Friday, July 30, 2010

Agents vs. managers, and when to get them

Michael writes: My first script to get produced is in post production in Australia (I live in the US). When should I seek out an agent/manager?  Since this movie is being made outside the U.S., should I wait until I have a film produced in the states?  Would a manager be better than an agent?  Should I wait until the movie is released?


Congrats on the film! First, keep in mind that everyone has a different story about getting representation. (Please feel free to share yours in the comments!) Some writers have absolutely no credits, get an agent, and then sell something (or get staffed). Other people do it in the opposite order because agents often look for people who have already gotten their first job/sale/etc. Agents want people who are ready to make money. If there's a random script floating around, an agent isn't going to want to represent the writer unless people agree that he or she has a lot of talent. But if you make a sale, I think more agents will come running. You'll have "heat." I know it's frustrating, since many companies won't consider your material until you already have representation...but this is why making personal connections is so important.

Managers, in my experience, are more likely to take on clients with less experience or heat. People who have talent but need a little work. I've blogged a little about this before, in terms of why you might have better luck querying managers than querying agents. Many writers first get managers, work on their material and then get agents when they're ready to go out into the marketplace and sell stuff or get staffed. Managers can help you get an agent, or vice versa, if you find yourself in the opposite position.

Some writers only have agents, and not managers...but once you're a pro, it's rare to have just a manager and not an agent. Generally, managers help you develop your material, connect you with producers and directors, etc. Agents do the selling. At each agency, agents are assigned to cover specific studios and networks and report back on what work is available at each place. Managers usually have fewer clients, and spend more time on each client. They also sometimes produce their clients' material (agents can't). The duties of managers and agents definitely do overlap; it's not as though agents can't read your stuff and give you notes, or that managers won't know what's selling in the marketplace. Both can get you meetings. It's not that one is "better" than the other, just different.

Back to Michael: It sounds like you are ready to look for an agent, especially if you've written a few other scripts. It certainly won't hurt that you have a film being shot in Australia, but how impressed people will be by that will vary. Some agents specialize in foreign talent, so you might want to do some research and find them. You can write queries if you like, but I have blogged before about why they're mostly a waste of time. I would try to use any LA connections you have, or ask the Australian people producing your film if they have any connections here. Assuming you didn't direct the film and want to get an agent to further your career as a director, you don't really need to wait until the film is released. For writers, it's the script that will function as your sample, not the movie.

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New search box!

I finally figured out how to add a search box that searches within my blog! It's at the right - just remember to click the little radio button that says "Amanda the Aspiring Writer." Yay! Now you can see how many times I've said to stop writing query letters, or how many times I've made some kind of fangirl comment about GREEK.

Did I mention I walked into party last weekend and saw Cappie playing beer pong? Is art imitating life, or life imitating art? Ben Bennett was totally also there.



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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

When to move on from a script

Nimat writes: Last year I sent a feature spec out to three producers and all of them said basically the same thing. "Good comedic voice, very commercialized script, call me whenever you write something else and or what else have you got."

Now although I got such good feedback, no one was willing to buy or show the script around. So although I was advised by one of the producers not to change anything, I went ahead and rewrote the whole thing. Same plot, just completely different setting and added more depth to the characters. Is it okay to send it out to the same producers and let them know that I re-wrote it or just pretend as if it's my first time speaking with them in hopes that they don't remember me or my logline?


There's no official rule about this, but here's my take: these producers liked your writing in the past, so you might as well use that to your advantage. If you contact them and pretend you never spoke, you miss out on the fact that they already liked your writing, and you're taking the risk that they may never get back to you at all (since unsolicited queries are never a priority). I think when you contact them again you should mention that you spoke before, that you reworked a script they liked, etc.

But I also think that you should follow their advice to write something else. Maybe you shouldn't even contact them at all until you have a second script to show. This isn't always the case (one single feature has gotten me pretty far), but some people need to see a few scripts before taking a chance on someone. It shows your range and also that you're serious enough about writing to complete multiple scripts. These producers liked your script, but they didn't like it enough to do anything with it. In the future, unless people like this advise you to rewrite specific things about it and encourage you to re-send it, you should write a new script instead.

I've seen writers waste months or even years trying to push a script when they should just be writing new ones. You can't force people to like something, buy something or represent you. At some point, you need to move on. Maybe it won't be completely dead or useless forever, but if it's not opening doors, it's time to write new material. If you write a hit script later, maybe people will be more interested in your older stuff. But even the most successful writers have piles of scripts that never went anywhere.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

WriteGirl Seeks Mentors and Volunteers For Season 10!

HELP GIRLS WRITE THEIR WAY TO POWERFUL FUTURES!

