Screenwriting Agents: The Top 23 Hollywood Literary Agencies

Much of what is commonly known about screenwriting agents has “truthiness” but isn’t true.

Misconceptions persist because the agency business is somewhat secretive.

There are lots of very powerful agents and agencies that keep a low profile on purpose.

Screenwriting Agents – Overview

When you watch Entourage, The Player, Ray Donovan, Californication, or Swimming With Sharks – you see the intelligence, high-stakes strategic thinking, aggressive mindset, sense of humor, and more.

But you miss the personal elements, factual backstory, and real-world situations that are crucial to understanding agents and persuading them to represent you.

That’s why I’ve gathered videos, interviews, and profiles, and created an overview of the landscape.

Hopefully this will help you sound like a professional when the topic of agents comes up and perform well in meetings with these influential decision-makers.

If you’re ready to get an agent, check out my course How To Get An Agent.

Screenwriters how to get an agent

Two Categories Of Screenwriting Agents

Screenwriting agents and their agencies tend to fall into two main categories:

  • The “Big Four” Agencies
  • Boutique Agencies

The Big Four (and we will talk more about them in a moment), are WME, CAA, UTA, and ICMP.

Everything that’s not these four I’m calling a “boutique.”

Now, some may dispute this categorization scheme because there are a number of what I’m calling “boutiques” that are more like a mid-sized agency such as Gersh, Innovative, and Paradigm.

Sometimes, these three agencies are referred to as part of “The Big Seven.”

As you become more of a Hollywood insider, these distinctions become important.

For now, what I really want you to understand is this:

Most of the deals in Hollywood are handled by The Big Four.

You need to be very familiar with these companies.

The Big Four Hollywood Literary Agencies

1. William Morris Endeavor (WME)

Founded in 1898 as a vaudeville booking service, the William Morris Agency is Hollywood’s longest running talent and literary agency. There are 273 agents at WME.

In 2009, William Morris merged with Endeavor Talent Agency to form William Morris Endeavor. In 2012, Silver Lake Partners acquired a 31 percent stake in WME and that has been subsequently upped to 51 percent.

William Morris Endeavor became Hollywood’s biggest agency when it acquired sports and media talent agency IMG for $2.4 billion in 2014, so now the combined WME-IMG comprises more than 5000 employees.

Hollywood literary agent Rob Carlson“Working at a talent agency is like working for the CIA. You get to know what’s going on at the networks, at the studios, you have access to all this talent, on-screen and off. At Sony or Disney or NBC they only know about themselves. At an agency you know everything about everybody — even in the mailroom.”

Rob Carlson, William Morris Endeavor agent

Here’s an interview with Patrick Whitesell, co-CEO of WME:

To see inside WME’s office, here are four videos that were made for staff meetings at WME. They are parodies and are snarky, but you get to see inside WME, the screenwriting agents, the assistants, the conference rooms, the screening room, and more.




Here you can find profiles of agents Rob CarlsonRich Cook, Simon FaberBlake FronstinTheresa KangDoug Lucterhand, and WME Story Editor Christopher Lockhart.

2. Creative Artists Agency (CAA)

Founded in 1975, by five agents from the William Morris Agency, CAA was the largest talent and sports agency in the world for many years and remains a powerhouse. In 2010, CAA created a strategic partnership with global private equity firm TPG Capital.

TPG initially had a 35% stake in the agency and in 2014, but raised that to a majority 53% stake by paying $225 million in equity. This was the first time that CAA was not owned by its operating principals.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, CAA had $647 million in revenue and $121 million in profits in 2014CAA is estimated to be valued at more than $1 billion. There are currently 267 agents at CAA.

While many people regard CAA as having the best movie star client list, this April, 12 agents moved to UTA. The New York Times explained, “The exodus of agents from CAA was seen as pointing toward a change in internal culture…” Creative Artists loyalists, however, have ardently argued that nothing has changed at the agency — that it remains as effective and focused as ever.”

