Here we highlight some amazing screenwriting career wisdom from Daniela Gonzalez — Literary Manager at Circle of Confusion — through the lens of TSL Summit. Watch the full interview for free on the weekend of Sept. 22 and 23 only.
We’ve pulled some of her best nuggets of advice and perspective and elaborate on how those points can be best applied to your own screenwriting journey.
1. It’s All About Conviction
Daniela stated that to help secure a manager you need to go in with conviction. It’s not about how many screenplays you’ve written and how many trends those screenplays hit. It’s about quality over quantity. And it’s about the conviction you have regarding your approach to your career.
What’s your agenda? What types of stories do you want to tell? Why do you want to tell those stories?
Managers need to know more about you if you want them to be able to sell you and your work to others. If you don’t know what you want to write and why you want to write it, you’re not giving managers much to work with.
2. What Is the Role of a Manager?
Each manager is different, but what Daniela broke down is pretty universal to most of the great managers out there.
Managers are multi-purpose. They work as development executives and read a lot of screenplays. They decide what ideas and scripts are worth pursuing now and what ideas and scripts should be put on the backburner. They work as salespeople, using lunches, meetings, coffees, and calls to sell producers, studios, and production companies on their clients. They try their hardest to find the best pairings of their roster to those industry insiders.
They go about this by sending out lots of samples — spec scripts. And since it’s about quality versus quantity, it’s usually one sample per client. This is why it is so important for screenwriters to find that one script that best represents their writing and the types of stories they want to tell.
And finally, managers work as a sounding board. Daniela equates it to being an unlicensed therapist. Her clients come to her for advice on if they should take an offered job, what screenplays they should write, why they should write those screenplays, etc.
3. How Do Managers Find Clients?
Every manager has their own methods. Daniela loves the hunt. She loves to seek out voices online through blogs, viral videos, online magazines, etc.
But beyond that, she loves referrals because the scripts and the writers have already been somewhat vetted.
The industry prides itself on referrals through networking and contacts. That’s the essential part of getting your work out there. You never know who knows who and how a referral could help you.
4. Trust Is a Fundamental Part of the Manager/Client Relationship
The key aspect of a great manager/client relationship is trust.
When you speak with a manager for the first time, and especially when you sign with them, you need to be sure to let them know about the projects you’ve worked on, the people you’ve worked with, what scripts you’ve written, and what script you plan to write.
Anything regarding your screenwriting career should be communicated to your manager. If you’re talking to other people in the industry and trying to make moves outside of your manager/client relationship, it’s going to do neither of you any good.
5. Don’t Be Guarded
Daniela says that trust is about the manager being able to trust that the client can represent their manager and the company well on their end. If you’re overly guarded, for whatever reason, and can’t talk about your projects and your writing with enthusiasm and excitement, it’s going to be difficult to make anything happen.
General meetings are all about first impressions. If someone is overly guarded during those meetings, it’s difficult for that client to be taken seriously.
You have to find a way to be personable.
6. Come Into Meetings and Calls Prepared
Daniela was adamant that when you first meet with potential managers, you have to be prepared to talk about you, your projects, your ten-year plan, what movies you love, what movies you hate, etc. She needs to see visceral reactions to get an idea of who you are as a writer and what you want to write in this industry.
Beyond that, she says that writers need to be good readers. You need to know what’s going on the industry, what filmmakers are relevant in today’s cinemas, and what is going on in the trades.
7. Working on Client Projects From Scratch
Managers don’t just work with existing scripts. They develop projects from scratch with their clients. If a client comes to Daniela with eight ideas, she’ll advise which ones are worthwhile based on the current market and what she knows about the goings on of the industry. And if those eight ideas aren’t working, then it’s time to conjure another eight options to explore.
8. Be Aware of the Zeitgeist
She stated that many writers believe they have the one project that will define the genre — only to inform them that many such projects are in development already.
We live in a zeitgeist where everyone is consuming the same content, everyone is reading the same books, and everyone is experiencing the same collective cultures. It’s only natural that other writers are writing similar projects to your own.
In the end, it’s about choosing which projects are worthwhile and finding out why your version is the best version to go with.
9. Be Prepared for the Weird Questions
Daniela offers an amazing tip for screenwriters that are preparing for pitches — being prepared for the weird questions. When you’re developing your pitches that you’ll take to meetings, try to conjure the strangest questions that they could ask, and be ready for them. Or imagine the most difficult questions and be prepared for them as well.
10. Agents and Managers
Daniela explains that agents and managers working with the same client are symbiotic beings that exist for the sole reason of protecting the client.
Agents and their agencies have a wealth of knowledge that Daniela is impressed by. They know everything going on in the industry. Thus, managers work with agents to use that information to get what their clients need and want.
Managers can’t handle the deals and the money side of things. That’s primarily the responsibility of the agent. Instead, managers are there from the beginning — before the scripts, before the scripts have been taken out, and before any deals are offered. As mentioned before, they develop not just the writer, but the projects the writer writes as well.
11. Find the Best Fit
If you’re a horror screenwriter and you try to align yourself with a manager that represents comedy writers, it’s probably not going to work out.
As a screenwriter, you have to approach managers that work with writers like you. It all comes down to research. Use IMDbPro to see who their clients are. Read the trades and see what type of managers are selling projects like yours.
It doesn’t help you to just blanket-market yourself to all of the big agencies and management companies. And even when you find those “perfect” managers in that respect, the next part is finding the best fit for you as far as the personality of the manager and what they are — and are not — willing to do for you.
Daniela is a manager who has half of a roster of clients that live outside of Los Angeles in different states and different companies. If you can’t or don’t want to move to Los Angeles, a manager like her would be perfect for you. However, if you have a manager that clearly states that you need to be in Los Angeles to write, they may not be the perfect fit for you.
12. Be Fearless
It’s terrifying to share your work, but you have to share it with anyone and everyone because you never know who they know. If you don’t get your screenplays out there for people to read, you’ll never be discovered.
Daniela says that fearlessness is such an important trait to have as a screenwriter. You have to be ready, willing, and able to show your work. You need to do your best to network and find people that are willing to read your work.
The TSL Summit features masterclasses, deep-dive interviews and lectures from Academy Award-winning screenwriters, TV showrunners, producers, managers, agents, studio executives and leading educators — all in one place. You can learn directly from the industry’s best about the craft and business of screenwriting and filmmaking.
Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures. Make sure to read his growing archive of posts at ScreenCraft for more inspiration.
He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries Blackout, starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner. Follow Ken on Twitter @KenMovies