Friday, September 14, 2012

What a relationship with a manager should look like

I got a little busy catching up on TV shows this week. You know how that goes. Everything else just stops until you've caught up to the present episode.

Anyway, I've noticed that on the Done Deal Pro forums, a lot of people show up to ask about what a relationship with a manager should look like. Many of these people have been "signed" and don't know whether or not their relationship is normal.

So what does a normal relationship with a manager look like?

First of all, a disclaimer. I've worked with two managers. One, a couple of years ago before I was totally ready and when that person was in a transitional period, so it wasn't the ideal pairing. The second, my current manager, who is wonderful and gets me and has made me a happy girl. Both great managers with good reputations, but only one that was right for me.

I am speaking partly about my own experiences, but also from stories I've heard other writers tell.

Here's what a manager does:

He has a plan of attack for your work.
He listens to your ideas and tells you which ones he can work with.
He reads your scripts and gives you solid notes.
He gets your name out there as successfully as possible.
He sets up meetings.
He keeps you posted about goings on.
He keeps reminding you about how awesome you are.
When you're ready, he helps you find an agent.

Some managers do a lot more, but they shouldn't be doing less. And of course, there are those who also produce.

And some managers, for whatever reason, sign clients and then forget about them.

You see it all the time in threads on DDP: People asking if it's normal that they haven't talked to their manager in three months. Once, a guy said he hadn't talked to her in almost a year. Honey, if you haven't talked to your manager in almost a year, she ain't your manager.

You should be talking to your manager about two to four times a month at least. They should constantly be working on the next step in your career.

Meanwhile, you should be working, too. Their job is to get your reputation started. Your job is to give them something with which to work, and to show up for meetings prepared and perky.

If your manager gives you no notes, sets up no meetings, never calls you, or seems to have forgotten you exist, it's time to move on. A manager who never calls you is not your manager.

The thing is, most people in this town do not want to reject you. They'd rather you slowly fade away so they never have to face the confrontation. So if your manager stops responding to your emails, or emails back a sentence about how busy they are to every request for an update, or they don't seem particularly interested in your latest project, or they haven't set you up for a meeting since you met.... you don't have a manager.

And if that's the case, you have to throw out the security blanket and go it alone. I know, it's really nice to tell people you're repped. It makes you feel safe, like you've gotten over some kind of hurdle. But if you're sticking with someone who does nothing for you, you're doing your career more harm than good, because the whole time you're with them, the people who would actually push your career forward can't find you.

Only you can decide whether or not your relationship is working out. Your manager has to be someone you trust, someone you're not afraid to ask when you have a question or call if you need an update. A good managerial relationship is really important, especially now that selling a script has become so much more of a challenge. These are the people who navigate the waters for you.

And one more thing: If you go to an Industry party and mention your manager's name and nobody knows who he is, he's not worth having.


  1. Anonymous4:42 PM

    Thanks for this; I'm gearing up to seek representation and this is exactly the kind of information I need to keep me focused.

  2. If that's your kitten in the photo, he's very cute.

    Emily, just out of curiosity, what happens once you're signed in terms moving forward? Do you just need one good script?...or do they expect you to follow up with another right away? Are you working with producers to do a free spec...or do they have you go out and try to do assignments? Most of the info out there is about how to get in...but not a lot explains where to go once you get a rep and become a working writer, not just a repped non-workng writer.

    I singed with a manager a long time ago but didn't have the experience you did...

  3. Good luck, countmystars!

    Paul, that sounds like a good topic for my next post.

  4. Cool. I just wonder about the expectations that the writer has to fulfill from the producer, manager, etc. Especially the turnaround time for turning in a draft. When you write a spec, you have the luxury of waiting till you hone even if you finish fast, it's still when you feel it's ready. But, even if you work on a spec with a producer based on an idea both of you agree on, there might still be some time expectations and the pressure of delivering a high quality draft. Is it 3 months? 2 months? Also, I hated getting locked in on a storyline once you turn in a beat sheet.


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