Maha Dahkil CAA Hollywood Literary Agent“We’re always communicating; we’re always switched on. I feel this umbilical cord to what I do, whether on the phone or e-mail, and it starts really early in the morning. A lot of us have overseas clients — I definitely do — and it just continues.

But because things are harder now, I find that our interactions are more personal and meaningful because it’s not just transactional. It’s not like: ‘Here’s your deal; here’s the good news.’ It’s really tougher going into the bad news with people.”

Maha Dahkil, Creative Artists Agency agent

John Campisi talks about how he became a literary agent at CAA in this video:

Here are profiles of agents Maha DahkilJohn Garvey, Risa GertnerLaura LewisSusie FoxMichael Kives, Sonja RosenfeldBeth Swofford, and Tom Young.

3. United Talent Agency (UTA)

Founded in 1991 as a merger between the Bauer-Benedek Agency and Leading Artists Agency, UTA now has 167 agents and more than 350 employees in Beverly Hills and New York.

In 2014, UTA acquired N. S. Bienstock (the leading broadcast and news agency) to make UTA the world’s largest agency in the broadcast news space.

CEO and Co-Founding Partner talks about the future of content in this video:

Here are profiles of agents Steve CohenAllan Haldeman, Blair KohanJenny Maryasis, and Brian Nossokoff and Jeremy Zimmer.

4. International Creative Management Partners (ICMP)

Founded in 1975 with the merger of Creative Management Associates and International Famous Agency. In 2005, Rizvi Travers bought controlling interest in ICM for $75 million. In 2006, ICM acquired the Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann Agency.

ICM completed a management buyout and formed a partnership with the new name ICM Partners in 2012. There are 145 agents at ICM Partners.

In the following interview, you can listen to Ted Chervin and Greg Lipstone describe how they restructured ICM, their plans and what they are focused when shaping the agency going forward.

Here are profiles of various screenwriting agents Chris SilbermanMark GordonMichael KaganJessica Lacy and Scott Mantell.

Boutique Agencies

These agencies typically have one to five literary agents.

I have included boutique agencies and companies that I have personally worked with or have had client’s scripts included on the Black List in the last three years.

The following list is made in alphabetical order:

1. Abrams Artists Agency

2. Agency for the Performing Arts (APA)

APA has 80 agents including Brian DowMike BerkowitzMarc KamlerChris Ridenhour, and Ryan Saul

3. The Alpern Group

4. Brant Rose Agency

5. Callamaro Literary Agency

Interview with Lisa Callamaro

6.  Don Buchwald & Associates

7.  The Dravis Agency

8. Featured Artists Agency

9. The Gersh Agency (Gersh)

Gersh has 75 agents including Sean Barclay, Nick CollinsSteve GershRandi GoldsteinBob Holman, and Sarah Self.

10. Innovative Artists (Innovative)

Innovative has 70 agents including Michael Pio and Jim Stein.

11. Jim Preminger Agency

12.  Kaplan Stahler Agency

13. Maggie Roiphe Agency

14. Original Artists

15. Preferred Artists

Interview with: Paul Weitzman

16. Paradigm (Paradigm)

Paradigm has 160 agents including David BoxerbaumJason CunninghamDebbee KleinChristopher LicataManny NunezBen Weiss, and Ida Ziniti.

17. Rothman Brecher Kim Agency

18. RWSG Agency

19. Verve (Verve)

Verve has 13 agents including Bryan BesserPamela GoldsteinAbram Nalibotsky, and Adam Weinstein.

In addition, here is a complete list of the WGA Signatory Agencies.

At a bare minimum, if you are considering signing with one of the screenwriting agents at a Hollywood literary agency, it should be on the WGA List.

Interviews With Screenwriting Agents

Check out these three group interview videos which feature many top agents from the major Hollywood literary agencies.

