Got an agent? If so, this one’s for you. At the ScreenCraft Writers Summit in Atlanta earlier this year, Diana Ossana, the co-writer of the Academy Award-winning screenplay for Brokeback Mountain, and UTA agent and partner Keya Khayatian gave amazing advice on how an effective agent/writer relationship should work.
Here are 5 things your literary agent should do for you to ensure that both parties feel empowered and productive.
1. The agent protects the writer.
Protecting the writer can range from filtering potential projects and fielding offers to going to bat for the writer in contract negotiations. Diana emphasized the importance of the agent making sure that you, as the writer, work on projects that fit your career and are up to your personal standards.
2. The agent negotiates the money.
Diana said, “Don’t ever underestimate yourself or devalue what you do. It’s vital. It’s important.” Therefore, you deserve the best deal possible in exchange for your work. Your agent should handle those awkward money talks so that you’re free to concentrate on doing what you do best: writing.
3. The agent makes sure you get paid.
Unfortunately, not everyone is on the up-and-up when it comes to paying writers on time (or at all). If you’re not getting paid, Diana says your agent should be calling and following up (read: harassing) to make sure your check gets cut, and even contacting the WGA to lodge complaints on your behalf.
4. The agent stays in communication.
If you call your agent, he or she calls you back. If you send new material, it is read in a timely manner. You don’t feel ignored or that you’re bothering your agent by contacting him or her. Keya stressed that a good agent must have the writer’s best interest at heart and want the client to succeed, and that doesn’t happen without staying in frequent communication.
5. The agent gives honest feedback.
Keya advised that a good agent/client relationship has honest communication and compromise at its core. An agent should provide honest feedback about a project and expect notes to be taken seriously, but the writer also shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for something he or she believes in the script.
Diana and Keya also outlined some red flags to watch out for when it comes to your representation:
— Reps who don’t return calls or emails.
— Reps who don’t listen or care what you have to say.
— Reps who don’t read your new material in a timely manner, within about 2 weeks.
— Reps who tell you what you want to hear, but not what you need to hear (the honest truth).
Remember: the agent/writer relationship should feel productive and be mutually beneficial. If yours isn’t, it may be time to talk to your reps, and possibly rethink the relationship and if it’s the right fit for your career.
Rebecca Norris is a producer, writer, and filmmaker with her production company, Freebird Entertainment. Her recent award-winning feature film, Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine, has been distributed on Amazon Streaming and DVD. Rebecca is also a script analyst and consultant who has read for many companies, including Sundance, ScreenCraft, Bluecat, and the International Emmys, as well as her own script consultancy, Script Authority. Rebecca blogs for Screencraft, The Script Lab, WeScreenplay and Script Magazine, exploring the film writing and production process and encouraging writers to produce their own work. Follow Rebecca’s posts on Twitter at @beckaroohoo!