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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dumping Your Manager

A Rouge Waver recently sent us a great question, which our own PJ McIlvaine  handily answered here:


“If you currently have representation (manager/agent) and decide the relationship isn't working out, what is the correct way to proceed to find new representation? Do you say goodbye to Manager 1 before saying hello to Manager 2 or is it like a job where you should find a new one before losing the old one?

In the same vein, if you currently have only one form of representation, what is the protocol about going after an agent (if you currently have a manager) or going after a manager (if you currently have an agent). