Monday, December 22, 2008

The Writing Week Part 51 – Got a Manager

At this time last year, my post-Apocalyptic spec was, at best, an emerging idea, a dim light in my head beginning to grow bright. By April, I had a draft of it that the League had seen and was pleased with, especially for a first draft. I took a few months away from it to gain the necessary space between writing a first draft and attacking the hell out of it with rewrites. By Summer, I was back at it, reworking scenes, cutting some while other Leaguers held a gun to my head and verbally abused me about the uselessness of said scenes. I went out of the League for the first time and received feedback from a former board member of the company I work at, a former board member who writes for television. After receiving his notes – the equivalent of a polite nod, pat on the back, and then suggestions on how to fix the damn thing – I was back at the drawing board. By mid October, I had a draft that I was pleased with, pleased enough to begin the query letter process for the first time.

If you search for query letters or query letter help on Google, you’re likely to get a lot of conflicting and often demoralizing information – I know I did. One of the most upsetting things, if you want to call it that, was frequent mention of the current ineffectiveness of query letters. According to most help guides for writing query letters, most blogs written by agents and agents’ assistants, and most tutorials and informative sites managed by producers, query letters do not work. The statistics I read led me to believe that if I sent out 100 letters, I would be lucky to hear back from 10 companies, 3 of which would request to read my material.

I sent out an even dozen letters, and I did them all via email. If querying is so useless these days – the main argument for that being that people don’t take the time to read them anymore (though what they do read was never mentioned – then I didn’t want to spend any money on them. OK, I did pay the $25 for a subscription toe, but that’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a Hollywood Representation Directory and it comes with updated script sales. Can’t beat that. So, I went about choosing my companies from DoneDeal based on those that met two “very strict” criteria: they had websites and, either on that website or on their info page on DD, had an e-query address. Twelve emails sent. I heard back from four of them, all requesting my script. That was back in October.

Two weeks ago this Thursday, I was at a brunch meeting for work. I got a call from an unknown number. Long story short, I had a 20 minute conversation with manager [redacted] of [redacted] Entertainment. [Manager] had emailed me the night before when he was only half way through my script asking if he could represent me. Since I hadn’t checked my email and answered by 11:30 the next morning, he gave me a ring. He loved the script and had some very big ideas for it. We agreed that he would send me a representation agreement and that I’d allow him to send out a feeler to someone very big in the industry (I’ll leave that person unnamed now, but he’s a big-wig). Last Wednesday, I met with [Manager] and signed on the spot with him. He outlined the timeline for pushing my script and we collectively decided on my next project, something I’d been thinking about a lot but had not yet committed to writing now.

Literally overnight I went from being unrepresented to being signed and having a big name reading my material. This script and what I’ve don with it has come a long way in under a year. The moral of the story – remember, this blog is to share our experiences for the benefit of other aspiring writers – is that two things work: persistence (which most – and hopefully all – writers know they need) and query letters (which people might tell you are useless now). As Jeffrey Nachmanoff once told me, great scripts do not just sit around in peoples’ drawers. They get discovered. Sometimes, we have to help our scripts come into the spotlight, but the bottom line is that they can. Get your material out there. Work on those query letters; have people review them for you – hey Leaguers, how long did we spend agonizing over every single word? It can work. Believe me.

The Wire and Authenticity

It’s not everyday that puts something up that I feel should be shared on the site, but this has been a day of small surprises, the most exciting being my coworker bringing her puppy to the office. Thrilling, but you know what’s more exciting than puppies? Another two discs of The Wire arriving via Netflix today. I’ve recently started watching the HBO show with my girlfriend, and from what I had heard it’s supposed to be one of the best shows ever, yadda yadda yadda. I mostly agree, because it’s a pretty damn good show, but something still sickens me about how this country has such an intense interest in criminals of all colors, shapes, and sizes. But that’s a deeper conversation that demands more energy than I’m willing to put into this post. (Shhhh, I’m at work.) So instead I’ll just provide a link to an article in which CNN writer and West Baltimore native, John Blake, provides a brief critique of the show and examines its authenticity. All you Wire junkies should check it out.