Q. Am I limited to sending scripts to people my agent knows, or can I target anyone?
This is a conversation to have with your agent. Generally, though, agents love it when you scare up people who want to read your material. I often tell my agent, "please send such and such script to Mr. So and So, whom I just had coffee with."
You can also ask your agent to go after people that neither you nor they know, but they'll have to decide if that's a good use of their time.
Q. Are some showrunners pickier than others in terms of what agency they will accept submissions from?
Showrunners have agents they know and trust, agents they know and don't trust, and agents they don't really know. They might take submissions from lots of agents, but they're much more likely to read a script, and hire a writer, coming from an agent they trust. It's a people business.
And everybody's at a level. A bigshot showrunner is likely to have relationships with bigshot agents. A new showrunner might not have so many relationships with agents, and therefore might be open to scripts from agents he doesn't know.
This is all why enthusiasm is so important. (Value of an agent = enthusiasm x enthusiasm x clout.
) If your agent feels passionately about your material and you, she'll work harder to get your scripts to people she doesn't know well, and she'll put her reputation on the line to sell you to them. If an agent I don't know says, "This guy is amazing, I promise, read him," then I'll probably read the script anyway. But if the script isn't impressive, then I won't take that agent seriously ever again.
John Rogers recently pointed out that showbiz runs on whuffie
. Reputation is the commodity that gets you read and hired. When you're starting out, your agent lends you her reputation
hoping to reap financial dividends. Your agent's reputation consists of a portfolio of her own personality and shares in the reputations of all her clients. What you do reflects on her; what she does reflects on you. So do your best to earn your whuffie; and spend it wisely.