Sunday, July 27, 2008

Agency Rejection?

Blake writes: My colleague and I wrote a treatment and pilot for a proposed sitcom. Through a friend of a friend, we were able to submit our material to an agent at a “second-tier” agency. A few weeks after submitting our materials, the agent called and was very positive about our material, and said “I’m having several of my colleagues review the material to see if they agree with my notes. We’ll talk soon.” My question is – should we be excited about this, or is this just a polite way of blowing us off? If the former, then what does “we’ll talk soon” mean (it’s been roughly two weeks since our telephone call)?

I can't speak for all agents or agencies, but from what I have seen, if agents want to pass, they'll pass. Usually the PC way to say it is "I just didn't respond to the material." It doesn't quite mean "I think it sucks"; it means "I think it sucks, but I understand that taste is subjective and there might be somebody out there who doesn't think it sucks." That way they're also covering their ass a bit (but only a bit) if it turns out to be a mega success. The answer you received inspires hope and gives you a reason to keep in contact, so I don't think agents would keep that door open if they never want to hear from you again. Unless the agent is a real newbie who is afraid to hurt your feelings, I think it's probably truthful.

As for "soon" - it could vary a lot. Keep in mind that agents are inundated with material - and stuff their current clients write or might possibly rewrite takes precedent. Maybe the agent passed it off to his or her assistant, who also has a huge reading pile. Junior agents also might be asked to read things by their superiors, so they genuinely have a lot of stuff to read. I think I'd maybe give it another week or two...but don't give up.

Anybody else have similar experiences to share?

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Steve Peterson said...

I've heard this sort of thing before an option offer came in. So, yeah, if it's a pass they'll say something else.

When they say they're getting others to read it, that means you've made it past the first hurdle. Still no guarantee that the others will agree -- I'd guess about one out of three times I heard this, they eventually passed. But those are MUCH better odds than normal. And it also means that you're doing something right.

Timing can be widely variable even now. If it's all in-house they might get back to you really fast. But if they also need to send it to high-ranking busy people, then it might take agonizingly long. I had a similar situation with a production company and it took them about two months to get back to me -- and they actually came back with an offer! So delays aren't always bad news. Also, that happened during the summer too, and summer-time seems to be slow in Hollywood, so don't get too frustrated if the process drags out.

Danny said...

If you take what the agent said at face value--that several more people are going to read it and confer with the agent--I imagine that would take a looooong time. More than two weeks, anyway.

Mike said...

Hey there! I found your blog via Matt Fee's email update... good stuff (on the Feedburner now) and I hope this gets you paid :-)

I don't know how much I can share on this post, but I've found when I'm pitching pubs that it takes FOREVER for them to get back to you, even if they're interested.

Jon and Kate said...

It all depends on the power of the agent.

If you sent it to a reasonably powerful agent -- definition: one who can sign clients without approval from above -- this is not a good sign.

If you sent it to a young agent, well, it doesn't matter if you wrote Seinfeld -- he can't sign you without his boss's approval.

I worked for awhile with a young agent at a major agency on a script. But he couldn't sign me because he just didn't have the power. A year later, a bigger agent read a different script, and signed me immediately.

Some Audio Guy said...

I'd say it's a positive response, but I'd keep those hopes in check.
If they were just blowing you off it's more likely you'd have gotten a call from a lowly assistant reading off a script (a duty I briefly had to perform at my talent agency).

Amanda's note on the time frame is spot on though. At my agency, if an agent liked a talent, it could take weeks to shop the talent around the agency, get opinions, and the entire deal could still get shot down by a senior agent or the owner, even if everyone else is feeling good about signing them.

I'd say be proud of your positive response, and if it doesn't work out, it's most likely NOT because of the material.