NSI Features First – Ten Tips from Agents

Posted by:

We met with three literary agents during our first phase of the NSI Features First program, and enjoyed some enlightening discussions about the nature of the screenwriter/agent relationship, the producer/agent relationship, what working with an agent is like and what agents look for these days.

Here are our Top Ten Tips from those conversations:

1)   The most important thing you can do as a screenwriter is just…keep…writing. If a script isn’t working, move on. Produce work, always.

2)   The days of selling a treatment are over. These days your work has to be extremely polished before it can be shopped around. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to be very strong.

3)   Elina Levina from Harrison Artist Management recommends submitting 2 projects to your agent for your first time. “If your dream project is a $40M action or a $30M Sci-Fi…send two scripts. Start with something a bit more modest and doable for your first project”.

Elina Levina

Elina Levina

4)   Producers: If a writer has an agent, definitely make every effort to meet with your writer (this is a relationship business), but don’t negotiate with the writer. It puts everyone in a bad position, including you. Respect the writer/agent relationship and be sensitive to industry etiquette.

5)   Standard literary agency fees are 10% across the board.

6)   One of the key roles of an agent is to provide honest, objective feedback on your work. Linda Saint from The Saint Agency put it this way: “We’re the first audience that doesn’t love you”.

The Saint Agency

7)   The old rule was you had to grab your reader by page 10. But agents read A TON of scripts, and some of them have had to reduce that to page 3. They often know if they’ll continue reading after PAGE 1!

8)   Don’t try to break into the TV business by sending your agent a feature film script (and vice versa). You must have a sample script of the format (and ideally genre) you want to write.

9)   Everyone — EVERYONE — is looking for the next great story. Glen Cockburn from Meridian Artists notes “I can absolutely get an exec on the phone and make him read a script. But the script has to be great.” The main thing that keeps filmmakers exploring new projects is hope. If your script is great, it WILL get made.

Meridian Artists

10)  Pay attention to your high concept. Star Wars was “Cowboys in Space”. A recent movie was sold as “An agoraphobic in a haunted house”. That stuff sells. If your high concept isn’t easily identified, people can’t talk about it.

If you have ANY questions please drop them in the comments or get in touch on Social Media.



About the Author:

Scott Westby is a Writer, Director and Producer in Calgary's film industry. He's a 2008 graduate of SAIT's Film & VIdeo Production Program, and has years of experience in strategic marketing and content creation for traditional and new media. A Taco/Slurpee enthusiast and a hater of mushrooms.
  Related Posts


  1. Mark Greenhalgh  March 29, 2014

    Funny, I always thought your spouse was “the first audience that doesn’t love you”.
    That was a great and interesting set of tips.


Add a Comment