WriteGirl is looking for mentors and volunteers for our 10th season of creative writing workshops and mentoring for teen girls. Since 2001, WriteGirl has been helping girls discover confidence, self-esteem, communication skills and the power of their own unique voice. Through mentoring, writing workshops, public readings, performances, and publications, WriteGirl teens explore poetry, fiction, journalism, screenwriting, songwriting and more.

Monthly workshops (Saturdays) are held near downtown Los Angeles. In addition, In-schools workshops happen across LA County on a weekly basis.

• For more information, visit www.writegirl.org or call 213-253-2655.

• We are now accepting applications for the Fall of 2010. You can download an application from our website under the “Join Us” tab.

• Orientation/training dates for new volunteers TBA (Sept/Oct).

WriteGirl welcomes women from diverse professional backgrounds to join our energetic community.
In addition volunteering at workshops, we need women to help with planning events, college support, book marketing, and more.

Apply your professional skills, enrich a young woman's life - and let her enrich yours.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

5 Questions with a Writers PA

Sam is a writers PA on a new network drama that will premiere in the fall. I asked him 5 questions about his gig:

1. How did you get your job/what experience did you already have?

I got in the door because the showrunner was an old friend of my parents. To be fair, I wasn't born in Hollywood and my parents don't work in the industry. I've been really surprised by how many totally coincidental connections my family and friends have, ones that I would never have known about if I didn't talk about my writing aspirations. I met with this writer back when I first moved out to LA and kept in touch with him afterwards. When his show got picked up, I sent him an email congratulating him and politely asking if there were any positions available. Next thing I knew his assistant was calling me to set up an interview.

Once I was in the door, I think what clinched it was my work experience. But it wasn't the stuff you'd expect. One of the producers I met with had spent a lot of time in New York (where I grew up and went to school) and loved that I had worked at the Shake Shack, which is kind of an institution there. It gave us a lot to talk about. They were also pretty happy to discover that I was currently working at the Apple Store. Our whole writing staff uses Macs so having someone around who could speak that language was definitely appealing. I've set up a lot of MobileMe accounts.

2. What is a typical day like?


It's hard to say with any confidence, since we haven't started shooting yet, but so far it goes something like this:

I get into the office around 8:15. I try to get there before any writers so I can put some coffee on, check the printer to make sure it's full of paper, unlock office doors, etc. Some writers show up early, but generally they arrive between 9:00 and 10:00. When the writers arrive I start organizing our lunch order, which I pick up around noon. The rest of my day is pretty amorphous, a lot of odd jobs -- post office runs, sending faxes, troubleshooting printers. If it's a Monday I'll probably do a big grocery shopping run. One thing I'm in charge of is distributing all documents that only go to the writing staff. The production staff handles all the production drafts of scripts, but if it's an outline, a concept document, or a writers' draft, that's my realm.

I don't have a set end of the day; once all of the writers are gone, I can usually head out. So far that's been about 6:00-6:30, but ask me again when we're on episode 10.

3. Have you learned anything about writing or Hollywood from your job?


I've definitely been learning a lot. Seeing the writers' room in action has been really inspiring. You can tell these people are professionals. They write fast and can quickly figure out whether an idea is worth exploring. And they think of everything. I've been able to sit in the room a couple times and every time I've had an idea, one of the writers has come up with it a few minutes later.

I've also been learning a lot of little tips and tricks, like don't write more than an act a day. Every writer's different, so ultimately you have to decide whether things like that work for you, but it's really great to spend time with people who have figured that stuff out for themselves.

4. What advice would you give someone who's trying to get a job as a writers PA?


Talk to everyone you know about your writing aspirations. If you get in touch with people in the industry and they don't have a job for you, stay in touch with them. And don't stress out if people don't get back to you right away. People on TV shows are VERY busy.

5. What's something you didn't know or that surprised you about your job?


Free lunches! Seriously, though, what surprised me the most was how much I like my job. There's this idea that assistants are always treated like dirt and that your bosses are constantly making outrageous demands...but being a Writers PA is not torture. Everyone I work with is really, really nice and the job is actually a lot of fun.


Thanks Sam!


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Saturday, July 17, 2010

KeyPa Network Night Weds, July 21

My friend Mike from KeyPA.net wrote in and asked me to tell you guys about their upcoming networking event.

Date: Wednesday, July 21
Time: 8 pm

Location:
The Casting Office Bar & Grill
3575 Cahuenga Blvd W
Universal City, CA 91608
www.castingofficebarandgrill.com

From their site:
Come join us for a night at the bar and surround yourself with likeminded people who share a common goal: Hollywood Success. Prepare yourself for drink specials, raffles and excitement just off the 101 in Universal City. You will be surrounded by people in the entertainment industry, each with their own riveting story of what it takes to make it in Hollywood.

Our goal is to help you get your foot in the door and start a career in the entertainment business, so be prepared to hand out business cards, talk about yourself, learn about others and forge connections with a large network of young entertainment professionals. Of course, we will also have experienced industry folk to help you understand what you need to do to take this town by storm (no, they have no direct jobs to offer you!).

