Every aspiring Hollywood screenwriter dreams of getting their big break — seeing their script get optioned, snatched up to be made into a major motion picture, and launching their career overnight.
But transforming what you’ve meticulously typed out on page after page on your own into a viewer-riveting film up on the big screen involves a long journey ahead.
One with countless revisions, high-stakes pitching, intense bidding wars, challenging negotiations, major rewrites, and very tight project deadlines once greenlit to go into production.
Navigating the complex twists and turns of the demanding film industry to sell your screenplay requires strategic guidance from someone deeply entrenched on the inside who champions writers.
That’s where securing your screenwriting manager comes in — serving as your career coach, head cheerleader, chief marketing proponent, negotiation guru, and battle-tested Hollywood veteran rolled into one on your behalf.
Having one of Hollywood’s top screenwriting managers believe in you and your movie ideas enough to take you on and actively push to get your scripts sold or optioned can be a game-changing career breakthrough.
But only if you approach procuring one just like writing — crafting each step carefully, completing key prerequisites first, and executing meticulously with compelling components coming together across multiple revisions.
This comprehensive guide details what navigating the competitive field of attracting viable screenwriting management entails from A to Z. You’ll learn:
- Exactly what a screenwriting manager does to earn their 15-20% commission
- Why screenwriters need manager representation to advance their success
- What experience and script inventory do you need to secure their interest
- Where to find managers seeking fresh new writing talent
- What key qualities do managers look for before agreeing to sign you
- How to achieve game-changing referrals and testimonials
- How to properly submit your scripts and queries to managers
- Tips to shine bright during signing interviews and meetings
Let’s dive right into what this ultra-competitive realm entails and how to ready yourself to attract management that can truly elevate your writing career in Hollywood’s inner circle.
What a Screenwriting Manager Does (and Does Not Do)
Before we get into the details on positioning yourself to realistically secure representation…
You need crystal clarity on what a screenwriting manager does to continually earn their 15-20% commission cut on projects they get staffed on and sell or option for you.
Here’s a quick overview of their core responsibilities after officially signing you as a client:
- Read all your script drafts promptly to provide constructive feedback
- Coach and strategize with you on developing ideas with the most market appeal
- Edit and fine-tune submission drafts to amplify strengths
- Customize pitches based on each producer’s or production company’s needs
- Circulation to their vast industry contact network to generate interest
- Taking out projects on your behalf, leveraging their relationships
- Field incoming queries and script requests on your behalf
- Set and attend meetings with studios, networks, production companies
- Negotiate shopping agreements and option deals
- Work closely with developers if a script is optioned or sold
- Advise on manager and agent split deals if securing an agent
- Negotiate pay rate for assignment rewrite jobs and polishes
- Negotiate writer credit definitions on contracted deals
That’s an overview of what having a powerhouse screenwriting manager championing you and your writing looks like when strategically aligning your career ascent together.
Now what they DON’T do:
- Act as career coach giving general career advice to anyone
- Read full scripts from unsolicited writers
- Take time carving out new pitches for writers they haven’t signed
- Attend tons of meetings championing you without compensation
So in summary — managers serve as your project packaging partners, strategists in the trenches taking on battles for you, advisers helping polish your scripts to increase sellability, and highly connected deal-making mavens.
Securing one demands meticulous preparation long before queries get sent.
Next, we’ll cover why shopping managers early in your career as a screenwriter remain so vital…
Why Getting a Manager Matters to Advance Your Career
Without a screenwriting manager fiercely promoting both you and your projects to perpetually open new doors across studios and production companies town-wide, several debilitating roadblocks arise.
Consider what pursuing a screenwriting career entails in today’s radically transformed media landscape. To succeed now you must:
- Constantly develop a surplus of original film ideas into solid pitchable concepts
- Write and rewrite multiple script drafts under tight deadlines
- Master pitching compellingly to pique buyer interest quickly
- Negotiate legal terms, writer pay rates, credited involvement
Add navigating endless film industry connections daily to push your latest projects without someone solely dedicated to championing YOU full time too?
Good luck keeping all those critical balls up in the air solo to get your screenwriting career off the ground. Maybe if you have special juggling superpowers. Most mere mortal screenwriters don’t.
Here’s why seeking out management from seasoned Hollywood veterans pays such lucrative career-advancing dividends long term:
- Intro access to their entire industry contact networks
- Expedited legal processing on your behalf
- Credibility endorsement when a manager backs your writing
- Significantly more pitching opportunities
- Fulfilling writing assignments comes faster
So in deciding when to seek out manager representation a simple cost/benefit analysis says the sooner you align support — the faster you gain velocity breaking in.
