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I'm often asked how to get a screenplay agent in LA, so I thought I'd write this short guide. Before I begin, however, let me give you a few disclaimers. First, we're talking about screenplay agents, not novel agents. Second, I'm making the assumption you know absolutely nothing about getting an agent. And third, I'm assuming you know very little about Los Angeles and have zero contacts. I should also stress that there is no tried and true way of breaking into the spec screenplay market in LA. What you're about to read is how I got started. Will it work for you? I hope so. But there are no guarantees.

So let's begin, shall we?

First, you should know there are two types of agents in LA--ones that charge to read your script, and ones that do not. You DO NOT want the first kind. They are not sanctioned by the Writers Guild and are crooks. No legitimate agent will charge to review your script.

Next, there are two groups of folks who rep screenplays: Agents who charge 10% to sell your script, and managers who charge 15%. It is unlikely you will attract a manager, as they generally rep folks who have a track record. For example, I'm repped by a manager, but I've been in the biz for over 40 years. However, there are a lot of agents who will rep a beginner, and the process of finding one is as follows:

1. Start by going to www.wgaw.org and navigate to Writer's Resources/Agency List." These are the agents who are signatories of the Writers Guild, and you do not want an agent who is not a signatory. Make sure you go to the west coast writers guild and not the east coast.

2. Eliminate anyone on that list who does not have a physical address, and anyone who is not in LA proper. LA proper means LA, Beverly Hills, Malibu, Santa Monica, Studio City--anywhere close to Los Angeles or within LA county. You do not want a screenplay agent in NY, Chicago, San Francisco, etc. If you don't know whether an agency listing is in LA county, go online and familiarize yourself with the area.

3. There are several large, powerful agencies, and if you know who they are, eliminate them from your list. If you are unfamiliar with the powerful agencies, research them and find out who they are. These are the William Morris's, the CAAs, the ICMs, etc. They do not take unknown writers, and if by some miracle you're able to sign with one of them, you will get very little personal attention. You want a small or boutique agency for your first agent.

4. Next, create two lists: an "A" list and a "B" list. On the "A" list add any agency on a well-known, or large street, that has a high street number. Again, if you don't know what those streets are, get a map of LA and familiarize yourself with the large thoroughfares. You should also add any street within Beverly Hills regardless of whether the street number is large or small. For example, I once had an agent on Beverly Drive, just before you get to Wilshire. Beverly is a small street, but in a hugely powerful neighborhood, and that is what you're after. Why do you want a large street number? That is traditionally the expensive real estate in LA. And if an agency can afford to pay high rent, they're making money. Then, once you've compiled your "A" list, put the remaining agencies on your "B" list.

5. Begin with your "A" list and research everyone on it. If the agency has a website, check them out, paying particular attention to the kinds of screenplays they represent. Do not send them a genre they do not represent. If they don't have a website (and even if they do) check them out online. See what other people are saying about them. Read interviews with their agents. And, if possible, identify an agent that you can send your query to. Also, be sure and check anyone you decide to query against the Predators & Editors website to see if there have been any complaints about them. Once you have checked them out, then send out your query letters. Do not call the agencies. If you do not know how to write a query letter, Google it. I personally would send out no more than ten at a time and wait for a response. You might get some helpful advice back from those you query, allowing you to perfect your pitch. Most of the agency's websites will tell you if you can expect a response and when, and once you pass that time, send out your next ten. Once you've gone through your "A" list, then start on your "B" list. If no one takes your screenplay, write another one. In fact, while you're going through this process, you should already be writing your next screenplay. Most agents prefer a client with more than one screenplay to sell.

6. When dealing with an agent, always be polite and respectful, and never, ever, respond to a rejection, even if it's obvious they didn't really read your query and/or screenplay. Move on. Remember, it is a long, slow process (unless you're very fortunate), and always treat success and failure the same--with an attitude of humbleness and resilience.

7. And finally, and most importantly, have fun! Treat each day as an adventure into the unknown!

One last note: Can you sell a screenplay without an agent? It's possible, but not probable, and you'll need to know how option deals work.

If you have any questions those, or anything else, leave a comment in my contacts section.