Monday, April 06, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 66 - Fired My Manager

The phrase “Fired My Manager” seems a bit harsh to me. It is essentially what people do when they change representation, but it makes the whole action seem much more hostile than it is at times. Nonetheless, that’s basically what I did this week. I was surprised to find so little info on how to go about doing this, so hopefully this post can be of some help to any of you in a similar situation.

In order to follow along, here’s a short timeline of how things went down. For courtesy’s sake, I’m not going to name my manager or the companies he worked at. Let’s just call him Z. Z signed me when he worked at Company 1. He was excited to push my script in what he thought was a good chance of a sale. A month and a half later, he got a pass on my script, and soon found himself moving companies, to Company 2. He submitted my script to nine production companies, yet after two months, I still hadn’t heard from him. He also failed to tell me that he moved to Company 2 (I knew he left the first company, but a friend had to tell me where Z moved). I found the lack of information from him – regarding the move, and, in particular, his destination company – especially unprofessional. On top of that, Company 2’s homepage specifically says that it is not the right company for screenwriters. Big problem. When I asked Z about Company 2’s reputation, he said that it's based on his credentials, and was therefore a great reputation.

I still have a few contacts in the film industry whose opinions I value. Those contacts have agreed with me that my manager’s responsiveness and his answers to questions that I’ve asked have been less than professional. I’m relatively new to this, I won’t lie about that. However, I know enough to know what desired behavior from a manager is and what isn’t. My manager (unlike others) did not try to get me an agent, did not get me any sort of meeting, and left me without updates for months at a time. My initial excitement gave way to restlessness, disappointment, and ultimately frustration. I knew that if I reached a point of no-return with how I felt toward him, it would be overwhelmingly hard for him to climb back into my good graces. Perhaps I should have tried to clam myself. Maybe I could have given him more time to get his stuff together, but since he technically represented my career, I thought it unwise to remain with someone that I did not feel pleased or comfortable with.

So, I sent him an email, asked for an updated submission list, and after letting the weekend come and go, told him that I no longer needed representation from him. The initial email was somewhat short – I thanked him for his initial excitement and told him that it was invaluable to me as a young writer, but that I would be moving on. When he asked what had led to that decision, I decided to answer gracefully but honestly. I knew I was not obligated to offer an answer, but part of me wanted to get my frustrations off my chest; another part of me felt that, for some reason, I owed it to him. I have no hard feelings toward him now, and do not want to sound as if I'm attacking him here. This is just part of the journey we've sworn to document here at The League.

I understand that many of reading this might feel like I’ve made a huge mistake, or made mountains out of molehills. I’m well aware that a newbie writer is fortunate just to land representation. The last thing one wants to do is appear needy or to have unrealistic expectations. But there’s a saying (which I know I’ll fudge and can’t remember who to attribute it to) that goes something like: it’s better to have no manager than a bad one. If something isn’t working, regardless of how new to the business or risky a client you are, you have to know when to cut it off. At least, that’s my take on things.

Coming In on the Sly

I recently started a new job, which is amazing in itself considering all the shit that has been hitting the American flag lately. What is even more amazing is that this job is the job I wanted: It’s an assistant to the Executive Producer of this really cool kids show, “The Electric Company.” ( It’s produced at Sesame Workshop, which means I get to spend my days walking through the brightly colored, stuffed animal clad hallways of Sesame. Of course being an assistant means all of organizing someone else’s life – but my boss is so cool and zany that I am really into it!

I’m on week two of my job. Last week was nothing but fast paced and exciting. From a writing stand point, also really inspiring. I was not only asked to read a few short scripts and give my boss my notes on them, but I was allowed to sit in on a script meeting! I am trying to let everyone in the office know that I am and want to be a writer and am good at it – without being a dick about it. I have fared well so far:

One thing I learned from being in the Dramatic Writing program at NYU is that if you’re the newbie in a room full of people who have been working on a show, you have to keep your mouth shut. No one wants the new person to be cocky or loud mouthed, because everyone else in the room does know more than you do. I failed a little and said three things total during the script meeting. Interestingly, the script coordinator, who is the official note taker of the meeting, wouldn’t even write down what I said. That is, until the third time when the head writer told her to.

We were done reading this first draft, and the script supervisor was going page through page, asking who had notes. We came to page 10 and I asked a question, “I was wondering why x wasn’t in the script,” (which is a better tactic instead of saying, “this is wrong but I know how to change it”). Everyone paused and told me to go on with my thought. I did, and the head writer said, “That’s really smart. Put it in the notes!”

So wahoo! I got my note in the page of notes to be given to the writer, which he’ll use to revise. Of course, who knows if he’ll do anything with it – but being called smart by the head writer was totally a thrill! Now the next hurdle would be to be invited back to the meeting. I don’t want to seem too entitled and assume I get to go back. But I would love recognition that I have smart things to say, and that I could be of use to the show. Because I would be! But who knows…