What should you include in a query letter? How should you approach a meeting with a potential manager? What makes a strong logline?
We asked all these questions and more when we spoke with producer and literary manager John Zaozirny of Bellevue Productions.
Zaozirny oversees the company’s feature slate and the management team. His clients have features set up at major studios, are staffed on popular television projects, and frequently have work featured on the Black List. Zaozirny hails from Canada and attended New York University.
In a couple of recent Twitter threads, Zaozirny wrote about the various ways he finds and signs his clients. We wanted to know more about how he approaches his work in the industry, and he was kind enough to speak to No Film School via phone. We cover some of the basics, like how managers and agents differ, what to put in a query letter, and how you should approach a logline. It’s all valuable knowledge that any aspiring screenwriter should have.
On to the advice!
What’s the difference between a manager and an agent?
When you think about getting representation, that essentially means you’re finding someone to promote and sell you and find you jobs. Agents might work somewhere like CAA or WME, while managers might be at places like Bellevue, 3 Arts, or Circle of Confusion.
Zaozirny sometimes hears that people think these two forms of representation are “the same exact thing,” but that isn’t the case.
Agents are concerned with making deals quickly. Managers work toward more long-term goals over the course of your career and are willing to develop your work. Agents cannot produce, but managers can.
“I would say the biggest difference [is] agents tend to be generally focused on selling things,” Zaozirny said. “And so, as a result, they’re looking for clients who are at a level of polish or experience that up-and-coming clients aren’t necessarily at.”
Because of this, you might find a manager before you find an agent.
Zaozirny and Bellevue are mainly focused on finding new, up-and-coming voices. They can continue to work despite the ongoing WGA-ATA packaging standoff (which prevents big agencies from repping WGA writers) because most of their writers are not yet members of the WGA.
Agents, he said, don’t usually take on clients who aren’t already “established.” Managers are more “hands-on” to help polish your work.
“There are obviously exceptions. There are no hard and fast rules about anything,” he said. “But more often than not, the manager is the person who’s willing to take the time and work with an up-and-coming writer, and help them get their material great, help them get their first job. And then the agent is more often interested once the train is moving, essentially.”
What does he want from a script?
Managers, agents, and readers are picking up dozens of scripts every week, and yours needs to stand out. But how?
For Zaozirny, the first element that hooks him is dialogue.
“Because that’s the easiest thing to look at,” he said. “And if the dialogue doesn’t grab me, if it doesn’t f