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Should I try and secure an agent or manager before sending my script to producers?

By Robert L. Seigel

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Question: My question is about script submission protocol. I have a script ready to send out but don't have an agent. Should I try and secure an agent or manager before sending it to producers or does a "good" producer not really care about who submits the screenplay, being more interested in whether it is good or not?

As a general rule, I believe it is usually better if someone else submits a script on a writer’s behalf rather than a writer submitting it himself or herself unless a writer has established a contact to or with an agent, a manager or a production company or due to referral from a friend or colleague to one of those aforementioned groups. When someone else either provides a recommendation or referral to a manager, an agent or a production company, this usually means that someone (other than you) sees merit in your talent and/or the script so that he or she is willing to put his or her name and reputation on the line. If someone submits or recommends scripts indiscriminately just “to see what sticks,” that reputation filters down to managers, agents and production companies and those scripts generally are placed last on the proverbial pile or perhaps not read at all.

Managers, agents and production companies generally prefer submissions through someone in the industry such as entertainment attorneys or managers or agents for a production company not due solely to the strong writing sense of such representatives (although many representatives have a keen eye for choosing and evaluating material) but also that such representatives serve as a filter or gatekeeper since no manager, agent or production company can review all the submissions that they receive. Besides this imprimatur of approval or support, submissions by representatives tend to indicate that a writer is not on his or her own and that he or she has someone to look out for the writer’s interests and rights. In addition, it is easier for agents, managers and production companies to be more candid about a writer’s script with a third party such as a representative than with the writer himself or herself since those discussions tend to become awkward for many who receive submissions.

Although it has become more difficult for writers to submit their work due to possible legal issues such as copyright infringement claims, a writer can cultivate a contact with a manager, an agent or a producer at some event that can be parlayed to an opening for a submission, especially if there is a follow up query letter or e-mail which reminds the contact of meeting with the writer. A writer can enter a script in one of the more noted screenwriting contests and competitions such as the Nicholls Fellowship and the Chesterfield or those associated with festivals such as the Nantucket Film Festival, the Austin Film Festival and the Slamdance screenwriting competition. If a writer wins the contest or places high, that contest can serve as that imprimatur of approval which may attract a manager’s, an agent’s or a production company’s attention.

Writers should do their research and get a sense of what a production company has produced in the past so that he or she does not submit a horror script to a producer who usually works with noted indie directors on their own projects generally. “The Hollywood Creative Directory” or imdbpro.com are good sources for such information as well as other parts of the internet. A writer’s research can help a writer ascertain the track record of producers to whom a writer may want to submit or a producer who approaches a writer with interest in a writer’s script. Writers should have their scripts filed for registration with the U.S. Copyright Office before submitting their scripts.

Please also read my other post about submission release forms.

About Robert L. Seigel

Robert L. Seigel ([email protected]) is a NYC entertainment attorney and a partner in the Cowan DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard LLP law firm which specializes in the representation of clients in the entertainment and media areas.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided here is intended to provide general information and does not constitute legal advice. You should not act or rely on such information without seeking the advice of an attorney and receiving counsel based on your particular facts and circumstances. Many of the legal principles mentioned might be subject to exceptions and qualifications, which are not necessarily noted in the answers. Furthermore, laws are subject to change and vary by jurisdiction.
Screenwriting Article by Robert L. Seigel

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