Tagged PAckaging

How to Talk to Agents About your Movie.

After you’ve done everything in the last post, it’s time to call their agent.  You can find the contact information for their agents on IMDbPro.  The agent is the dragon at the gate, and depending on which agency you’re contacting, company policy may well be to not talk directly with filmmakers. That said, most talent are always on the lookout for promising leads for their client, so if you’re professional and don’t mince words they’ll probably take your call.

When you look up the actor on IMDb, you’ll find the phone numbers for their people. If they have an agent listed, then that’s the person you need to talk to. If they don’t, then you can talk to most anyone at that agency about that actor.

So once you make the call, you’ll probably be connected to reception. At this point, all you have to say is {Agent’s Name}’s office please. If there’s no agent’s name listed say “I’d like to talk to someone about [Talent’s Name]”

Once they connect you, you’ll most likely talk to the agent’s assistant.  Say who you are, the name of your company, the name of the project, and who you want to make the offer to.  If you’re in a position to offer a pay or play, say that immediately. Say it in as few words as possible.  They’ll probably ask about the status of the project, Don’t lie, but don’t give them every little piece of information, and avoid information that could hurt you unless they specifically ask for it.

Since this is the first call, the best case scenario is to get a script and offer request via email. If they ask for that, you’ve done your job, get they’re email, and the assistant’s name, and send the email as quickly as you can.

If you’re really lucky and can offer a pay or play or the film is fully financed, they may connect you with the agent directly. If they do that you have to get the information out quickly and be very friendly about it. Agents are paid to get people to like them, but they’re also very busy. So a little small talk might happen but be ready to go through the deal points very quickly. Being straight business on the first call is a good strategy, if there’s a follow-up call that’s the time for small talk.

It’s really important that you don’t mince words when talking to these people. Role play it with a friend before you call, it helps a lot.  Answer their questions as succinctly as possible, these people get dozens if not hundreds of calls a day, don’t waste their time.

After the agent has your offer, it becomes a waiting game.  If you call them too often you’ll appear desterate and they’ll turn you down. If you never follow up, then they’ll keep pushing your project back and the client will never read it. Following up about a week later is generally pretty safe, and if there are any changes in the production like a new attachment or some money in, that’s a great reason to email and update the agent.

I find in following up for anything, about the most you can reasonably contact someone without being annoying is Monday, Friday, Wednesday, then repeat indefinitely.  That said, if they give you a time that they’ll get back to you, give them an extra day after when they said they would and follow up.  If they tell you no, stop calling and move on to the next name on your list.

So those are the basics of calling an agent about talent.   There’s a lot more to it, and the way you say this information has just as much to do with success as what you say.

For more information, feel free to reach out to me. I do consulting on clarity.fm and I also will make these calls for you, for a fee. As always, feel free to check me out on twitter @TheGuerrillaRep and check out my book on Amazon or Barnes and Nobles, as well as many independent bookstores nationwide!

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3 Things to Prepare Before Calling Hollywood Agents

In order to make a profitable film the traditional way, you need three things.  The first is the money to make it, the second is someone to distribute it, and the third is a recognizable star to sell it.  Without all three things, it’s very difficult to make a profitable independent film if you spend anything more than about 25,000 dollars.  Unfortunately, in order to get one of these things, you often need to have the other two in place, so the only thing you can do is bark up all three trees at once.

You’ve got to remember that these people get dozens of offers every week, and they have to sift through them quickly.  If all you have is a script by a first time director with no distribution or financing, it’s going to be a difficult sell to even get the script into the talent’s hands.  It’s not impossible, but If you have distribution or financing, the road is much easier

I’ve personally attached talent to in development projects from films like Twilight Eclipse, Babylon 5, and Disney’s Atlantis, and there’s a formula to it.  There’s a certain process on how you go about doing it that isn’t always taught in film schools, so I thought I would write a post on how to go about doing it the right way.  What follows are the three things you need to do to get ready to call agents about your script.

Step 1.  Write or Find a Good Script.

The first, and arguably most important piece in getting Talent attached to you film is a good script.  If you’re an indie filmmaker, it’s unlikely you have the money to get the actor to do the role just for the paycheck.  Luckily, every actor (and by extension every agent) is looking for good, juicy roles that can propel them and their clients to the next level.  You need to have a memorable and deep character and compelling story to capture the interest of a name actor.

The actor will need to emotionally invest in the character you’re looking for them to play if you’re going to have a shot at attaching them.  Every actor is constantly seeking his or her next big, juicy role.  Actors have a brand they need to protect and expand, and in order to do that they need good roles.  This doesn’t necessarily need to be an Oscar worthy role, but a deep and compelling character that fits with the actor’s brand, which brings us to our next point.

Step 2.  Research.

Not every actor is right for every role.  You’ve got to do your research and find your top 5 candidates you’d like to play every major role in your movie.  Think about movies they’ve worked on in recently, and look on their IMDb Pro page as to what they have in development.  In the indie film world, having an actor that’s the right fit for a role is almost as important as having a big name actor, just so long as they have a resume of recognizable work behind them.

If this is your first feature, you’ll also want to see if they’ve worked with first time directors recently.  Also look to see if they have a particular interest in the themes of your movie.  Looking up interviews they’ve done on late night talk shows can be a good insight into the sort of person they are when they’re not performing.  You can find a lot of those interviews on youtube.

Even if they’re a huge name, if they’re not really working you may be able to get them.  Most actors act because they love the craft, and if they’ve got huge projects that have paid them really well recently and some time on their hands, they might well be willing to vastly lower their rate just to play a compelling character.

Step 3: Figure out what you can afford, and what you can offer.

If you’re an indie filmmaker, more than likely you won’t be able to come close to the actors regular salary if they’re a big name.  Try not to insult them, but make sure you don’t give away the craft services money.  Even if they’re interested, you need to know when you have to walk away from the table.  Walking away might mean not having your dream cast, but it’s better than screwing your movie because you just spent all the crew’s pay on the lead actor.

One thing you can think about is what sort of perks you can offer that would be extremely low cost or even free for the production.  Does your uncle own a limousine company?  Maybe he’d transport the actors for free in exchange for a signed headshot from them.  Maybe your cousin works in a winery, a case of wine could be donated to the production and given to your actor.  Are you shooting in a ski town?  Maybe the mountain would give you some passes for the actor’s day off.  There’s lots of things you can do like this, just be creative!

Once you’ve done these three things, you’ll need to go on IMDb Pro and find the phone numbers for the agents that you’ll need to talk to.  For tips on doing that, and a sample call script, stay tuned for next week’s blog!

About Ben Yennie
Ben Yennie is one of the Founders of Producer Foundry, an Author, Producer’s Rep, Film, and Startup Consultant.  In a past life, he was the Chapter Leader for the Institute for International Film Finance.  you can follow him on twitter at @TheGuerrillaRep and find his book by clicking below.
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