Yes, you sacrifice 15-20% off the top of all screenwriting job deals…
But a great manager can triple your signings and sales in year one simply leveraging their connections. Thereby putting far more money in your pocket long run minus their fee.
If you take just one insight away here — securing management amplifies your career progress tenfold through Hollywood insider access alone.
Now what does it realistically take to attract a screenwriting manager ready to long-term align contender writers with real future upside?
Plenty. That’s what we’ll cover next.
Prerequisites – Your Screenwriting Experience & Skills So Far
Here’s the reality check most aspiring screenwriters need to hear upfront before querying any management firms or reps…
To entice an established Hollywood manager to back you and get them genuinely excited about your writing requires developing the following prerequisites first:
- Screenwriting craft mastered enough to showcase talent
- An ability to effectively take notes and rewrite swiftly
- Strong grasp on tightening structure, plot, and characters
- Captivating writing style and visual scene settings
- Some contacts and recommendations in your circle to reference
- Proven commitment to screenwriting over quick fame goals
The majority of queries desperate new writers blanket the industry with DO NOT demonstrate these prerequisites. So they get deleted without consideration.
Any writer can spitball ideas. Endless ideas spew out daily across LA. But not many writers exhibit true talent paired with a mastery of audience-grabbing cinematic storytelling prime for box office success.
Plus an ability to rewrite projects quickly after script notes come cascading down. Much less function collaboratively as a creative equal with producers, directors, and film stars weighing in opinions daily.
Writing inventory also sends a signal— you remain actively committed to building a writing career regardless of representation status. You put in the work daily not just chasing overnight fame or fortune.
Most importantly — progress updates on your writing journey from voices managers instantly recognize pack the most potent punch to vet your true viability long term.
In the next section, we’ll cover how to research management firms seeking fresh voices worth advocating for despite the competition being so fierce.
Researching Screenwriting Managers Actively Seeking New Writers
So you’ve written multiple scripts and polished your skills enough to potentially attract management. Where to start your search?
Without insider film industry experience you lack the connections to access reliable referrals typically. Good news — in 2024 extensive online research can significantly supplement your efforts
Follow this five-step roadmap to identify reputable management firms and specific managers currently expanding their writer rosters right now:
Step 1 – Thoroughly Comb IMDbPro
IMDbPro allows you to search manager representation details across currently credited TV shows and films in development using a host of filters.
Study projects listed by the following management companies to identify quality firms to vet further:
- Underground Management
- Echo Lake Entertainment
- Literate Management
- Heroes And Villains Entertainment
- Think Tank Management
Take notes on managers listed across numerous recently produced credits who may focus on your specific genres.
Step 2 – Visit Company Websites
Visit every management firm’s website for their submission policies, current client lists, and frequently asked questions for more vetting intel. Sign up for email updates on what projects they have in development.
Step 3 – Cross Reference Twitter & Instagram
Twitter and Instagram offer you a lens into manager personalities, their interests, and advocacy efforts for clients publicly. See what projects they actively promote and who they already champion writer-wise.
Step 4 – Check Industry Pub Reports
Google managers and firms to scan trades like Deadline, Hollywood Reporter, and Variety to get mentioned project sales and studio deals context. See who reps writers working consistently at a higher success level.
Step 5 – Scout YouTube, Podcasts & Interviews
Many managers speak at screenwriting conferences or engage actively in pitching new projects on YouTube shows and podcast interviews. Study their pitching style and how they position their clients and projects verbally.
Using these online avenues minimizes the vast field of management companies substantially into a list of realistic prospects currently expanding their screenwriter rosters.
Next, we’ll detail the key qualities the best managers look for when deciding who to sign and represent long term out of many querying them daily.
8 Qualities Screenwriting Managers Look for in Representation
Getting your work read with real consideration by ANY Hollywood screenwriting manager constitutes an enormous hurdle. Let alone convincing one to sign and rep you long term.
Managers assume tremendous risk in backing incomplete writer projects with their credibility, connections, effort and time spent packaging what you write. They only earn income if you do it first. And that income splits 85% in your favor if deals arise.
So before granting meetings or signing anybody new the best managers vet incredibly selectively across a stringent checklist of MUST HAVE writer qualities. Like:
Proven Commitment to Screenwriting:
Top reps look for writers who demonstrate a long-term commitment to screenwriting as a career rather than chasing quick fame or fortune.
Have you written multiple scripts? Do you enter contests or labs to improve your craft? What steps point to a long play view? Any progress or tools that establish your dedication beyond verbal claims carry tremendous weight.
