Monday, December 13, 2010

The Writing Week (Vol. 3) part 154 - Be a Proactive Client

The agent/manager/client relationship is an interesting one. It's something that most of us new and aspiring writers dream about getting involved in. We often believe it'll be the solution to all of our (career-building) problems. Getting an agent or manager - at first, the idea is that any representative will do - is the first major goal of breaking into the film industry. Once that's been accomplished, they should do everything and drop everything for you. This kind of thinking can be misleading, can prove frustrating, and is in many ways just wrong. That said, once you have secured representation, there are a few key things you can do to ensure a more successful writer/representative relationship.

(Full disclosure: for anyone who hasn't been keeping up with me since day one - and apologies to people who have been - I currently have both an agent and a manager. Before that, I spent about four months with a manager who did not pan out, and a good chunk of time before that when I didn't have any representation at all. Take my advice, or leave it, with a grain or a cup of salt. All of this is based on what I've been told and what I've discovered through my interactions with my various representatives.)

As emerging talent, as my agent (who I secured in October) said, I have both a very easy and a very difficult job right now. I have to keep writing. Sounds simple enough, but the stakes have changed since I was just writing for myself. The future of my relationship with my representatives hinges on my ability to deliver product (scripts) in a timely fashion. That doesn't mean first drafts, either. The bar has been raised, and I'm charged with trying to produce two industry-ready scripts per year. It's a pretty mighty task, but this first year or two is really like testing period. Sure, the goal is to sell my post-Apocalyptic spec and set me up on other projects. But I also have to prove my ability to produce quality pages in a professional window. So, part of my job is to be proactive in terms of my writing - I have to come up with marketable ideas, and then be able to follow through with the scripts. In that way, I help my representatives and myself.

Being a proactive client doesn't end in just producing pages, though. While an agent or manager is supposed to set their writers up on meetings and get their name out into the industry, a dedicated client will try to do the same. This is where your contacts come into play. If you've held an internship or worked with someone before, and they have the power to read and maybe recommend a script, try to get that connection linked up with your reps. If you have an in at a production company, even if it's not the kind of company that does the work you're writing, let your manager or agent know. Make connections that they can follow up on on your behalf. The initial stage of your career is going to be used for building your visibility and gaining you some name-recognition. Be proactive in making connections, as well, and you'll help your representatives. After all, any help they get in marketing you, really just helps you in the end.

Hollywood Blacklist 2010

The 2010 Hollywood Black List - a compilation of 290 executives' favorite scripts of the year, which will not be in theaters in 2011 - has just been released. You can peruse the entire list here, at Deadline Hollywood.

If you've been following sales at all, a lot of these titles will probably look pretty familiar to you. Most of these have sold a while ago and, consequently, already have production companies attached to them. Like most independent film festivals, which were once intended to showcase work by new and emerging talent (but have since grown to be the release venues for A-list talent's next films), the Black List is no longer home to predominantly un-sold material by new writers. (Not to assume that it was, but in earlier years, many of the titles featured on the prestigious list had yet to attract buyers.) Now, the list is predominantly scripts that simply haven't been put into production yet, or are, but will not premiere on screens in 2011. In fact, excluding the scripts that only received five votes apiece - and there are a lot of those - you can count on one hand the projects which do not currently have a production company attached to them.

For those of us trying to break in, the list can be a mixed blessing. For one, I strongly suggest taking a look at it and reading all the loglines closely, so as to familiarize yourself with what's selling these days. These were the hot scripts of 2010. This is what the market wants. You'll start to see some patterns or similarities emerge pretty quickly in this list. No surprise there. On the other hand, since many of the ideas are reimaginings of tried and true formats, and fairly vague in logline format, you might find that your idea is up on that list. It's unfortunate, but that can happen a lot. The key to winding up on the list next year is to do your own take on something, not to mimic it entirely. While what's selling today might not be selling tomorrow, chances are rival companies are going to want to jump on the bandwagon - at least for a little bit - so you might see a market opening. Take it, if you can.

Also of note, and probably pretty obvious once you think about it, is the fact that all of these scripts have representation. This makes sense, since this list is compiled from votes by executives. For the most part, the only way to reach those people is through agents and managers. Don't be discouraged if you don't have representation yet. Just keep querying and trying to get someone to read your script. Hopefully, you'll name will be on the list next year!