Not long after film school, I worked as an agent's assistant to learn first-hand about the business side of The Industry. In addition to learning some rather exotic slang (I wish it didn't, but donkey-punch comes too vividly to mind), I got an inside perspective of what it takes to get a project from idea to execution. If you've never shot a film or put on a play or prosecuted a small, multi-national war, you might be surprised by the amount of effort, equipment, time and personnel it takes to get any script made.
While many movies and TV shows crack wise that every tepid body in L.A. has written and is pushing a screenplay, that's not exactly an exaggeration. So many scripts go through agencies each day, week, and month, it is nearly impossible to get an agent to read anything. In addition to being reluctant to opening themselves up to accusations of theft and litigation, agents already wade through sometimes hundreds of pages a night just to keep up with the work-flow. Even agents that don't consider anything that isn't "repped" or "solicited" could build cities from the paper and brass brads they go through in a year. (In environmental fairness, some agents and agencies have switched to Kindles or iPads or other digital-viewers to spare the trees.)
And that's just the regular times of year.
"Motion Picture/Lit" agents deal with longer scripts and get slammed during awards times, key film-festivals, etc., while TV agents handle theoretically shorter scripts but have "pilot season," which is more complicated and exhausting than ever considering the wealth of independent cable channels now producing and airing original programming. What was once a mad-dash scramble into Upfronts has become an almost rolling (read endless) entry and production schedule. As a TV viewer, I'm thrilled there's almost always something new coming out, but as an "unrepped" writer, I'm scrambling because it seems there's no down-time when you can catch an agent at a lull. Even agents with a personal interest in your career may take months or more to get to that script they promised they're "excited to read RIGHT AWAY!"
This is one of the reasons announcing, "I'm a writer" is often met with condolences. Standard advice from writers to writers is to focus on collecting rejections. Amassing rejections focuses your energy on finding new places to submit and building the connections it takes to get someone, anyone, to read your work. When that happens (when, not if--that's another staple), the writing must stand on its own or the opportunity is lost, sometimes forever.
Audiences must be won.
Last year, I polished an original pilot and wrote a second, got professional praise for a sit-com spec (the exact words were, "It's funny." -- I was understandably ecstatic), an agent who seems to like me says my script is on the to-read pile, and I re-submitted my novel.
I'm happy to report two rejections so far for 2012. Happy because typing the word makes it so, right? The power of words? So, two rejections so far. And counting!