Enthusiasm for Visual Storytelling Dynamics:
Does their writing and conversation reveal an understanding of what makes for compelling cinema full of dramatic tension? The pacing, scene settings, and character interactions that spellbind on screen? Managers need to see you grasp visual media narrative mechanics completely.
Ability to Conceptualize Stories Orally:
Can you effectively summarize what your scripts are about conversationally first before anyone reads them? Masters execs expect writers to compellingly conceptualize stories verbally in meetings as well as in writing. Pitching skill proves crucial.
Instincts for Heightening Structure & Plot:
Managers assess how well you layered in backstories, world mythology, defined character motivations, seed plot points, and twists. Strong structuring abilities distinguish pros with selling upside from amateurs. Do your scripts demonstrate mastery or miss key elements still?
Paragraphs: Drama That Sizzles on Pages
Your writing STYLE matters immensely in scripts with how you describe characters, locations, and key scenes through paragraph visuals. Does their word choice invocation of settings, imagery, and mood stylishly translate what we would see onscreen?
Better yet — do paragraphs further reveal or heighten what motivates characters too? Exceptional scene writing is what will get a manager to flip pages raptly.
Openness to Notes and Rewriting Swiftly:
Reps know great scripts demand extensive rewriting after notes come flooding in. Do you demonstrate humility embracing feedback while defending strong choices diplomatically? What’s your rewrite turn time track record? Slow overwhelmed writers paralyzed by input face dim signing prospects.
Unique Perspective Voiced:
Do your scripts echo existing stories or reflect a bold unique voice? Managers crave undiscovered voices telling fresh stories over copycat writers mimicking previous hit films. They know what seduces execs to buy is ORIGINAL concepts and perspectives brought to life cinematically.
Referral Endorsements Already:
Any verbal testimony or written recommendations from film industry names carry tremendous influence on reps.
Maybe you direct short films or cut book trailers already recognized by some press and influencers? Does your writing prompt any local notoriety or regional events coverage?
Referral boosters act like credibility rocket fuel when included formally in queries to managers so flaunt them.
Granted NONE of these prerequisites come easy or quick. But putting in the years advancing across many levels of the above criteria filters the playing field down massively to concentrating reps willing to advocate for you.
Now we’ll shift gears into the strategies and tactics to significantly increase your odds of having reps embrace your writing career.
Achieving Quality Referrals and Industry Endorsements
Earlier we covered the essentials of what content and skills showcase your long-term talent viability to reps. But one additional key component outshines them all — secured vocal testimonials.
That hard-won industry social proof that gets your scripts instant priority reads.
When querying any manager you contact having established film professionals already raving about your distinct writing or projects on your behalf matters enormously. Even simple written endorsements validating you as an emerging talent help enormously differentiate your queries.
But to secure those kinds of credibility-boosting referrals requires laying careful groundwork over time:
Step 1 – Leverage Your Existing Network
Do you know ANY professionals working in media or film even just locally? Start there. Friends who act, collaboration contacts from directing shorts, former professors — ask them to read your latest draft for input. Then request an endorsement quote or referral intro to add to queries later when polished.
Step 2 – Produce Your Content Strategically
Launching a film vlog reviewing scripts? Direct shorts yourself on weekends? Self-publish novels? Leverage your existing creative outputs strategically to open new conversations leading to referrals.
Did a blog post highlighting the best screenplays last year generate discussions? Quote commenters. Feature feedback calls you receive from experienced people you interview for the vlog. Turn each into a stepping stone to something MORE substantial down the road.
Step 3 – Enter Contests & Apply For Labs Selectively
Entering top screenwriting competitions like Nicholl and Austin Film Festival or getting into selective labs like Script Anatomy and The Screenplay Lab come with instant industry notoriety benefits.
Being able to name-drop that your comedy pilot made the Top 50 of the Nicholl Fellowship out of 7500 entries packs a reputational punch.
Step 4 – Connect with Mentors & Veterans
Find screenwriting mentors working professionals in your region using social media and mastermind groups. Local writing organizations and film associations offer access to many.
Set meetings, and form allies. Then stay in touch routinely to cement bonds over time. Having an industry advisor or two agree to take phone calls or grab coffee monthly to advise you may convert to happy referral sources down the road.
Step 5 – Guest Post and Interview
Podcasts, writer guild blogs, and mastermind sites often accept guest posts or interviews from experienced writers with insights to share from their screenwriting journeys. Start there volunteering and convert mentions into blurbs later.
See how creating a long-term referral groundwork plan substitutes for instant industry access you lack? Each small move builds towards the bigger win later-end — endorsed representation queries that generate instant manager meetings.
