If you want to make it as a professional screenwriter in Hollywood, having a great manager can be instrumental to your success. But what exactly does a screenwriter manager do to help writers succeed?
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the crucial roles a manager plays in developing new talent, getting writers paid work, providing career guidance, and more. Read on to fully understand what you should expect from a manager-writer relationship.
Introduction: Why Screenwriters Need Managers
In the competitive entertainment industry, it’s extremely difficult for emerging screenwriters to break through on their own. That’s where managers come in.
Screenwriter managers discover and cultivate new writing talent. They use their connections to get writers in the room for major projects. Managers advocate on the writer’s behalf to get them hired for jobs and properly compensated.
Having an experienced manager guiding your career as a screenwriter can make a huge difference in finding paid writing gigs and progressing professionally. The right manager provides insider knowledge of the complex system, access to insider relationships, and career strategies tailored specifically for screenwriters.
Without competent management, it’s easy for aspiring writers to get stuck grinding away on specs that go nowhere. But with a manager’s assistance navigating Hollywood’s bureaucracy, writers have a much better shot at getting their scripts sold or staffed on shows.
So if you want to focus on improving your craft while someone advocates for your career behind the scenes, enter into a management relationship. Let’s look at the key roles a screenwriter manager takes on.
Finding New Writing Talent
One of the primary jobs of any talent manager is discovering fresh voices that have the potential to succeed. Managers act as scouts, keeping their eye out for promising emerging screenwriters who could become the next big thing.
This involves exhausting work attending film festivals, screenwriting competitions, writer’s workshops, theater showcases, and any place new talent and material may surface. A manager reviews hundreds of query letters, scripts, shorts, and plays each year looking for creative voices and projects with merit.
Beyond their own scouting, managers rely on referrals from their network of contacts to hear about up-and-comers. They regularly touch base with producers, development executives, talent agents, showrunners, and directors to ask about any exciting new writers or scripts catching buzz. The recommendations of industry insiders lead managers to discover talented writers worth meeting.
When reviewing material and meeting potential new clients, managers analyze if a writer’s voice, style, and skills fill an area of demand. They determine if the writer has the right package of skills and personality to thrive in the high-pressure entertainment industry.
Identifying writers with not just raw talent, but also ambition, work ethic, and flexibility improves the chances of launching and sustaining their careers.
In the early days, managers may spot talent that is still rough around the edges. But their job is to have the vision to see future potential and work with the writer to develop their abilities and material over time.
Once a manager brings a new screenwriter into their stable, the real work begins molding and guiding the writer’s career.
Managers act as hands-on coaches improving every aspect of a writer’s craft and process. They’ll provide extensive notes to strengthen storytelling, character development, structure, and dialogue in spec scripts and projects under development. The goal is to refine the writer’s skills enough to create scripts worthy of being sold and produced.
Ongoing feedback from someone with industry experience helps writers improve much faster than working in a vacuum. Managers know what types of stories, characters, writing styles, and formats sell best in the current landscape. Applying their knowledge, they steer writers toward commercial projects that align with their strengths and interests.
Beyond just strengthening the writing itself, managers advise on shaping the writer’s pitch skills, networking abilities, personal brand, and work ethic.
They conduct mock pitch sessions to prepare writers to impress executives. Managers connect writers for coffee meetings, events, and introductions to build relationships around town.
When a writer seems ready, the manager leverages their contact network to create opportunities. This may involve circulating a polished script to generate buzz.
Or it could mean attaching a writer to develop a project with a producer through a shopping agreement. Managers open doors, and then guide the writer on making the most of these opportunities to elevate their profile.
Getting Writers Paid Work
Of course, no writer can survive on meetings and free work alone. Managers earn their commission by getting writers-paid jobs and screenwriting gigs. This requires extensive time pitching, negotiating, and advocating on the writer’s behalf.
First, a manager strategically targets production companies, studios, and showrunners most likely to be interested in their client’s particular style and skills. Then they relentlessly pitch the writer and their material during general meetings, over the phone, through email campaigns, via networking events, and anywhere else they can get a contact’s ear.
When interest is expressed, the manager negotiates any necessary shopping agreements, development deals, or options to facilitate getting the writer in the door. This involves leveraging their relationships and negotiating track records to get writers paid fairly for their work.
Beyond getting original scripts sold or optioned, managers play matchmaker aligning writers with TV shows, studios, or productions looking for the right voice.
