Monday, March 10, 2014

Rep Relationships: Outsourced Post #3

After receiving this question about rep/writer relationships:

 Is it true that managers and agents will only do something for you twice---after you give them the first spec they like and if that doesn't sell then if you are generating income for them----otherwise they won't do anything for you because they have 35 plus other clients (managers) or (70-80 for agents)... Would a new writer get lost in the shuffle at a big management company like Anonymous Content or Benderspink if they aren't hot right away...or is it better to go with a medium manager who's a hot spec seller.... How do you figure out which managers will take time to develop material and build a new client's career from ones that are strictly going for the one off quick deal?

I asked several of my writer buddies to help out by giving their perspective, since every relationship is different and I haven't had that many. You can find Part One HERE and Part Two HERE 

Writer #5 is just getting started, but after a high profile introduction his script got passed all over town:
I have both agents and managers. Fortunately, I love 'em. They're exactly the people I thought they were. They work their asses off, and they fight for me. However, the road to figuring out the question of representation was full of hiccups. It was very challenging. My situation was fairly bizarre.
I was fortunate enough to have a few options, which was wonderful and surreal and humbling. It's also taxing and stressful and terrifying. As someone who wasn't based in LA, I wasn't able to meet the majority of the reps in person. This only complicates matters. It's hard to really read someone based off a Skype session, a phone conversation, etc. I encountered a wealth of intelligent, incredibly talented, and admirable people. This only made things more difficult. A large part of the equation is figuring out who genuinely believes in you. Will this agent/manager work hard for you, not just in five minutes, but in five years? Because ideally, that's what these partnerships will be: long term ones.

A manager is your creative partner. Let me correct that - a good manager is your creative partner. As the industry has shifted, some agents have found footing in the managerial world. These people are plenty talented, but in some cases, their strong suit is not in the development of material. For me, that's the purpose of a manager. A manager is the person you're in the trenches with through every step of the creative process. They are your sounding board. They are someone with whom you're incredibly vulnerable, as you share your most embryonic ideas and early drafts.

For those lucky enough to be in a situation in which you're forced to choose between agencies or managerial firms of various sizes -- the behemoths and the smaller, boutique shops -- like everything in our business, there is no concrete rule to guide you here. So much of this comes down to your gut. You must absolutely be mindful of your agent/manager's client list, the size of their company, and how you fit into the equation. Do you want someone who is hungry? Always. Unfortunately, the hungriest are also, most often, the youngest. However, if you believe that Giant Agent/Manager X from Big Company Y, with a client list full of established writers, adores your writing and truly believes in your potential, that person may be the right rep for you.

I'd be lying if I said I haven't heard the horror stories. A talented young writer signs with a big agent/manager off the strength of his/her script, and then finds themselves marginalized over the next year as their "heat" fades. The phone rings less. The inbox isn't as full. The rep senses that you won't cash a check in the very immediate future, and backs away. Hell, I once met a rep who said something astounding. When our conversation shifted to a discussion of a young writer, who had broken in with a massive spec sale just three months earlier, the reps words were: "well, what has [the writer] done since?" With the wrong reps, Hollywood can become a business of "what have you done for me lately?". If you don't immediately sell the next spec, or land the OWA you've been chasing, the attention you receive can dwindle. It's important to note that this can happen anywhere. This type of behavior isn't restricted to the largest agencies & firms.

With the right agent/manager, you'll find someone who isn't utterly inconsolable when your spec doesn't sell, or you lose out on that big studio gig. You'll find someone who understands that the next opportunity is right around the corner, because at the end of the day, talent does win out. ( least that's what I tell myself so I can sleep at night.) You won't feel like you're in this alone, because you won't be. That person -- the sherpa that will guide you up this mountain -- may work for a behemoth of an agency/managerial firm. That person may also just as easily may work for a smaller boutique.

