All about Agents
Agent is a word that elicits a response from every filmmaking professional, whether production assistant, caterer, or director. As the primary representative of entertainment professionals, agents are everywhere. They're deal-makers and licensed professionals who, for a specified percentage, will work out details so you can concentrate on making your film.
An agent will not find you work, get you special access, or provide you with super-secret information you can't find anywhere else. A great agent might, but great agents tend to work only for entertainment professionals who don't need to look for work.
One of the top five questions at any seminar on filmmaking is always “How do I get an agent?” The fact is that agents don't take just anyone, and it's virtually impossible to get an agent until you have a track record and, ideally, have someone willing to buy your work. This, of course, is a double-edged sword. How can you sell your work without an agent?
Until your film is done or you have a producer who wants to see it, you don't need an agent, but you
So, How Do I Get an Agent?
If you have a successful showing at a film festival or contest, agents will be handing you their cards. If you don't have an agent, and you've cold-called a production company and the producer asks you to send over your reel or script, it's easier to get an agent's attention. You've done the hard part. All the agent has to do is send the film, and collect his percentage if a deal comes to fruition. Even if the agent is concerned about taking you on, he still might agree to represent you for this one deal in what is known as a
If you live in Los Angeles or New York, the first place to start your agent search would be the phone book, under “Talent Agency.” If you don't live in a city with a thriving film industry, you'd be better off looking for an agent who does. An agent in Los Angeles is more likely to understand the movie business and represent your interests even when you're not in town. Besides the phone book, both the Association of Talent Agents and the Writers Guild of America provide online lists of agents, along with their contact information.
Before your agent can negotiate for you, you have to negotiate with him. An agent's fee is based on a percentage of whatever deal he can negotiate for you, but more importantly, you want an agent who'll understand your goals as a filmmaker. If you prefer to make smaller films that offer a larger measure of autonomy, the agent needs to be willing to pursue that goal. If your ultimate aim is to produce and direct huge blockbusters, your agent should be able to help plan a strategy to get you there.
If at all possible, you should shop for an agent like an athlete shops for a university. You want one who understands the talents and skills you bring to the table, and who will nurture those talents to their full potential. Large agencies like Creative Artists Agency (CAA), Shapiro-Lichtman, or William Morris wield tremendous power. Their stable of A-list talent allows them to package deals in such a way that any studio executive would be hard-pressed to them turn down. The downside to a large agency is that newcomers can get overlooked and shuffled around in favor of the agency's more profitable clients.
Even if a current deal doesn't happen, you want to maintain a positive relationship with an agent, producer, or studio. Inevitably, there will be other jobs in the future that you are well suited for, and a healthy communicative relationship will only help you in the long run.
The hunt for representation can be frustrating. Very rarely can you find an agent with a single phone call. If an agency is huge, your chances of getting through are even tougher. When first starting out, it might benefit you to consider a smaller
Gun Shy or Gung Ho?
The metaphor of the talent agent as gunslinger is not entirely inaccurate, but you don't always want a mindless enforcer in your corner. Some negotiations take subtlety and finesse. Others require determination and the boldness to turn away from a fight if it means moving to a better position. Hollywood is a small company town and your agent must have the ability to negotiate and understand everything that happens in that town.