This interview features Maha Dahkil (Motion Picture Agent, CAA), Leslie Siebert (Managing Partner, Gersh), Debbee Klein (Co-head Literary Department, Paradigm), Lorrie Bartlett (Partner, ICM), Sharon Jackson (Partner WME), and Blair Kohan (Motion Picture Agent, UTA).

Agents and executives included in the Hollywood Reporter‘s “Next Gen” List share the biggest misconceptions, pet peeves, and bad advice they’ve been given.

Books About Screenwriting Agents

If you’d like to dive in and learn more about the mindset of screenwriting agents, how they work, and also how they have built their careers, here are three great resources:

In addition, I have created a detailed course How To Get An Agent that covers what agents look for in new clients, how to get their attention in the right way and what to say when you meet with prospective agents.

As there is constant flux in the agency business, if an agent or agency information should be updated, please email me.

Please note: Agents at the Hollywood literary agencies in this post do not accept unsolicited submissions.

Do You Know the #1 Screenwriting Obstacle that is Holding You Back?

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Almost Every Screenwriter Struggles with 1 of 3 Common Obstacles. Take the Quiz to Find Out Yours.


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Discussion About Screenwriting Agents: The Top 23 Hollywood Literary Agencies

  1. Oladele Medaiyese

    I am a screenwriter from Nigeria, how will I get my works into the hand of a screenwriting agents in Hollywood for review and consideration?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Hi Oladele,

      The main way that agents find new clients is by referral from someone they already know. This can be more challenging to do from outside the United States, but it can be done. I have created a new course How To Get An Agent which covers how to do identify the right agents for you and how to approach them in the right way.

  2. shadi

    hi,
    i need your help, i am a writter from iran and i have 1 novel and 1 screenplay. please help me find out a great anacy for talk.

  3. Sam

    Hi Stephanie — this is an incredibly useful page, and I am considering purchasing your course. However, none of the 20 agencies listed here accept unsolicited manuscripts. I’m wondering what I would do with the information in your course if, at the end of the day, I still have nobody to send a script to. Is there a simple answer to this that I’m missing? Thanks, Sam.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Good question, Sam. The simple answer is that primary way that agents find new clients is by referral, not by unsolicited submissions. The course covers how agencies actually find new clients and the steps to take so you are introduced to agents in the right way and at the right time.

  4. Jerry Guarino

    Stephanie,

    Thanks, I have followed your blogs and articles for a few years now. I may finally have a script that requires an agent to represent me. This article has been very helpful.

    Jerry

  5. Jose Menendez

    The furthest I’ve gotten so far was when I submitted my screenplay to Amazon Films, on Thursday I got their evaluation. It says my screenplay does not meet the needs of their Development Slate at this time. Today I asked one of their representatives via live chat what exactly was Amazon’s needs at the time, no one had any but said if I make significant changes I can resubmit it. If if i do, I ‘m sure it will lose it’s originality and dynamic character interplay. Do you happen to have a list of screenplay agents and what type of screenplays they are looking for?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Good that you have completed your script and are paying attention to feedback, Jose. The needs of specific screenplay agents are changing all the time and not published publicly. In my opinion, it is much harder to write an outstanding script than it is to get an agent. Keep writing and keep submitting!

  6. Vernita

    Looking for a literary agent

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Getting an agent can take work and knowing who to approach and how to approach them in the right way. I have a new course called How To Get An Agent that answers these questions and more.

  7. Kenn Woods

    I am a published author of a Civil War non-fiction book, “The Soldier’s Words.” I would like to have it made into a documentary by the history channel. Can anyone assist me with this? Thanks, Kenn

  8. Tom Ball

    I have many scripts for your perusal, if that is OK?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      That’s terrific that you have lots of completed scripts. Personally, I’m not looking for projects to produce.

  9. Troy

    Stephanie,
    Do you find agents to be a little lazy? Is the fear of thinking outside the box such a hurdle that security to reply on the three Rs (remakes, ripoffs and really bad sequels) the key to remaining employed in LA? I just read that there is to be a remake of the John Candy movie “The Great Outdoors” with Kevin Hart? Really? What next? The Godfather? Jaws? Kramer vs Kramer? The Maltese Falcon?
    Who are these agents that find the new “untold” stories from new writers? I’d like to be one of their finds.

