER.
For this blog post, let’s focus on preparing for your rep meeting once you do get that kind of interest.
In order to make the most of your rep meeting, focus on the following areas:
- Prepare a compelling personal narrative. Your personal narrative comes to answer the age-old command: “Tell me about yourself!” Your job is to be unique and memorable via the personal anecdotes you choose to share. Heroes and Villains founder Markus Goerg once espoused to me in an interview (and I am paraphrasing here): Your first story is your own, so tell it well. Not sure how to do so? Check out my previous blog post 3 REASONS THE SCREENWRITERS PERSONAL STORY IS SO IMPORTANT. Remember, this is not just a get-to-know-you dance. A potential rep will also be evaluating your interpersonal skills, and whether or not they would be comfortable putting you in the room with their executive colleagues and friends.
- Be ready to answer questions. Where did you go to school? Where are you from originally? What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had? First formative movie-going experience? Are you a dog or a cat person? Favorite place you ever travelled to? The place you most want to go, that you haven’t travelled to yet? Any and all such questions may be asked during your meeting as the potential rep attempts to get to you know, so come armed with some thoughtful, genuine answers.
- Understand your brand. Agent and managers have to sell you to the buyers. If you don’t know how to talk about yourself with clarity and focus, it is likely that they will have a hard time as well. Therefore, know your brand, the genre or general tonal space that you write in, and have a firm grasp of other works in that space. Be ready to talk current movies and TV shows that influence you, filmmakers and showrunners that you look up to, books and podcasts in a space similar to your own. Agents and managers want to work with other professionals. Understanding where you are at your best genre-wise and knowing your space well is the first step to establishing yourself as just that.
- Know the path. While everyone wants to catch lightning in a bottle, for most, the path for breaking in, be it into television or feature writing, is going to be windy and challenging. Therefore, know how it works, and what it takes to get to your destination, be it as an eventual creator of your own show, or writer of big studio fair. Study the industry, and know how it was done by those who came before, not in order to mimic their journey, but rather so that you can display an understanding of the time, energy and financial investment it will take to get to your eventual destination. Understanding how careers are built and being able to speak to that shows your level-headed, grounded understanding of how the industry works.
- Ask questions. Does the manager or agent you’re meeting with develop new content with their writer, or do they want you to develop on your own, with the hope that they fall in love with the material once it’s on the page? Do they help their aspiring TV writers staff on their first show, or do they feel that the onus of getting that first TV writing gig falls squarely on their writer’s shoulders, though they’d be willing to help? If you are meeting with a manager, when would they envision bringing an agent onto the team? Are they proponents of general meetings, or, again, if this is a manager, is their specialty purely development? All of those questions have to be answered in order to identify whether the agent or manager you’re meeting with is someone whose vision for your career and how to get there matches with your own.
- Know what’s next. The potential agent or manager responded to your writing enough to take the meeting. This is not about whether or not you are talented. But in order to determine whether or not a representation relationship is viable, the agent or manager will also want to know what’s next. It can come in the form of What are you working on now? or What else do you have? A potential rep is going to enquire about this in order to confirm that you are developing new content that’s exciting to them, but also to confirm that you are in fact still hard at work on your writing, and not just sitting on your hands now that one of your scripts landed on his or her desk. If a new piece you’re working on is not quite ready yet, be ready to share another piece that’s been completed in the past, in order to show that you didn’t just get lucky with the script that put you in front of them, but rather that you are able to replicate the quality more or less again and again.
- Seek to connect. Before your meeting, research the agent or manager you’re meeting with. Did you grow up in the same city? Have common friends? Does social media help you identify that you’re into the same shows, or the same trends? Like everyone else, agents and managers want to represent talent that they don’t only respect, but also like. Impress them by knowing not only their client list, but also companies they might have worked for in the past, or projects that they had a hand in that you are a fan of. Read The Black List scripts written by their writers, or the pilot script that their client wrote that didn’t ultimately get picked up. Expressing genuine interest in who they are and who they represent will go a long way towards starting to forge the sort of relationship that really matters.
A meeting with a potential rep can go every which way, and whether or not an agent or manager eventually offers to sign you is ultimately out of your hands. What is in your control is how you show up in the meeting itself, so be sure to come prepared and make the most of every such opportunity that presents itself.
Thanks for sharing Lee, I like that you mention lightning in a bottle, a phrase I have thrown about plenty. As well having had 4 agents for my directing and cinematography, you are so right in asking those questions and digging deep, however I can tell you from experience, you really want the relationship to work, and you will often overlook red flags, at the same time agents will tell you exactly what you want to hear, then not follow up at all . Sadly they can have a different idea of your talents in their mind, and they have to service existing clients. IMHO they are looking to fill a gap. And you may be into dark drama but you had that one children’s script idea. and they don’t have a screenwriter who writes children’s films, next thing you know you’re having meetings for that genre and only that genre, your agent acts like that is all there is. Of course this is worse case, but that is what we caution of right? Anyway, thanks for sharing