Executing this plan captures critical endorsements over 12-18 months. Long before site submissions to management firms even get considered.
But when the timing fits to start that submission process properly, what next?
Glad you asked…up next we will detail how to submit to managers the RIGHT way.
Submitting Your Scripts & Querying Managers the Right Way
Circling back to leveraging your contacts, contests, credentials, and growing industry endorsements — when do you pull the trigger submitting to and querying managers?
Here’s a checklist covering best practices for properly pitching management firms:
- Research submission options on company websites first – Determine what EXACTLY managers want to receive. Do they only want email queries? Will they read full scripts or just synopses first? Is there a submission form or standardized email template to use? Some want loglines only or just concepts pitched initially by phone first. Customize your outreach accordingly.
- Lead with your most awards nominated or recommended script – Highlight your highest potential project first and foremost backed by loglines for one or two others. Don’t barrage them with multiple scripts off the bat. You want reps laser-focused on your very best concept as a calling card.
- Include any contest wins, or peer referrals secured in advance – Don’t assume reps will be impressed by scripts alone. Bandage up any credibility points you earned via referrals, contest placements, ratings, or unique life experiences relevant to your stories into your emails. Remove any friction upfront to them engaging.
- Follow up once only initially – Avoid pestering reps constantly after submissions if they don’t respond quickly. Industry pros are ridiculously busy and notoriously delayed responders. Upload scripts on tracking portals many provide so you can see if/when downloads occur. Follow up once politely if no activity in 30 days. If they passed, move on.
These tips will instantly increase positive responses and read from any managers you query by presenting submissions professionally.
But what happens after they review your work and agree to discuss representation further? Then the REAL interview vetting begins through the first meetings.
Handling Manager Meetings & Interview Discussions Effectively
The day finally comes — your primary script manager prospect writes back glowing about your work wanting to meet. Celebrate! But not for long…
You must immediately shift gears into impressing them further in person on their home turf. That means ensuring first meetings effectively reinforce their high opinion of your writing talent AND potential upside as a client worth signing over the long haul.
Here’s how to strategically ace first meetings with managers to expedite offers:
Come Prepared to Discuss Future Projects
The biggest mistake most new writers make is focusing too much on the 1-2 script submissions that triggered the meeting. Managers need to see you’re a prolific idea factory with endless saleable big-screen potential beyond just what’s already written.
Come armed with a slate of additional film/TV ideas in your pocket outlined enough to pitch succinctly when the timing feels right. Having 3-4 buttoned-up concepts or loglines for other scripts in progress shows them exponential partnership growth ahead.
Ask Smart Questions
The interview needs to feel like a mutual vetting between you both so THEY have to impress YOU too.
Have thoughtful questions lined up on their submission processes, development funding, staffing practices, and sales track records. What A-list writers have they partnered with? Show you bring huge upside but won’t sign without assessing their assets too.
Explore what specifically managers see each of your roles entailing if signing together. How hands-on are they throughout development? What are standard rewrite timeframes expected?
Do they share contacts or strictly control outreach? Inquire about structures but avoid desperate vibes. This shows you know partnerships hinge on defined mutual expectations.
Be Authentically You
Let your inherent passions and personality shine through. The best reps don’t want guarded overly professional writers putting on airs. They crave authentic creatives who live and breathe the stories they develop 24/7 with childlike enthusiasm. Signal writing stems from your core not just bombarded ideas.
Following up promptly and professionally after meetings continues to position you as a consummate pro. But if all goes well what should you demand in any representation agreements potentially offered? Let’s tackle that next.
Sealing Agreements with Terms That Meet Your Needs
When a manager officially offers representation, celebrating gets piping hot. But before popping that champagne cork too quickly — slow down!
Don’t ever sign any agreements without reviewing terms in-depth, negotiating needed changes, and getting an entertainment lawyer involved in reviewing details.
Why the extra precautions? You would be shocked at how lopsided some initial representation agreement offers come in favoring ONLY managers hugely.
That’s why understanding standard agreements plus where to press for improvements remains mission-critical:
Commission Rates & Term Lengths
Standard manager commissions run 15-20% on any screenwriting income directly resulting from their involvement like sales or staffing fees. Television income splits often run 10-15% in writer favors. Terms length usually shakes out to 1-2 years initially then bumps higher to 3-5 years after renewing.
Managers hate “playing second fiddle” so they push HARD for exclusivity. But that works against your limiting options. Push to finalize non-exclusive terms allowing you to pivot other reps over time. Exclusivity locks you in damage control mode if relations sour so reject or limit severely.
