I got this question recently:
“Should I find actors whom I think would be a good match for my movie and contact their agents?”
I’m reluctant to recommend this to anyone because it’s going to be very difficult and I think you’d be better off submitting your material to agents/managers and production companies. But if you want to leave no stone unturned and give this a try then go for it because if you can get some name talent attached to your project it will greatly increase your chances of getting your script made. With name talent attached to your script you’ll find producers much more eager to read your material and in some cases name talent has their own production entities set up with deals at major studios so they can actually get production rolling on a project. But it’s no easy task getting name talent attached. Did I mention how hard this is going to be?
If you have excellent phone sales skills you might try coming up with a wish list of actors and then cold calling their agents and pitching them your script as a vehicle for their client. You can find actor’s agent information by contacting SAG (http://www.sag.org/). You can call SAG and tell them your putting together a project and ask for contact information for your list of actors, and SAG will usually supply their agent’s information.
Once you have the agent’s phone numbers you can start calling. 99% of the time (or more) you’re going to strike out and get no where. But if your phone sales skills are excellent and you can get an agent to read your material, if they think it’s a perfect fit for their client, they might pass it along. “Might” being the keyword because even if you script is excellent and would be a great fit for a specific actor you just never know what goes through an agent’s mind and they still might not pass it along.
If you’ve seen Entourage you’ll notice lots of episodes are spent with the guys reading scripts trying to find “good” material for Vinny Chase. And you’ll notice that they’re pretty open to about anything no matter where it’s from. They don’t care if it was written by some no-name writer in Arkansas. If they like it they try to push it forward (usually without much success).
But with that said, agents of top talent have material pushed at them every day so you’re going to need a hell of a pitch and some great phone skills to even get your script read. And your script is going to need to be really unique and special to stand out from the mountain of top-notch material that these agents (and their assistants) are reading every day.
One of the first things an agent is going to ask you is if you have money. If you have money in place it’s relatively easy to get talent attached even to a mediocre script. The actor will sign a “pay or play” deal and you’ll get a letter of intent where the actor basically says he’ll star in your movie for a set amount of money. The “pay or play” deal is exactly what it sounds like – you promise to pay the actor even if your production is never made. Suffice it to say that these agencies have top-notch lawyers so you’re not going to be able to bluff your way through this. If you don’t have money in place, be honest. Make your sales pitch about the story and how perfect it is for their client. What you’re hoping for is that eventually the actor will read your script and like it so much that they’ll sign a letter of intent for no money. Once you have that letter of intent you can start approaching production companies. With a letter of intent from name talent you’ll find a whole new level of interest in your material.
I’m very doubtful that sending out query letters to actor’s agents would result in much of anything. I can’t see an actor’s agent responding to a cold query letter what-so-ever. I think this job has to be done through the phone. But who knows, maybe letters would work, too, but I’ve never tried it.
This approach is going to take a lot of work and it’s not going to be easy. You’re going to need to make lots and lots and lots of phone calls, hundreds if not thousands to actually get through. And it’s all going to be in vain unless your script is excellent. So please, make sure your script is excellent before you even think about this.
But if your script really is excellent you’re probably better off going to literary agents/managers or directly to producers. They’re in the business of finding material so I think you’ll get a much better response from them, especially if your script is excellent.
So to answer the question, “should” you try and attach talent to your project? “No,” I wouldn’t recommend spending time doing this. You’re much better off calling, mailing, faxing, emailing agents/managers and production companies than trying to track down top talent. But if you can somehow get name talent attached to your project it can be a huge help.