Be careful who you bring on to help with your screenwriting career…
March 3, 2017 § Leave a comment
Over the years, I’ve had both agents and managers and had good and bad experiences with both. I grimace at the wasted time in the past where I stayed with a rep who was basically wasting my time and not moving my career forward. When you’re fist starting out, you will be eager to have anyone show you interest and you will learn that talk is free and cheap in Hollywood. You will experience amazing reps who can’t “move you forward” and others who can but don’t. It’s the nature of the game. The main takeaway is that you must be careful who you entrust with establishing your career. The wrong people will waste your precious time and also may derail your overall plans. Keep your radar up for those who are not helping you but say they are doing great things.
You could call the following a “cautionary tale.” I once found a manager on the internet. Yes, any story that starts out like this probably ends in tragedy. Again, this was when I started out in the business and was happy for anyone to read my stuff. Well, this cautionary tale ended with an important life lesson—always trust your instincts. This manager and I played E-mail tag and I sent over a few scripts and he wanted to meet. We had breakfast (he paid) and he laid out a game plan to get me working. I liked that he was thinking of the bigger picture and wanted to hit the ground running. I was already working on stuff, but as always, needed to meet a larger circle of producers who might offer more writing assignments.
Our working relationship appeared as if it was going well until the communication began to slow on his end. Never a good sign. I was living up to the bargain on my end, working on pitches, executing his notes on my existing scripts, but I could sense that something wasn’t quite right. He had one lead on a producer that never ended up with a meeting and that was pretty much it for him. It was foreshadowing where our working relationship was going—nowhere. It fizzled out and he stopped returning calls and E-mails. It was then I learned that he was actually my neighbor who lives not more than one-hundred yards from me. He was done, baby done.
Time passed and I was at a local coffee-house, enjoying a coffee and reading the newspaper when I recognize this very same “manager.” No surprise, because I would see him around the neighborhood every once in a while but he never did recognize me, as if I wasn’t even worthy of remembering. That’s okay, my anonymity allowed me to eavesdrop on him and listen while he told the very same spiel to two young and eager looking writers. I just listened, feeling very much undercover, as he didn’t know who I was, and I felt like leaning over and warning these guys of my experience with this bottom feeder. Who knows, would they suffer the same fate? Or maybe these were the guys who he would catapult into super stardom. Bottom line, like any relationship, if it’s not working after many attempts, get out. Your time is precious too and better to spend it working and not spinning your wheels with a rep who promises the world and delivers nothing. You’ve worked too damn hard to entrust your journey to an amateur.
You quickly learn —no one truly cares like you do about your career. They read five pages and if it doesn’t happen, they’re done. The only person who really does care about your career is you because you live it and sacrifice for it every day. If you remember this fact you won’t be surprised when those people who you think have your best interests in mind—really do not. If you write something that someone believes they can sell, they will become interested. If you write something that has a lot of interest before you find representation—they will flock to it like a moth to a flame.
Sure, it’s great to have a rep, but you need someone who is not just along for the ride and has you doing most of the work. You are responsible for creating new and solid material and you should never stray from that discipline even if you don’t secure representation. My old writing partner and I used to say, “Just because there is a signature on a contract doesn’t mean someone will work that much harder.” It means if things are not working out, you both have about six months to legally end the relationship. Remember, you can never get back wasted time because you thought your rep was pushing you as a writer and your projects, but in reality you stalled and missed so many important opportunities as a result.
Keep screenwriting and keep the faith.
Copyright 2017 by Mark Sanderson on blog MY BLANK PAGE.
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“Act without expectation.” —Lao Tzu
“Work inspires inspiration. Keep working. If you succeed, keep working. If you fail, keep working. If you’re interested, keep working. If you’re bored, keep working.”—Michael Crichton
“The professional prepares mentally to absorb blows and to deliver them. His aim is to take what the day gives him. He is prepared to be prudent and prepared to be reckless, to take a beating when he has to, and to go for the throat when he can. He understands the field alters every day. His goal is not victory (success will come by itself when it wants to) but to handle himself, his insides, as sturdily as he can.”—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”
“The reason actors, artists, writers have agents is because we’ll do it for nothing. That’s a basic fact – you gotta do it.” —Morgan Freeman
“Defer no time, delays have dangerous ends.” —William Shakespeare
Remember Stephen King’s First Rule of Writers and Agents, learned by bitter personal experience: “You don’t need one until you’re making enough for someone to steal… and if you’re making that much, you’ll be able to take your pick of good agents.” ― Stephen King