Talking Script/Screenplay Managers

Q. I was wondering on how you can help me get the right agent. I’ve written a screenplay, which is copyedited and registered. My query letter and my synopsis seem to be very good.
– Natalie
GLA: A-ha. You’re looking for a script agent, not a literary agent. More specifically, you want a script manager.  Agents in California are wheeler-dealers who generally do not take on or consider new clients.  If you’re trying to break in cold, query a manager.  Managers work like literary agents out there.  When the time comes, your manager will connect with an agent to make a deal.  It stinks a bit, because you have to pay 15% to one and 10% to the other.  A lot of reps out west who are open to queries from new screenwriters are managers, but may not call themselves that (they may use the word “agent”).
The new 2009 Guide to Literary Agentsbook doesn’t list any script managers.  Why, you ask?  Because in less than six months, the first ever edition of Screenwriter’s & Playwright’s Market will be in bookstores.  If you don’t want to wait that long, just get a subscription to, which has the entire database.Fortunately enough, I just interviewed script and literary manager Marc Manus, of Manus Entertainment Literary Management, who was a panelist at our writers’ conference in Los Angeles in May.  I interviewed him for the new SPM book, but I want to post some of his answers here because I think they’ll help.

GLA: Besides a concise pitch, what are you looking for when a writer talks to you in person or contacts you via a query?MM: Personally, I look for some sense of concept and marketing in a writer’s queries – is the person hitting the commercial side of my brain?  Or is the person boring me with unnecessary details about how the main character changes because of a tragedy?  If the person’s loglines seem to encapsulate a really good movie idea, I will usually ask to read a sample.  A person’s background can help, as well.  I will lend weight to someone who claims to have a background in writing (journalism, advertising, etc.) or someone who has gone to film school.Assuming the writer makes it past the query stage and I’ve read a good sample from the person, it’s time to meet.  When I sit down (or chat via phone) with a writer, I am essentially looking for someone that I am not afraid to put in a room with executives and producers.  That person should be articulate and energetic.  I’ve actually passed on representing people who come across as lethargic or argumentative.  Life is too short.GLA: We know  the textbook definition between a manager and an agent in Hollywood.  That said, do you feel like contacting a manager is the best route for newer writers?  Are agents just too busy?

MM: For newer writers, yes.  Agents rarely have time to deal with some of their existing clients.


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GLA: When a writer contacts you, how many scripts should they have up their sleeve?

MM: I recommend at least two, if not more.  And a plethora of good ideas!

GLA: What are the most common problems you see in the first 5-10 pages of the specs you read?

MM: Beginnings that are uninteresting and fail to set the tone of the script. And lackluster introductions of main characters.  I can’t tell you how many scripts fall short on those two levels…

GLA: Any other advice or tips for newer writers on a topic we haven’t covered?

MM: Yes, it’s not enough to simply generate a feature or TV idea, write the script and be done with it.  You have to think about the business – how it grows, where it’s moving.  Think about your idea as intellectual property and not just a movie or television show; platforming is important.

And legacy.  Will your idea stand the test of time?  It’s important to understand what moves human beings and how to effectively communicate that in your story.

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