Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Frustration

All of my sales, all of my produced films... no agent or manager was involved in any of those deals. My career is based on query letters and people passing my scripts around town because they liked them. Basically, every sale is the result of some accident - a script left somewhere gets passed around town for *3 years* and ends up at Paramount... and they *buy it*! Since firing the world’s worst agent when I came to town, I haven’t had another agent. I had a manager for a short period of time, and sold nothing. I always wonder what kind of career I’d have if I had some sort of representation. Someone *trying* to sell my scripts... and someone who could get them to the right places.

So, every few years I decide to try to find an agent or manager.

And after a short period of time I get so frustrated, my head almost explodes.

My recent frustration: I don’t really believe in referrals. I think that turns the biz into who you know rather than what you know, and results in crappy scripts written by Tom Cruise’s poolboy getting made while really great scripts from someone who doesn’t have connections becoming landfill. There was a time when it was all about the scripts, and agents were the screeners. They discovered the talent. Now, agents don’t want to discover talent, they want someone to bring it to them.

I know all kinds of people in the biz, I never ask them for a referral.

Maybe I should... but part of me thinks that a guy who continues to sell scripts that get made into films (bad films, but still films) shouldn’t need someone else to vouch for them. I can pour a sack full of DVDs with my name on them onto any agent’s desk. Surely I’m past the point where I might be a one trick pony or someone who got lucky once and sold something. This may make me sound egotistical, but I think my movies should be my reference. And I think agents and managers should just sign me.

But that doesn’t seem to be how it works.

So, I asked one person I know - on the other side of the desk - to refer me to a manager. And that manager eventually got back to me and asked me to send him a script. And when I sent it, nothing happened. So I talked to the manager, and he said “Are you still writing?” Which I tried not to take as an insult. He requested a second script. I sent a second script from my stockpile of virgin scripts that no one has ever read... well, these two aren’t virgins anymore... and I never heard from him again... I *did* send him an e-mail when I had 2 films on the Top Ten DVD Charts a couple of weeks later. I also looked up his client list, and he has two people who have each sold one script to a cable net... um, I think I got that beat. Now, maybe the two scripts *he requested* weren’t things he thought he could sell - but he picked ‘em! He looked over the list of virgin scripts and selected the two loglines he liked best. So if he didn’t like the *concepts* that was his fault. Well, that leaves the writing... I may not be Steve Zaillian, but I can put together a sentence or two... and *the people who buy scripts* like my scripts. And I’ve read many many scripts from writers represented by major agencies... that suck. Obviously, they had a referral. I can’t figure out this manager’s problem.

I’m so pissed off, I send out a stack of query letters to other agents and managers - even some big ones. I’m gonna show this guy! I’m gonna sign with a big agency! Weeks later - no responses to any of those queries. I might as well have thrown them directly into the trash, rather than mail them to an agency where an assistant threw them into the trash. No chance to show that freakin’ manager that he missed out on signing me.

Due to the small world we work in, I actually bump into this manager a couple of weeks ago, and ask what happened. He says he hadn’t read *the* script from me. I said “That’s nice, but since you read the last script, I’ve had meetings all over town on other projects” - in fact, we had bumped into each other as a result of a meeting. He says that maybe he needs to read another script in order to decide. I say, fine - I’ll send you another list of scripts, pick one. I send him the list... and haven’t heard back from him.

Now, I think I’m better off without this guy... but WTF?

This gets me frustrated. I can sell a script that gets made by Sony, but I can’t seem to get a really low level manager to sign me. Can someone explain this to me?

And this is the reason why I don’t have an agent or manager - because at this point I usually say Ef It! And stop the agent quest and set something up with a producer somewhere. Why sit on this stockpile of virgin high concept scripts when I can sell them?

Add to this - all of that chumming I did a while back has me playing phone tag with the producer. He actually called me one day to tell me that he’d call me on Tuesday. That made no sense to me - you have me on the phone *now*, why not tell me what you’re gonna tell me? Tuesday, no phone call. A week later, I call him... get his secretary (he’s in a meeting). He calls me a couple of days later - goes to voice mail. Back and forth. End result? Well, nothing that I know of... but today’s Tuesday, so maybe he’ll call. He never said *which* Tuesday - and there are 52 of them every year.

After a while, you wonder why you go to all of the trouble. Sure, I like writing. Sure, I’m writing for me. But it’s nice to have someone read this stuff sometimes. Especially the people who request it. Most of my stockpiled scripts have been read by no one... and I forget that I’ve written them! I seriously forgot that I had written one of the scripts - it’s a tree that fell in the forest and nobody heard it.

If I write a script and no one reads it, does the script really exist?

I mean, why am I even writing a new spec? No one’s gonna read it!

I’m sure that all of you know exactly what I’m feeling. You feel it. In fact, you think I’m just whining right now, because I’ve had all kinds of scripts read by all kinds of people... and nobody’s read your scripts at all. Look, I feel your pain! I know what that is like. I know that I have no room to complain... But complaining is free, so I’m going to do as much of it as I can!

Eventually I realized that this frustration was pointless. If I don’t write new specs, I have *no chance* of anything happening. If I don’t keep turning out new work, I’ll never get another meeting or sell another script. All of this is frustration is just wasting time. Time for another Dr Phil moment where I realized you gotta stop complaining and actually do something. I need to get off my ever-growing-ass and get some pages written.