For example, they may pitch their comedy writer for rewrite jobs on promising new projects for added credits and pay. Or they’ll advocate to get their writer in the writer’s room on a TV series writing staff.
Managers don’t hesitate to keep following up and fighting to get their client’s work produced and their skills recognized. They continue applying pressure tactfully through their contact network until a gig is secured.
Having a persistent, socially savvy manager pushing for you makes a huge difference in actually monetizing your abilities versus getting stuck in unseen piles of scripts.
Guiding The Writing Process
A manager’s job doesn’t end once a writer gets hired for a writing assignment or staff position. They continue acting as advisors and problem solvers as projects develop.
The development process often spans years for features as scripts go through endless notes, rewrites, and false starts. Managers help writers maintain stamina and perspective throughout this long and turbulent road. They provide feedback on drafts, prepare writers for note sessions, and reinforce which battles to fight versus where to concede.
During TV production, managers advise writers on navigating their role in the fast-paced writer’s room. They prep writers for pitching stories and taking notes from the showrunner. Managers also help troubleshoot any issues with difficult personalities or toxic dynamics that emerge on set.
People skills are essential for managers guiding screenwriters’ success in a collaborative industry. A big part of their job is managing relationships between writers and executives to keep projects moving forward.
The manager serves as an intermediary communicating needs clearly between the creative writer and the business-minded studio. They negotiate compromises when disagreements arise over notes, rights, credits, or payment.
When a conflict emerges, the manager can also play mediator. For example, tensions commonly flare between writers and showrunners or directors/ producers during TV production. The manager acts as an advocate resolving conflicts diplomatically in the best interest of their client.
Beyond troubleshooting, managers look for ways for their writers to build connections themselves. They’ll suggest networking events to attend, introductions to make, and relationships to nurture. Helping writers take an active role in growing their industry relationships makes a manager’s job easier while advancing the client’s profile.
Conclusion: What Does a Screenwriter Manager Do?
As you can see, talented screenwriters truly benefit from having a manager’s constant career guidance, insider expertise, and relationship-building assistance. The right manager relieves much of the burden of navigating Hollywood’s bureaucracy. This frees the writer to focus on improving their craft and creating great work.
When searching for a manager, it’s essential to vet their experience specifically advocating for screenwriters like yourself. Some managers may specialize more in directors, actors, or other creative fields. You want someone with all the necessary relationships, knowledge, and passion for championing talented writers.
Don’t expect overnight success. But by aligning yourself with an experienced manager devoted to their clients, you put yourself on the path to an enduring screenwriting career. With a manager in your corner opening doors and singing your praises, your most creative and lucrative years as a Hollywood screenwriter lie ahead.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a screenwriter manager and an agent?
A manager provides career guidance, develops talent, and builds relationships. An agent focuses more narrowly on negotiating deals and contracts. Managers take a hands-on role in a writer’s career while agents handle individual transactions.
How do screenwriting managers get paid?
Managers earn a commission typically around 10-15% of the writer’s earnings from sold scripts, writing assignments, and other screenwriting jobs. Many require clients to sign an agreement spelling out the terms.
Do screenwriters need a manager?
Having a manager is very advantageous for screenwriters starting out to help develop their talent and open doors. But it’s not essential in the beginning compared to securing a good literary agent.
Is it hard to get a screenwriting manager?
Yes, it can be challenging for unknown screenwriters to get signed by a reputable manager. The best bet is to enter contests, participate in workshops/labs, or network to connect with managers seeking fresh talent.
Should an actor get a manager or agent first?
Actors typically should get a manager first who can help develop their skills and put them up for the best roles. Then the manager can help connect them with a top agent once their career gains momentum.
Who has more power a screenwriter or a director?
The director generally has more influence over the final product. But an established, successful screenwriter has more power in Hollywood than most directors.
Who is the highest-paid screenwriter in the world?
Some of the highest-paid screenwriters currently include Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy, JJ Abrams, and Aaron Sorkin who can make over $10 million per year.
Is screenwriting in high demand?
Yes, the demand for skilled, experienced screenwriters continues to grow with all the new streaming platforms and productions being developed. But breaking in remains highly competitive.
Do screenwriters make millions?
Many established, name screenwriters make seven or even eight-figure sums annually. But most working screenwriters make much more modest amounts as they build their careers. Advancing in income takes years.