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What are the differences between script submission from agents, managers and attorneys?

By Robert L. Seigel

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Question: I do not currently have an agent or manager and am considering having an entertainment attorney submit my script to a producer. What are the differences between script submission from agents/managers and attorneys from the perspective of the recipient? Is it an equally professional/acceptable method? Would I still need to send a query letter? What are the fees involved?

Most production companies, networks and studios prefer to deal with writers through a representative for several reasons. One, if a writer needs a representative to submit a script, then there is this filtering process in which only represented works are submitted for consideration and that representative is someone who believes that the work is worthy of such consideration. Although, these companies do not necessarily view these representatives as having strong story analysis skills but as a winnowing mechanism for them. Some representatives may submit almost everything that comes across a desk; however, development executives soon realize this and place that representative's submissions towards the bottom of the pile. In addition, these companies prefer to have some form of buffer between the writer and themselves since development or creative executives do not want to be forced into a position to tell a writer why a work is wrong for the company or wrong in general in that executive's opinion and analysis. Furthermore, if a deal is to be made with a writer, the representative as buffer also applies so that an executive does not have to negotiate directly with the writer who has a personal and professional involvement with the work.

Some companies prefer an agent or a manager to submit a writer's work to that of an entertainment attorney since the executives have a relationship with the agent or manager when it comes to submissions. Agents and managers often have worked with the writer when he or she was writing the script and executives can discuss the work more extensively with an agent or a manager than with an attorney who is generally submitting the work so that a writer does not need to sign a submission release. Many companies accept submissions from entertainment attorneys although some companies tend to accept submissions only from entertainment attorneys with whom they have a relationship (more of the filtering process). The agents and managers work often on commission (e.g., 10% and 15%-20% respectively although there are no absolute rules) and attorneys can work on a smaller commission (e.g., 5% to 10%); however, since most attorneys' key purpose is to provide legal counsel and not submit a client's wok, the attorney may charge a writer for the cost of writing and sending a letter (which often should be accompanied with your own query letter to the development or creative executive). Some attorneys will submit a work if the work is from an existing client so that the submission is a bit of a "value added" incidental service to negotiating a writer's agreement if a company does express interest in the writer's work.

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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