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by Rona Edwards and Monica Skerbelis

In order to have screenplays read by studios and production companies, it is necessary for writers to submit their material via the correct channels - an Agent or Manager. Not many people know the difference between an agent and a manager, but there are significant differences. Years ago, if you had a good agent there was no need for a manager. In today's world, where a number of agencies have merged with each other and the client rosters have grown enormously, it has become increasingly necessary for a writer to have both a manager and an agent.

An agent's job is to sell his clients' stories, elevate their sales, expose their work, and get them work on open writing assignments. They can represent all types of talent, including actors, producers, writers, directors, novelists as well as below-the-line talent (cinematographers, film editors, production designers, etc.). Agents must be franchised by the state of California and must abide by certain laws and regulations. For example, an agent cannot demand more than a 10 percent commission from his or her clients, also, agents cannot produce movies. Agencies have to be signatory to the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which means they must abide by the Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) as negotiated between the producers (actually the studios) and the WGA. An agent negotiates contracts and submits their client's material in order to get them jobs. Agencies have many departments -- categorized as motion picture literary, television literary, talent, commercials, packaging, and, sometimes, new media. The bigger agencies are able to package projects more easily because they have large rosters of talent, while the smaller agencies focus more heavily on career development and day-to-day jobs for their writers. Agents also orchestrate spec script sales.

Managers usually have fewer clients than agents so they have more time to assist in long-range goals in helping to develop the overall career of their clients, whereas some agents are "bookers," meaning they are only interested in booking the job and not necessarily what the job will do for the career. Also, at a big agency, there is a tendency for agents to lose interest in the client if the client isn't actively selling screenplays or booking the open writing assignments. Ideally, a manager will not lose interest and is in it for the long-term with his clients. There are, however, some agents who serve their clients in a similar capacity as a manager, in that they like to develop and guide careers. Managers are not regulated by the state or governed by any laws or regulations as of yet, though there is protocol. They can charge anything they want (though the norm is usually 10 -15 percent). Managers may develop projects with their clients and produce them. Legally, however, they cannot negotiate deals on behalf of their clients. Only lawyers or agents can negotiate the deal (but may do so with the manager's input). Legally, a manager cannot submit material to procure employment for their clients. An agent does this. However, a manager can submit a project as a producer for consideration at a production company, studio, or network.

A good agent or manager is someone with clout, who is well-connected, can get studio executives and producers on the phone, and have material get the attention of senior executives. Good agents and managers are aggressive in selling new clients and know the spec market, having made current deals at studios and production companies. They should be able to provide intelligent notes on material before just sending it out to see if it "sticks." Good agents and managers give feedback on what is working and want is not working in a screenplay. In addition, they should be able to advise their client to say "no" to an open writing assignment, a project that may not further the writer's career, or a script that is just plain bad. Writers shouldn't count on their agents and managers for all their work. They, too, need to be out there networking and utilizing their own contacts with film professionals. Solid writing will get attention -- however, it has to be read first!

The Writers Guild of America(www.wga.org) provides an online Agency List of signatory agents and agencies. Also, Lone Eagle Publishing (www.hcdonline.com) publishes the Hollywood Representation Directory with a comprehensive list of Hollywood literary agents and managers as well as on their fee-based online service that encompasses all their directories with one easy click of a mouse.

You can contact Rona and Monika via their website: www.esentertainment.net

Rona Edwards and Monika Skerbelis are the co-authors of "I Liked It, Didn't Love It: Screenplay Development From The Inside Out" from Lone Eagle Publishing. They have worked as development execs and producers, and collectively have 25 years worth of experience in Hollywood.


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