A while back I wrote a blogpost with a full list of screenwriting agents in the UK (with handy links to each agents website) and advice on how to approach an agent. But before you shoot off and have a read of that. Here’s some more info on agents and how to get one.
First off, and it seems ridiculously obvious (but you would be amazed by how many writers don’t do this) DO NOT SEND a script to any agent until you have had a professional script report done to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your script. I offer this service, and I’m told my script coverage and report service is the MOST in-depth, practical and professional on the market. Why do you need this service? I’ll tell you why…
UK agents and unsolicited scripts
Most agents are inundated with unsolicited scripts, some will only accept them at certain times. If you send a substandard script it will hit the bin FAST (sometimes because of rookie errors on page one!) and an agent is unlikely to take a second look at writer who has already failed at the first hurdle once – in other words, with many agents – YOU ONLY GET ONE CHANCE TO IMPRESS.
The competition is fierce – writers who are serious about getting an agent nearly always get professional feedback before they send a script off. The reason why? Professional script coverage can highlight things that writers starting out don’t see as an issue. Good, readers coverage can actually pin point these errors and help take your script up to a more professional level. So, you might not think you need coverage – but the next script on the agents pile has had coverage – and it ironed out issues that might make a difference to an agent looking for a new client. These issues can be big or small – but better they’re highlighted in a script report – than seen by an agent.
Some script readers don’t have anyone look at their script before they send it off ? Or if they do, it’s someone without professional experience? That’s a special sort of madness right there. Script writing is one of the most competitive professions in the world – yet, some rookie writers will send a script off without getting a professional opinion?
So, first off get coverage before you send a script off.
Next, how do you choose what agents to send your script off to?
The answer these days is to DO YOUR RESEARCH (this is what the World Wide Web is for). What do you want to write?
- Do you want to write for the soaps (Eastenders, Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Hollyoaks?) or serial drama like Holby City, or Casualty?
- Would you fancy writing for children’s TV or Animation?
- Do you fancy yourself to have funny bones – and want to write comedy? Sitcoms? Sketches?
- Do you have particular writers that you follow? Jimmy McGovern? Sally Wainwright? Or Jed Mercurio?
- Do you like crime shows? Detective drama?
- Do you have shows that you love? Dr Who fan? Or obsessive about the Archers?
Choose which agents to target by following writers who you like, or looking at agents who have clients heavily represented in the area you see yourself working (like drama, soaps, or kids shows). It makes sense that agents have contacts in the areas where their clients work – so you should target agents based on who they represent – if you want to write kids TV, approach agents with clients in that genre.
Most likely, your first script writing credits will be on EXISTING shows – you might have a cracking proposal and spec script for a great original show – but, you need to build up professional experience and credits first – and an agent, once he or she signs you, will want to put you to work on existing shows first. You need to build credits, experience and learn your chops as a TV writer, before you get anything original commissioned.
An agent needs to see a script – that can be sent to his or her contacts – and get you commissioned. So, the script needs to be professionally written and ready to go.
In my experience agents sometimes help clients with feedback and ideas – but agents aren’t script editors or script consultants – a good agent isn’t going to story conference a script for you or help fix a faulty third act – they’re there to get you work in the industry – the writing is up to you.
Sending the script off to a UK agent
Agents will sometimes make it clear, if they’re accepting scripts or not. Take note of this and don’t piss off agents – if they’re not looking for new clients they’ll just bounce the script back to you unopened.
But, if you’ve got some heat – like a competition win, or a BBC Writersroom placement, or even a commission, option or expression of interest – it might be worthwhile dropping the agent an email – to ask if they can help – with some HEAT on you and the script – the agent might agree to take a look.
The other thing to look for is agents assistants getting promoted to be fully fledged agents themselves– these guys are usually bright, young and experienced, and they will be looking for new clients to build their roster of clients – just keep checking the websites and make notes of agents assistants names (they could be your new bessy mate).
The main advice is – be polite, professional and when you finally do send a script to an agent – MAKE SURE it’s as good as it can be – my script coverage fees and prices are reasonable and worth every single penny, and you can take my word for it, I’m a Script Doctor.
Matthew Cooper has been a scriptwriter for hire and UK script consultant for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award-winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer.
Matthew is also a director of feature films including the rubber reality horror thriller ‘Markham’ which was released in 2020. Matthew’s second feature film as director ‘At The Mountains Of Madness’ was released in July 2021.