Make an informed decision. If you're unsure about a rep, try to find someone who has worked with them. Hollywood is an incredibly small town. Seek out a fellow writer, or an exec. Ask them about their experiences. Listen to everything, and dismiss nothing. Don't let one overly enthusiastic or aggressively negative opinion sway your decision. Another useful little trick: read their clients work, and see if it speaks to you. There's no one trick to the trade. Do your research, and then follow your instincts. After all, they've carried you this far.

 Writer #6 is a TV and film writer who's had a lot of success and steady work over the years:

ME: Do you have a manager or agent or both?

Both.  These days, much more common.  One quick advantage of having both - when you're trying to get an actor or director on your script, an agent will be offering their own clients.  A manager works with all the agencies, so has more flexibility in trying to attach talent.

ME: What is that relationship like?

I think the underlying question here is "what should my relationship with my rep be," and people are trying to judge based on what pros do.  The truth is, I've been through three managers and probably ten different agents (I've been at the same agency for a long time, but agents move/teams change), and every relationship is different.  Some want to get involved and read drafts and give notes, some want to "sell it, don't smell it."  Some are behind you and keep fighting when they believe in you, even during cold streaks - some are heat seeking missiles.

I feel a rep is better than no rep, by a long shot. If you're a new writer and you get an offer, unless the person is a fraud, go ahead and give it a shot.  You can always change reps if it's not working out.  If you have multiple offers of representation, just listen to their pitch, ask what you can expect, and choose.  If you're wrong, it's not forever.

And thus ends the outsourced part of my post. Next time, I'll give my own answer, since this question has become increasingly relevant to me of late.  Thanks to all the writers who so graciously participated in this posting series. I know your insight has been very helpful to many.


  1. Oh boy, another segment, what a treat!

    By the way, I love that all these baby kittens are getting into the biz as agents and screenwriters, haha. They're getting in younger and younger these days.

  2. Thanks Emily for putting the time in on this. I know that a lot of people have benefited from this trilogy as I saw some posts on that other forum talking about it...Like the Return of the Jedi, .this one really goes out with a bang. Many newbies just take the first rep that responds favorably to their script, so this trilogy is really terrific food for thought!

    Writer #1, you actually brought up a very good point--and really one of the main reasons behind my original question:

    "Will this agent/manager work hard for you, not just in five minutes, but in five years? Because ideally, that's what these partnerships will be: long term ones."

    That's one of the biggest fears really....there are inevitably going to be highs and lows, so your rep is the last thing you want to worry about. Figuring out who would stick by you is probably the number one question. The other really great point was about collaboration. I was always curious about how that process works. Thanks for sharing.

    Great advice, writer #2. Thanks for going the extra mile and being super nice with the advice. You not only contributed to two different segments, but also went even further by answering questions personally.

  3. My apologies for the clarity issue, Paul. The two writers who answered the question in this post are not the same two from the first post. I will edit this post to make that clearer.

  4. Nice job guys. I'm glad I stumbled onto this site. Someone should write an entire book on this subject. Books only give a chapter or a cursory treatment to the subject.

    I wonder how much writing assignments pay. I'm guessing that's probably years into a writer's career.

  5. Not necessarily. Assignments are the bread and butter of most writers' careers, so many writers land assignments as their first paid gig.

    As for pay - if it's a WGA signatory production, you get paid according to guild minimums, and as your star rises, so does your pay. All you need to know is here:

    If it's non-WGA, the pay varies quite a bit.

  6. I'm deathly afraid of writing assignments. At least with specs, it's your idea and you can choose when you're ready to show it. I'd be afraid of not being able to meet the deadline and delivering a good script. I am curious as to how managers hold the clients hand through those hoops.

  7. In case, you're curious, I found a couple of articles on money and screenwriting. It was a little surprising. I've read about these huge spec sales and even some of the internal documents that circulate in agencies, so expected the amounts to be higher. Alan Ball bought a 4 million dollar apartment!:

  8. Correction. I meant Allan Loeb... always get those names confused.


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