At long last, and after much dreaming, it looks like an L.A. trip is growing increasingly likely (and imminent). My manager called me early last week to update me on our quest to land me an agent. A few weeks back, we'd gone out to agents at three of the major agencies, and then followed that up with another three at slightly smaller, but no less prestigious, companies. As of last week, we'd still only had one tentative and one confirmed agent interested, and the one whose interest was clear followed up with my manager (a very good sign) to see what the status of the project was.
From everything I've heard, read, and experienced, this is almost as bad a time for an unknown writer to try and secure representation. Very few people seem to want to read new material by new writers and risk getting on board with something that is not a "sure bet" - especially because even "sure bets" with established talent involved are giant leaps-of-faith now. The spec market seems to be warming (possibly), in large part due to Inception and other original successes, but it's a slow climb back to high interest levels from industry players. The level of caution is still difficult to overcome, and for outsiders like me - i.e. unproduced, unsold, unknown - the hope of getting work over someone with credits is incredibly low.
All of the above means that having interest from an agent at one of the top companies is a major coup. (Aside: I'm not trying to toot my own horn here; rather, as always the purpose of the site, I'm trying to put things in perspective for our readers in similar or hoping to be in similar situations.) If you're based anywhere but L.A. as I am and you really want to try and break into the film industry, there is very little that should get in the way of you taking advantage of an opportunity like this. When my manager called and asked if it would be at all possible for me to fly out west for a day or two, I immediately said I could drop whatever and go whenever. Even if the agent and I don't click - the purpose of my trip would be to put in some face time and see whether or not we could work together - the opportunity to go out there is something that I can't pass up. I might not get another chance like this.
Beyond that, making the trip indicates something else about me as a writer that all aspiring scribes should adhere to. It means I'm willing to work with people. That might seem pretty basic (or maybe confusing), but it's essential. The same way that a rookie scribe going through script development with other people must be open to notes - both taking and actually implementing - he or she must be able to work with people at their convenience. Because I'm not in L.A., making the trip when someone needs me to helps to show my commitment to my career. If you're outside Hollywood and trying to work your way in, put some money aside in the event that you have to make the trip. You might not have the luxury of asking people to wait a month or two so you can scrape together funds for a plane ticket. Keep $500 or $600 aside, get yourself on travel deal email lists, and look up anyone you know out there who might offer to host you on their couch for a few days to a week. If someone asks you to come out there, the only real answer - if you're able to travel - should be "yes."