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Agent, Manager or Both?

By Fran Harris

Reader Melissa Gallardo from San Francisco, CA asks:

Do I need an agent or a manager or both?

Expert Fran Harris replies.

I speak at about 15 writing conferences and film festivals a year and I'm always asked the same question, "Do I need an agent, a manager or both?" And my answer is always the same. Forget about trying to land an agent or a manager. That's right. I said it. Stop trying to get an agent - at least for the next 6 months. I want you to block it out of your mind. I want you to erase all visions of meeting with any of the "Big Three" and focus on one thing over the next 180 days: writing. No asking people for referrals. No disguising yourself as a FedEx delivery girl and slipping your script to the assistant. No serial faxes to the friend of a friend of a cousin's friend who works at Tinseltown's hottest production company. Just nothing but good old-fashioned writing for you, buddy. Sound crazy? It's not, really.

Here are my top three reasons for urging you to abandon all efforts to secure representation over the next six months.

#1: You Need A Great Sample

It's really not that hard to get an agent or a manager once you've written a great (not good) script. So, instead of spending your sweat equity hustling for a rep, use it honing your craft. There are tons of "good" writers in Hollywood who are already working in the business. That means that you've got to bring something better than "good" to the table to catch someone's attention.

#2: One Is The Loneliest Number That You'll Ever Write

Most folks have only one solid writing sample to show, if that. If you take six months to do nothing but write, you'll increase your chances of having at least two scripts to show -and you NEED at least two scripts to find a rep who's gonna see you as a "writer" and not a potential "one hit wonder." Let me explain. Writers write. So, let's say you get a recommendation for an agent and you get him on the phone. The first thing he's going to ask you after he hears about Script #1 is, "What else ya got?" or "What else are you working on?" If you say anything that sounds remotely like, "Uh, well, uh, ya see, I haven't exactly written anything else," you've just blown it.

#3: A Contact, Like A Mind, Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

Referrals in this town are gold so you want to make the most of them when you get them. If someone turns you on to his or her agent and you show them a crappy, 130-page epic about the mating habits of prehistoric insects, you're just wasting a contact and a chance to land representation. Besides there's a good chance that the person reading your work will have an imprint of your capabilities based on that one sample. Trust me; this is not a good thing. And while I don't believe in the overused axiom that "you only get one chance" in this town, I do believe that it's extraordinarily difficult to try to get someone to see you as a "great" writer once they've read something that's so bad, it's painful.

So, there ya have it, fellow scribes. Enjoy the sabbatical from the agent hunt and remember, Hollywood will always need great stories, which means that you and your brilliance will always be in demand. Now, go forth and multiply scripts!

Meet the Author: Fran Harris

Fran Harris, author of About My Sister's Business,  is the former president of Nouveau Sports Marketing. A member of the WNBA's 1997 championship basketball team, the Houston Comets, she has been a speaker, actor, screenwriter, and ESPN color analyst. Featured in Essence and Emerge, Harris was a 1995 nominee for Inc.'s Entrepreneur of the Year and Austin's Most Powerful Woman awards. She lives in Austin, Texas.