So I did that.

Somebody, probably Preston Sturges, said that if his career goes to hell he can just sit down and write his way out of it. Think about that. We’re probably in the only business where you can just make up some crazy story... and that crazy story might sell! You never know what crazy story will sell and what crazy story is just a crazy story. But every crazy story may be the one. You can really write yourself out of trouble. Your career stalls - write a spec script! Sometimes Fry’s Electronics sells a ream of paper for 99 cents - you can change your entire life by writing some crazy story and printing it out... and still have 390 pieces of paper left over!

And Friday the phone rang - one of the agents I sent a query letter to would like to read a script. And even if this agency doesn’t sign me, someone will, right? I have to learn to be less frustrated and keep plugging away until someone signs me... and they will.

Good thing I didn't send out all of those virgin specs to producers...

- Bill


IMPORTANT UPDATE:
Yesterday’s Dinner: Pork Fried Rice @ CityWok.
DVD: Watched DEATH WISH again as background for a new script tip comparing DEATH SENTENCE (the sequel) to THE BRAVE ONE (the rip-off).
Pages: No pages on SLEEPER, I had to do an magazine article for MovieScope... and stand in line at the post office. But I did some notes on the next scene and hope to do an extra page a day to get this sucker finished by the end of the week.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why agents aren't signing you? Could it be they feel intimidated by all your previous script sales? I hope the situation is different here in the U.K.

That agent sounds moribund. Good luck with the new agency.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why agents aren't signing you? Could it be they feel intimidated by all your previous script sales? I hope the situation is different here in the U.K.

That agent sounds moribund. Good luck with the new agency.

rjschwarz said...

Just a guess, but I'd say that they are misreading the situation and think you've gone so long without an agent or manager because you're difficult, or that there is no way you could have the sales you have without an agent or manager so you're misleading them.

The idea that they are so lame they don't look you up in imdb is too depressing to consider.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking of concentrating on writing bumper stickers and T-shirts.
-ObiDon

Bushdoctor said...

Bill,

Great post. Had me LOL twice.
'If I write a script and no one reads it, does it exist?' Exquisitely funny. And your thought that since the agent didn't say which Tuesday, he might call ANY Tuessday--forever. Exquisitely funny.

I'm in the horrible situation of having finished my first screenplay, a noir thriller set in the Bronx, and having no clue what to write next. Staring into an abyss. So it goes.

Respect from Cambridge,

Richard McNally

wcmartell said...

I think I don't fit what agents think of as the norm - I'm not a new writer and I'm not already with some other agency - and this confuses them.

- Bill

odocoileus said...

You know what they say, "Sell the sizzle, not the steak."

I get the impression that you're too modest/honest to generate a lot of sizzle.

I've been reading the Harvey MacKay business books and trying to figure out how to apply his general marketing and networking ideas to Hollywood. I'm hoping this will giving me an edge in this brutally competitive marketplace.

Still, it's bizarre that no agent is willing to stoop down a bit to pick up what is essentially free money lying in the street.

steverino said...

A friend of mine has had 18 of his screenplays made into movies, and some have starred actors and actresses who are instantly recognizable.

Despite this success, he has no representation (that I know of).

Since he can sell his talents without an agent or manager, I think that you can continue to do so as well.

Managers, smanagers...

wcmartell said...

And that's why I quit looking - I don't really need an agent or manager. It would just be easier with one... and I'd probably make a lot more money.

But when the frustration level reaches a certain point, I wonder why I'm doing all of this work trying to find an agent when I could just sell a script.

- Bill

Spanish Prisoner said...

I guess the agents are looking for the million dollar sell. So they are overlooking the other clients.

YNot? said...

Oh man. If somebody like you can't get representation what chance does a poor shulb like me have?

**sigh**

I think I'll go put my neck in a noose now......;)

Anonymous said...

Bill I've got to give it to you straight: You're the problem. I come here because I love your honest, straight forward style. I feel your pain, riding your emotional rollercoaster every post I read.

I hope this is isn't the way you present yourself to these agents. You've really got to sell yourself! Look at what you've done in your career! For god sakes man, you've put out like 19 movies!

Now get back in there and go kick some ass....phone those guys up and tell them why they need YOU - not the other way around. Don't take no for an answer, either. I never do. And don't send any bullshit letters or e-mails. You're big enough to pick up the blower and talk to someone.

And if you need help, call me. You'll know where to find me.

Anonymous II said...

What always annoys me is all these screenwriter success stories that go something like, "OK, I moved to L.A., got an agent a week later, and spent FOUR MONTHS going on meetings before I made my first sale. But it was worth it."

Anonymous said...

I would change up your approach and let your concepts do all the talking.

EJ

Bushdoctor said...

Bill,

I hope you didn't think my comment about your "exquisitely funny" remarks in your blog post "Frustration" was a case of my laughing at your troubles. On the contrary, I was attempting to express my admiration for a sense of humor maintained in the face of adversity, a key means of survival in this world.

Respect,

R. McNally

Joshua said...

Great post, Bill . . . just great.

Joshua said...

Great post, Bill . . . just great.

wcmartell said...

You probably have a better chance to snag an agent than I do, because I am the weird thing - the pro writer who works without an agent. You are the normal thing - a new writer looking for an agent.

- Bill

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