Monday, October 12, 2009
If you've been following my Writing Weeks, you'll know that the past few weeks, my manager and I have been working on nailing down my next project. At this point, since I've taken no meetings and am still not on the industry radar, that project will be a spec. (I've got so many ideas that I want to work on - hell, I gave my manager 10 loglines to sift through - that I'm happy to have the time to work on an original idea again.) We narrowed the idea list I sent him down to four, and from there focused on our collective top two. We still have yet to cement what my next script will be, and are developing the two finalists to see which one bites back as more urgent.
This isn't the first time I've gone through the "what's next" process with a manager. If you haven't done it yet, I hope you get the opportunity to. I can also see, however, how it might seem like an odd or unwarranted process. I mean, your manager is just that, right - your manager. He or she technically works for you. so why do you let him or her tell you what to write next? It might seem odd and possibly a misdirected approach. Keep in mind, if you're like me, you read the daily script sales and keep your ear to the ground about industry trends and news as much as you can. the plain fact of the matter, though, is that your manager knows industry trends better than you do (or should, at least; if he/she doesn't, maybe you should think about looking elsewhere). I am still an outsider. You are probably still an outsider. Your manager isn't.
When last I went through the process, all the way back in December 2008, I pitched my manager four ideas. He jumped on one big time and informed me that of the other three, one was currently too big and possibly out of my league and out-of-the-box, and the other two were similar to projects already in development. While I obviously didn't want to be deterred and chose not to believe that anything was beyond me (then it would have been a struggle, and it still might be; but one day I'll do it), I put the other two ideas behind me. It would not be worth my time to write something that's too similar to two projects already in development at major studios to get greenlit. And it wasn't worth his time, either. A good manager will know what's coming up in the industry, which trends are on the rise, which are fading out, and where you can best wiggle your way in.
Of course, you can't lose sight of the fact that your manager does technically work for you. he or she makes money when you do, in no small part because they help you make that money. their contacts become your contacts. If they're not helping you, you totally have a right to move on. But it's a two-way street. In exchange for their connections and their industry insider knowledge, you have to represent them in as best a light as possible. That means not only comporting yourself professionally, but trusting them to guide you in the best direction. for both of you.
The ideas that my manager and I were working on are all my original ideas. He had some thoughts on some them and was rightly hesitant about a few others. But I was always free to comment, to defend one that I thought he was shortchanging, or to guide him away from one that I didn't feel committed to at the moment. It's a balance, but it's also a working relationship. I'd caution any new writer from feeling like they owe their manager anything and everything, because in the end, who has to write the script? Know that you can speak up - the dialogue goes both ways.