Monday, March 14, 2011

What happened to my rep?

So some time ago I got repped. It was a glorious day. A day of Validation.

I don't suck! Somebody in an influential position thinks I can write! Yaaaay! And then I waited for success to roll in.

Manager was successful. If you've seen the Black List, you've heard of her clients. She read my zombie action script, liked me, started listing people she could get me in a room with. I was so excited I thought I'd pee my pants.

When we finally met in person, she said "What I like about you is that you write commercial scripts." I write things she can sell! They like it when you write things they can sell.

At the time I had a lot of garbage on my computer and this one good script. But Zombieland was coming down the pike so my script wasn't really as original as it was when I started working on it. It's also got a huge budget, so it's great for showing what I can do but not likely to sell outright.

Now, at the time, I had this good script, but not the most original idea, and now it seems like everybody and their mom has a zombie script in their collection. So I decided to write something truly original. I wrote a martial arts script that takes place during the Civil War and features a female Confederate sympathizer as the lead and includes an interracial sex scene. I was working on this script when I hooked up with Manager. I raced to get it done so I'd have something to show her.

So basically, the same day she told me how much she liked that I wrote commercial projects, I handed her the most impossible to sell project she's ever seen. NOBODY will buy this. And on top of that, it had weaknesses. In my rush to get the script to her, I didn't take the time I needed to perfect what was a VERY difficult script to pull off. Maybe if it had been genius it wouldn't have mattered that it was so risky, but it wasn't genius.

She got me a meeting that went well and landed me an unpaid project. At the time I was just glad to be in with a legitimate production company, so I didn't mind not getting paid. But the project fizzled and died over time.

I wrote another script, this time trying to make up for the unsellable scripts I had given her. I wrote a chase movie that never really worked. I sent it to her even though it wasn't ready. I was just in such a hurry to get some attention before my opportunity passed.

Mind you, Manager is at this point working for one of the major management firms in the city, managing careers of writers who make her money. And here I am, floundering, trying to impress her with subpar work. Because no matter how low I am on the totem pole, had I given her a brilliant script, she would have dropped everything and thrown me in front of every producer in town.

I realized at this point that I had jumped into the fray before I was ready. I realized that I'd kind of blown it, because now she had no motivation for reading my next script. I decided it was best to back off and start over with one brilliant project.

So I did. I told Manager that I appreciated everything, which I did, but I needed to work on my scripts for a while and seek out new representation when I'm ready.

That's why I've spent the last six months writing and rewriting and rewriting the project I've almost finished. I will not quit working on it until it's absolutely perfect. In the meantime, I made new friends and found myself in a position to hand my script to plenty of successful agents and managers. So in a few weeks when I have a perfect draft of Nice Girls Don't Kill, I will proudly pass it around, knowing that I now have the patience and skill to do what it takes to build a career.

So this is what I learned from that experience:
1) Do not do projects for free. Ever.
2) Do not send out a script you know isn't as good as it could possibly be.
3) Just having a manager is not enough. You have to make sure the projects you hand them are projects they can sell.
4) If you have a manager who doesn't call you, you do not have a manager.


  1. Oh, you know... that guy.7:06 PM

    I've been repped at a Big Four when I was in film school. At that point, I was like "Yes, I made it."

    Found out that wasn't the case.

    Took me two more years to land a big manager. I was like "Yes, I made it." But then we disagreed on how we viewed my career. To her, I was this prestige Alan Ball type who was gonna win Academy Awards. I wanted to write Michael Bay movies.

    Now I'm repped by really big time managers... and I have never worked so hard. But I'm the least important person in their roster that if I dropped dead, they wouldn't notice.

    The one thing I learned is that I have to keep pushing myself harder than anyone else would push me. And, um, I'm really a MUCH MUCH better writer than the guy who posted pages on DD. Haha.

  2. that guy again... procrastinating7:11 PM

    btw, my scripts are like weirdly nostradamus-esque.

    You know how my TV pilot opens with this great flooding? A week after you read it, Japan gets hit.

    Before that, I wrote a time travel script where I named my protagonist Shawn Bailey. The day I type FADE OUT, Disney names Sean Bailey as their President.

    And before that script, I updated my Simpsons spec with a Michael Jackson theme. And that week, Michael Jackson dies.

    And before that script, I was on page 100 of first draft of Ponzi when Madoff thing happens.

  3. Post the opening few pages of your new spec? The title sounds interesting.

  4. That Guy, somehow you must be able to harness this power for good.

    Jabberwocky, sure. That gives me an easy post for tomorrow. BTW, Jabberwocky is my very favorite poem ever!

  5. Where did you get your name if not the poem?

  6. isn't jabberwocky a dance crew?

    btw, i decided i need my own blog to procrastinate.

    plus got too lazy to write a username each time.

  7. Anonymous12:22 AM

    Huh. I'm really glad you shared this experience. I've gotten repped in the last few months and it's still a relationship I'm trying to figure out how to navigate. Alex Epstein says it's better to have any rep rather than no rep at all (at least there's someone who can send your stuff around.) I get why you did it, it makes sense. I'm just not sure if I would have done the same thing.

  8. Lewis Carroll poem, ain't it?

  9. And a movie by Monty Python

  10. Galumph on over to wikisource to read/hear the wonderful Jabberwocky.

    That's some learning curve, Emily, glad it's behind you, thank you for sharing.

  11. JaberWocky is a Terry Gilliam movie, that's all I knew of it. I actually thought it was a mythical monster from Australia, but I'm not so sure after looking at wiki.

  12. Anonymous, I decided that I'm actually better off alone seeking out a new rep than clinging to a relationship that wasn't working.

