I got this question recently:
“I plan to contact production companies AND agents simultaneously. Is that ok? Or is it a turnoff for agents that I sent out the material?”
For people who are just starting out and trying to get some traction for their screenplays I usually recommend sending your material first to an agent/manger and then, if you haven’t gotten any traction, sending to production companies directly six or eight weeks later.
Most agents aren’t going to like the fact you’ve sent your script out to production companies. They will feel like they can’t send it to those companies again if the company has passed on the material. I’ve never found this to be a really big issue, though, because in most cases when you do a blast to production companies the “yes” responses are usually not companies where your agent has contacts. So the overlap is usually quite small.
But the reason I would wait is simple: if you can find an agent or manager who likes your work they’ll be able to submit your work for you, guide you in your own submissions, and make the query letters you do send out pack more of a punch. It’s a much more compelling query letter if you can say that you are represented by an agent or manager. It means someone else in the industry likes your work and believes in you.
Also, check out this post: How do you get an agent for your screenplay? (And why you don’t need one!). I think most new writers spend too much time trying to find an agent and not enough time trying to market their work themselves. The truth is that even if you find an agent you’re still going to have to market your work yourself if you plan on being a busy writer. Many writers feel like once they have an agent they can just sit back and wait for the work to pour in. This is not the case. Most writers aren’t working, even ones with agents, so don’t think you’ve made it just because you land an agent. Having a solid understanding of how to market your work yourself and building a nice Rolodex of producers is a great start to your career.