Contacting literary managers for screenwriters can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know when to do it.
There are seasons within the film industry — especially television. Some seasons are very busy, some less so, and some coincide with holidays where we take time off from work mode. Knowing these seasons can help you strategically and mindfully connect with professionals, specifically agents and managers for new representation.
I had the chance to sit down with Daniel Seco, a Talent Manager and Partner at Empirical Evidence, to get some clarity about the work cycles for reps. Seco has also weighed in on writing great query letters and has a great history of mentoring emerging writers.
While he did emphasize that he will always consider a carefully curated and specific query, he did offer insight into the calendar year of writers and their teams. With streaming services offering short seasons of television year-round (as opposed to the pre-streaming model where 23 episode seasons would play from September through May), this calendar should serve as a guideline rather than a hard-and-fast rule.
Q1: January – March
The film industry jumps back into work after the winter holidays very quickly. As an actor, I’ve had auditions on January 3rd, which means writers and filmmakers were prepping before that. Still, people tend to be busy “circling back” to projects and communications put on hold before the holidays while also readying for the first big event of the year: the Sundance Film Festival, which usually takes place at the end of January.
After Sundance and through March/April, television staffing season is more concentrated. This means that networks are shooting the pilots they bought in the previous year or possibly buying some final pilots for this new year and determining which ones will “go” — that is, which ones will get a season one pick-up. When a series gets the green light, the showrunners begin hiring their writers room (including their staff writers, which is where the term “staffing season” comes from). Agents and Managers are busy at this time getting their TV writers already on their roster into one of those rooms, which secures income for the rest of the year.
According to Seco:
“For features, post-Sundance/pre-Memorial Day is a good window to reach out to reps.” Specifically, we spoke on March 10 and he said, “The ideal time is probably right now.”
Read More: What Can I Do to Impress a Showrunner?
Q2: April – June & Q3: July – September
The television “up front” season — also just called “upfronts” — is when TV networks and streamers present their next year of programming to advertisers and agencies. This is a great time to be reading the trades, watching upfronts if you can, or listening to industry podcasts that cover upfronts (The Hollywood Reporter’s TV’s Top 5 podcast is a great resource for television news) and learning about the business.
Once upfronts and staffing are done, there’s a period Seco referred to as “the lulls of summer,” essentially Memorial Day through Independence Day. This is a good time to reach out to agents and managers, who may be looking for fresh talent for their rosters.
Q4: October – December
Post-Labor Day through the middle of October is a good time to reach out to agents and managers for features. Television reps may be working on selling clients’ pilot scripts. After Halloween, holidays and the end of the year are strong on peoples’ minds. Reps might begin cleaning out their rosters for a fresh start in January. Awards season buzzing has begun. Holiday parties and commitments are in full swing. And generally, people want to be able to shut off their brains for a bit and enjoy the holidays.
“It’s hard to shut down and disconnect completely because I love what I do, but I think it’s healthy for everyone to take some time for mindfulness during the holidays.”
It’s simply respectful to allow people to do that.
There are a lot of popular memes nowadays depicting people sending “let’s circle back in the new year” messages before Thanksgiving. While the industry certainly doesn’t rest that early (I’ve filmed a Super Bowl commercial on December 20th), people are longing for it, so be smart about reaching out — especially with a cold email.
Days of the Week
Everyone has their own work tempo — and more and more people are also embracing the four-day work week — but there is a lot of advice out there that suggests you wait to send query letters until Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday. On Monday, people are getting caught up from the weekend. On Friday, people are ready to shut down for the weekend.
Send your messages in the middle of the week to be received fresh.
There’s also debate about sending emails outside of business hours. While some people insist that there’s no requirement to read an email as soon as it’s sent, there are others who receive email notifications and therefore get frustrated with messages received during closing time. Knowing this, it’s best to play it safe and send professional communications during business hours.
Seco discussed his spectrum of finding clients, which included his ideal means of connecting with writers — by way of introduction through current clients, agents, or industry professionals — or scouting respectable contests or hosting sites like Coverfly for loglines that catch his attention. Sending a cold query is still a very difficult way to make a connection, so make sure your work is undeniable and your letter is specific and professional.
This is also a great reason to continue to network laterally — your peers are great resources for introducing you to reps. Remember, high tides lift all ships! You and your colleagues will carry each other throughout your careers, so look out for each other and stay close.
Shannon Corbeil is a writer, actor, and U.S. Air Force veteran in Los Angeles with recent appearances on SEAL Team and The Rookie. She was also a 2023 DGE TV Writing Program Finalist, and her screenplays have placed in various contests. You can read more about her on her website or come play on Instagram and Twitter!