You are encouraged to bring business cards, iPhone Bumps and any way to make an impression and connect with people even after the networking night is over. We will have a few articles on KeyPA.net about ways to capitalize on an event like this, so stay tuned.

To sign up for the free event, visit keypa.eventbrite.com

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

2010 Nickelodeon Writer's Symposium

Anam wrote in to share the following info about the 2010 Nickelodeon Writer's Symposium:


The Nickelodeon Writer’s Symposium, in partnership with the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, is a 2-hour, invitational designed to prepare applicants for submission to the Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship. Writing for television is a rewarding and creative outlet and alucrative career path that enables writers to continually develop and fine-tune their written skills.


During the 2-hour Symposium, participants will hear from Nick Executives on “How To Tell a Story” and will subsequently be required to submit to the 2011 Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship program. If you’re interested in writing for television and would like to attend the Nick Writer’s Symposium, RSVP to Anam Syed (asyed@indianfilmfestival.org) by July 26. Don't delay, there is only space for the first 60 who respond!


Sponsored by the Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship
When: Thursday, August 5, 2010 @ 10 am
Where: Nickelodeon Animation Studio


Please note: it is NOT necessary to be South Asian or a writer of children's programs to apply - all are welcome!

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

JHRTS Presents: "A Benefit for Rx Laughter" comedy show tomorrow night!

The Junior Hollywood Radio & Television Society Presents: "A Benefit for Rx Laughter"
Showcasing the best in stand-up, sketch and music-comedy!

Thursday, July 8th at 8pm
The Jon Lovitz Comedy Club

Special Performances include:

THE BIRTHDAY BOYS (Funny or Die, MTV Movie Awards, Popzilla, Internet sensation)
IAN BAGG (Conan O'Brien, Jay Leno, Craig Kilborn, Craig Ferguson)
MIKE O'CONNELL (Funny People, Jimmy Kimmel, Funny or Die Presents, Internet sensation)
ADAM RAY (According to Jim, Human Giant, Funny or Die)
ELLYN DANIELS (Funny or Die)
GOOD NEIGHBOR (UCB, Internet Sensation)

Advance Tickets Online: $12.00 only!
To purchase tickets, click here.
At Door: $20.00
(2-Drink Minimum)

Jon Lovitz Comedy Club
1000 Universal Studios Boulevard
Universal City, CA 91608
www.thejonlovitzcomedyclub.com
$3 Valet Parking in the Jurassic Parking lot with validation after 7pm at the Club.

ll net proceeds benefit Rx Laughter.


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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Advice from showrunners

I just found this great interview Alex Epstein posted from The Hollywood Reporter with Damon Lindelof (LOST), Michelle King (THE GOOD WIFE), Vince Gilligan (BREAKING BAD), Matt Nix (BURN NOTICE) and Daniel Zelman (DAMAGES) about life as a showrunner. Showrunners are writers and creators, but they also have to be big bosses and managers, making casting, editing and budget decisions - and it kind of fascinates me, because you don't always imagine creative, writerly types being good at those things.

Here was my favorite tidbit:

THR: What's your advice to TV writers hoping to make the jump to showrunner?

Damon Lindelof: "It's different for everybody. I did so much bad writing in my 20s. I got hired as a professional writer for the first time when I was 28 or 29, and I literally have thousands of pages of s***. A lot of people aren't willing to write s***, or they write two pages of s*** and then they stop. You have to plow through it."



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Thursday, July 1, 2010

How to Copyright a Script, and Idea Stealing

Stephanie writes: I wrote a MODERN FAMILY spec script and now all my friends want to read it, but I'm wary about sending it out. Is it normal to copyright a spec script? What's the process if not?

Aspiring writers generally don't really "copyright" scripts at the spec level, but you can register them with the WGA to protect yourself. The necessity of this is debatable, but some script fellowships/contests/etc actually require that scripts are registered for submission. When you write a script for a studio, the studio will copyright it.

That being said, know that ideas get stolen a lot less frequently than people think they get stolen. Other writers have their own ideas and probably don't need yours. Especially with a spec of a TV show, it's not like you created a big concept and world and characters... you only have an episodic plot to be worried about. Also, at this stage, if you're just sending to friends, you should be safe - provided you've picked good friends. :)

I suppose it's possible that ABC could air an episode of MODERN FAMILY in the future that's just like yours - but it's unlikely that that episode had anything to do with yours. If your spec idea "airs," you just have to be content that you were on the same wavelength as the writers and move on. It's more upsetting if you come up with an entire original idea and then someone else sells the same one, but people think of similar ideas all the time. It's just how the industry works, and even if there was some kind of idea theft involved, it's nearly impossible to prove it in court.


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