Managers sometimes try slipping in clauses making YOU responsible for THEIR expenses pitching or meetings during the submission process pre-signing. Any expenses should fall directly on their shoulders so strike immediately if specified.
Ownership & IP Rights
Don’t let managers try to snake ownership rights away from you for underlying intellectual property in any scripts. Require confirmation in writing that YOU retain all IP rights outside developed sold projects you collaborate on later.
Commission Payment Timetables
Ensure payout language locks to 30 days MAX after income hits their company ledgers. You don’t want to float them high-interest loans because accounting goes slowly on their end before cutting commission checks.
Approval Rights & Exit Options
Try to negotiate manager approval rights on any project development deals or staffing they broker initially to ensure your creative Vision stays intact long-term. Also details any exit plan options if relations sour so you can pivot reps smoothly if needed.
Using this checklist during contract reviews ensures you secure balanced representation terms with your best interests protected as the manager relationship forms.
Key Takeaways – What it Takes To Get Signed
If absorbing every detailed step covered leaves your head spinning a bit — here are concise KEY takeaways summing up what it takes to get a powerhouse screenwriting manager in your corner:
- Write multiple scripts first exhibiting true talent
- Enter contests to gain visibility with industry cred
- Master pitching verbally as strong as writing
- Secure referrals from any existing contacts
- Research managers seeking new clients specifically
- Query with your best work sample & pitches for more
- Impress profoundly at exploratory meetings
- Negotiate balanced terms with an attorney
Check enough of these boxes by applying the advice covered, and your odds shine significantly brighter to secure a game-changing manager aligned to bolster your screenwriting success long term.
Just remember — representation begins an ongoing JOURNEY together…not a final destination guaranteeing sold scripts.
Hitting career milestones as a professional screenwriter demands extensive further effort. But now with management amplifying opportunities and connections for you tenfold let’s get started!
The best time was yesterday. The next best is today.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get a manager for my screenplay?
You need to write several strong spec scripts first to showcase your talent before attempting to secure manager representation. Research managers at production companies aligned to your genres. Once you have 2-3 solid samples, query them following their submission guidelines. Lead with your best writing and include any existing referrals. Follow up once before moving on if no response. Impress profoundly at meetings to get signed.
How do I find a manager for writing?
Finding writing managers involves extensive research online and leveraging existing industry contacts for referrals. Scour IMDbPro for manager credits on recently produced films. Search management company websites for client lists and submission options. Cross-reference managers on Twitter observing who they advocate for publicly. Check industry publications to get context on manager project sales.
Do screenwriters have managers?
It’s quite common for professional screenwriters at the intermediate level and above to have a talented Hollywood manager guiding and advocating for their career. Top screenwriters view great managers as sounding boards on projects and indispensable partners in packaging and selling their scripts once polished. They amplify opportunities.
How do I find an agent for screenwriting?
Securing a powerhouse screenwriting literary agent works much the same as attaining manager representation. You first must write fantastic scripts and start gaining visibility by entering contests or selling shorts/indie films. Research agent client lists on agency websites and targets those repping writers in your genres. Query selectively with referrals and impress profoundly on exploratory calls.
How much does a screenwriting agent cost?
Reputable literary agencies do not charge any upfront fees to represent you, they simply take a 10-20% commission on projects sold or staffing writing jobs they broker for you. Top agencies want you to earn sustainable income so they can keep earning too. Avoid any “agents” charging hourly consulting rates or upfront membership fees.
Who do I sell my screenplay to?
As an unknown screenwriter, your first sale will likely be directly to a production company, NOT a major studio. Use IMDbPro to find producers that develop content aligned to your script genre/budget size. Pitch execs there via email/calls first. If no one bites, entering top competition highly boosts visibility with managers and buyers.
Do literary agents accept screenplays?
Most legitimate literary agencies have dedicated film agents on staff to represent screenwriters specifically. A few may allow you to query general agents with a strong script but do target film agents within agencies first. Lead with your best film script rather than other writing samples like novels.
Do I need an agent to sell a screenplay?
No, you can sell independently to buyers without representation especially just starting. But landing a great screenwriting agent skilled at packaging projects, pitching, negotiating deals, and submitting to elite buyers will increase your sales potential and income massively. They offer insider connections you lack.
Do script writers need agents?
Strictly needing an agent boils down to access and exponential efficiency. Savvy Hollywood agents open doors selling to major studios, producers, and A-list talent for you by leveraging their vast industry relationships and dealmaking experience. But if you prefer direct independent pitching, you can still earn sales without an agent just slower. Representation just accelerates and amplifies opportunities to shine as a professional writer long term by handling business aspects you may not excel at or enjoy.