I was so excited, after sending out dozens of queries and receiving dozens of rejections, an agency was finally interested in signing me. I was so elated that my screenwriting career was advancing I failed to notice the warning signs of the scam I was about to fall for. To protect yourself from making the same mistake read on.
In 2001 I tried my hand at writing a screenplay. To my surprise the screenplay won a screenwriting competition so I thought maybe I could make a career out screenwriting. For the next six months I composed three more screenplays and entered a few more contests, each time doing very well for a novice. At this point I decided that to market my screenplays I would need an agent, after all production companies won’t take unsolicited manuscripts. My next step was to use a list of signatory agents compiled by a writer’s market guidebook. I thought these agencies were “safe,” however, the list was not as “safe” as it should have been.
After a few nibbles from a few respectable agencies I finally got an offer for representation from Sydra Techniques. It had been on the list for WGA signatory agencies so figured they were a safe agency. They didn’t charge upfront reading or evaluation fees so I signed on. After signing on they told me I needed to pay $195 to set up my writer’s web page and to cover the administrative costs for sending out my screenplays. Being young and naive I paid the fee and my page was set up. Then every time I wanted to add a screenplay to my profile the company required that I pay another $50 to $100, which, according to them, was to cover printing costs. This should have tipped me off because they were not marketing my screenplays at all, instead they required me to do all the leg work. After a few years of absolutely no help from them I canceled my contract.
Almost Taken a Second Time
Over the last six years I have continued to write screenplays and market them myself and have generated some interest in my work. However, I still felt that I needed a good agent working for me to really make a sell. One afternoon about three weeks ago I ran across an website for Writer’s Literary Screenplay Agency and queried them. They responded the next day expressing interest in my screenplay. I sent them a copy of my screenplay (which I had already copyrighted) and within a week they told me they were interested in my screenplay but that it needed a little polishing before they could represent it. This seemed reasonable until they told me I would need to get a screenplay critique and that they could provide me with a referral. Right then a red flag went up, but I asked for their referral. When I received a reply from the referral critiquing service, which was supposed to an independent service, I noticed that the email’s “from” line was formatted exactly like the emails I had received from WL Screenplay Agency. The name of the company was also suspiciously similar. Right then I realized that I was being played.
Before I was willing to pay any money I wanted to make sure I wasn’t being taken for a fool so I conducted some research on the company. With my first keyword search for the company’s name I hit thousands of sites warning against this company. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America was a company I found credible and they had this company on their top twenty worst agencies cited for conflicts of interest and misrepresentation of their experience and skills. The more I researched the more troubled I became.
I found out that the owner of the Writer’s Literary Screenplay Agency was a part of a long list of agencies and companies owned by Robert Fletcher, the same person who operated Sydra Techniques. Right then I realized that this agency was a scam, and after researching Robert Fletcher online I found that he has been convicted of selling unregistered securities in Washington State (Case number 00-06-230). All of the other agencies that he owns have warnings out for their poor professional capabilities and ethics. These are the companies to avoid working with:
Sydra Techniques, now called ST Agency
Writers Literary Screenplay Agency
WL Children’s Agency
Writers Literary Agency and Marketing Company
New York Literary Agency
Christian Literary Agency.
Are They Breaking the Law?
Although misrepresenting what the agency can do for you, the companies are not breaking the law, per se. However, they are not going to help your career at all, and in general, all they will be able to do is take your hard earned money. As other articles on writer’s agencies suggest, don’t work with companies that target writers through online advertisements. Your best bet is to use writing competitions and direct queries to respected WGA signatory agencies to get the word out about your writing.