    • thomas n tunstall

      With Hollywood, who knows? One comment with regard to your analysis above – The Maltese Falcon was the third try at bringing the story to the screen. Maybe the trick to remakes is picking a previous flop with the hopes of turning it into a classic.

  10. P.Rangarajan B.Sc.,

    I am more then 18 yr exp in Indian Film Industry. I Hold on any type of Script, please support me.

  11. Tom Ball

    A little bit above this form, you say agents in this post do not accept unsolicited submissions. Do you mean the top 17 or just the paragraph about the post?

  12. Lucius Strong Abraxax

    I need a new representative for my movie, someone free?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      All agents work on commission, meaning that you don’t pay them upfront. Rather, they take a percentage of any deals they make for you.

  13. Frank

    Looking for a agent

  14. Darlene Floyd

    I would like to submit my new screenplay entitled OBSESSED WITH MADEA to Tyler Perry Studios.

  15. Harley Rich

    I have a script at Truth Entertainment. One of the co-founders, Tony, said it’s one of the best scripts he has ever read. Done right it would get a nomination. Problem is Joe Newcome-cofounder and CEO told me he has 4 projects on his slate. 2 or more years until they can do anything. (too early for an option). I’ve spoke to Risa Shapiro at UTA. Her client, Steve R McQueen wants to play the lead. I spoke to him at a car show they have for his grandfather every year in Chino. Risa won’t get involved until it’s fully funded. My entertainment attorney called someone he knows at ICM Partners and she hasn’t called him back yet. It’s been a month now. I feel like I’m at the finish line but can’t cross. HELP

    • Stephanie Palmer

      This is a very common experience, Harley. Often getting projects produced feel like mountain climbing- you see the top of the mountain and it looks so close, but it takes a lot longer and a lot more effort than expected to reach the top. Keep at it.

  16. D. L. Walton

    I have a TV series idea. It is focused on a Class Reunion…a 25 year reunion.

    The lead would be just a middle class man in the upper Midwest. He’s left his past behind for the last 25 years…he doesn’t really remember his days in school or who his real friends were, not really anyway. He’s been diagnosed with a rare form of blood disease. Their may, or may not be a cure. He feels so alone!

    One day he gets an invitation in the mail for his high school 25-year reunion. It’s not something he’s even remotely interested in attending and throws the invitation on the dining room table. And continues to be in his dark fog, wishing he had someone to share his misery with…yet not really.

    A couple of days later he gets a call…”Hello…Brian? Yes, who is this? It’s Debbie! Debbie, Debbie…Debbie who? Debbie Green, we were classmates at Battle Creek Creek Central! Yeah, Yeah, I remember (searching his memory for what she might have looked like)…what can I do for you? Sara Gilkey and I just heard your health. I’m so sorry! Anyway, we’ve arranged to have a raffle to raise money for your medical bills at the upcoming class reunion and wanted to make sure you’re planning to attend. Shit,he thought, that’s the last thing I want to do, now where the hell is that invitation?”

    At the reunion, he was surprised to see that he remembered more faces, not necessarily names, than he thought. He spent the evening reacquainted and actually rather enjoyed himself. Towards the end of the evening the Master of Ceremonies announced the raffle would begin. It went on for almost an hour. At the end, almost $200,000 was raised! How can that be, he thought.

    Debbie handed him a listing of every who contributed, with their contact information. At that moment he decided visit every person and personally thank them.

    So, each episode would then feature a different classmate he goes to visit.
    – Drug dealer
    – CIA Agent
    – High level officer stationed in Afghanistan
    – A black market arms dealer
    – A NY playwright
    – A Chicago cop
    – A senator

    On and on…

  17. Jaime Olmos

    Very informational!

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Thanks!