Friday, January 09, 2009

Book Alert - The Real, Low Down, Dirty Truth About Hollywood Agenting by Rima Greer

A little while back, I came upon an article - I think it was in a screenwriting magazine - about a little known, yet incredibly informative book that all aspiring writers should read. The Real, Low Down, Dirty Truth About Hollywood Agenting by Rima Greer is a quick 176 page read all about selling a script from an agent's point of view. Despite the speed with which you can go through this book, Greer - an agent at Above the Line Agency - packs in a ton of information and I walked away from the book feeling much more knowledgeable about this mine field of an industry than I did before I started reading it. (Read: I knew so much more about what I hadn't even bothered to consider.)

As a writer who has recently signed with a manager, you can imagine that there are about 1,000 questions floating around my mind right now. Most of them are probably pointless, but they're still there. Greer's book answered many of them, reassured me of my worries, and raised a few more questions (and also instructs unrepresented writers on how to get their agent, hold an agent, or why they aren't attracting agents). The largest section of the book - and the one I was most interested in - deals with making a sale, how it happens, and what the deal and negotiation process is like. Anyone who thinks that their script can (or should) sell literally overnight should just erase that thought from their mind right now. As Greer points out, there are about six levels your script must pass through (from your agent liking it all the way up to the top development head at a major studio getting down with it) before it will be greenlit. At each of these steps, you can (and according to Greer, likely will) meet with rejection. Following that, if you are so fortunate as to sell something, there's so much negotiating for a writer's contract and perks on-set that I had never even thought to consider: travel, per diems, accommodation, cell phone, assistant, etc. The contract process alone can take a year.

Yes, the information can be unsettling, to say the least. But it's also invaluable. Greer shows just how difficult selling a script can be and how dedicated a writer (and his/her agent or manager) must be in a way that is funny, compelling, and encouraging. Despite the frequent mentions of it being "miraculous" when a spec script sells, I wasn't discouraged by the book. I found myself feeling strengthened by all the newly gained knowledge I had, knowledge that shed light on why my "masterpiece" might make it no further than the League if I don't fight for it with all my might. In addition, I came to see much more clearly the ins and outs of the industry, what I could expect as a first time writer, and what people in Hollywood mean when they say various things. (Greer's glossary at the end of the book and various translation charts scattered throughout the pages are both hilarious and revealing insider looks at Hollywood lingo.)

Read this book if you're thinking about trying to make it as a writer or want to sell a script. While you might not get all the answers on every question you have, you'll come away with a much deeper understanding of how script sales work. (Since the book is on agenting specifically, Greer stays away from delving too deeply into what pitching means or other how-to topics that so many other books cover.) I'm sure Greer herself would advise that any writer learn as much as possible about the "biz" before trying to launch their careers. In fact, she wrote a book so they would. Drop the $15 and sit down with this next weekend. You'll be glad you did.

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