    And Jabberwocky comes from the poem. Any other reference to the word is a reference to the poem. Best. Poem. Ever.

  13. Anonymous7:55 AM

    Hey Emily, your blog is so real and very realistic. Thanks for sharing you wisdom. You got good advice to give, thank you , thank you:




    "So this is what I learned from that experience:
    1) Do not do projects for free. Ever.
    2) Do not send out a script you know isn't as good as it could possibly be.
    3) Just having a manager is not enough. You have to make sure the projects you hand them are projects they can sell.
    4) If you have a manager who doesn't call you, you do not have a manager. "


  14. Anonymous9:45 AM

    Just to be clear, I'm not dissing you. I get it. If your rep isn't returning your calls, do you really have an rep at all? Probs not.

    But having any legit rep does open a few doors. I just figured you'd keep on the manager until you found someone better and then make the switch. (But I guess that tactic comes with its own risks.)

  15. Oh I didn't think you were insulting me at all. I talked to several people who'd been around in the rep cycle and decided I'd be happier if I had a clean break, worked on my script, then started again. If I didn't have any connection to reps I might feel differently, but now I already have at least 3 or 4 people who can get my scripts into the right hands, so I'm not worried about finding a new rep. I've been more worried about creating the right screenplay to hand those reps.

  16. Sounds like you gained some valuable experience Emily. Thank you for sharing

    Good luck and keep writing.


  17. Anonymous11:46 AM

    Do not do projects for free. Ever.

    This is true in a lot of ways -- you don't want to do free work for companies that have money available to pay you. And you don't want to do free work in lieu of an actual step. But every spec, by definition, is written for free. And until you sell something or land an open writing assignment, all your work is unpaid.

    When you take meetings with production companies and they pitch you ideas, you need to treat them the same way you would treat an idea that floats into your own head: Is it something you're passionate about? Is it something you could write the shit out of? Is it marketable? And sure, you may want to consider whether or not the producer is legit. But at the end of the day it's your script. And make no mistake about it -- it's a spec. So write it like you would any spec. The upside being that you already have a producer attached who is invested in the project and might be able to bring some "heat" your way. The downside is no different than any other spec -- it may not sell, but hopefully it will help get you noticed.

    It sounds like you had a bad experience with the work you did for your producers and that sucks. It happens a lot. But most production companies don't have discretionary funds so this is the route many young writers have to go. And often times, really good things can come out of this process. But you have to come into the project with the right frame of mind -- I'm writing a spec with benefits.

  18. I see where you're coming from, but unless I see a very, very good reason to change my mind, I'm not writing anything for free unless I thought of it myself. If I'm going to do something for no pay, it might as well be my own project.

  19. Emily is right on this one - don't work for free, unless you can work out a way that you own the work at the end.

    I've done the free scriptwork thing. When nothing happens... nothing happens. And you don't own it. And since no one put any money into it, they don't care if nothing happens with it. Why should they? They didn't lose anything...

  20. Anonymous1:17 PM

    Sure. And that's a totally understandable choice. You've got to do what feels right to you. And in the long run, a kick-ass script with no ties is more valuable than a kick-ass script in the hands of the wrong production company. But my point is that if a company brings something to the table aside from money -- an awesome idea, attached elements, passion, connections, a track record of getting movies made -- it's worth examining before you turn them down cold because there's no cash up front.

    Everyone has different experiences and there are a million ways to navigate the business. But I do believe you should always keep your options open.

    BTW, thanks for sharing all your experiences. You have a great blog and your honesty is something I don't encounter much in Hollywood. You're a brave soul. And as you can see from my anonymous postings, I am a huge pussy. Keep it up.

  21. I think a key I've also learned as a just-recently-repped-for-the-first-time writer... that sometimes having a newer manager who either was an assistant to agent/manager or worked in development is a good thing. They're hungry. They're eager to help develop your projects with you. And they've got contacts. I could have gone for a Big Four manager but they would just throw me onto their client list for vanity sake. With newer managers they don't make money until you do, so they work pretty hard for you. It's also key to be with someone who SHARES your vision. Be patient, it's worth having someone who believes in your work, versus someone who ONLY wants the big paycheck. If they believe in what you do, the money will come. If they don't, it won't, simple as that.

  22. Les Kanekuni3:19 PM

    Emily very wise advice. I do think it's better to have one really good script than three mediocre ones. If it takes time to make one script good, then you have to take the time. It took me three years to write my NIcholl quarterfinals script and I'm rewriting it for another shot this year.

  23. That might be what I do, JNow. I got a little lost in a big firm. I may opt for a boutique this time around. It depends on what kind of interest I get.

    And Les, I agree. Good luck with the Nicholl!

  24. Anonymous8:09 AM

    1) Do not do projects for free. Ever.
    2) Do not send out a script you know isn't as good as it could possibly be.
    3) Just having a manager is not enough. You have to make sure the projects you hand them are projects they can sell.
    4) If you have a manager who doesn't call you, you do not have a manager.

    1. Tell that to Dante Harper--whos career could not have been colder before ALL YOU NEED IS KILL/3 million dollars.
    2. agree--we will only read it once. and dont try the "ok, you didnt like that one, but what about these other 4?" Our thinking is, why wouldnt you ALWAYS lead w/ your best foot if you have 4 "better" scripts. Lifes too short--too many other scripts we need to read.
    3. VERY important. Tired of film school kids thinking just having an agent/manager is the golden ticket. We are a crucible...a multiplier...we can only make sure your trees dont fall in the forrest w/o being heard and find you a network.
    4. Sorta. Busy people...and its a reciprocal relationship. If you want to talk, doesnt hurt to call or email and engage ;)


Please leave a name, even if it's a fake name. And try not to be an asshole.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.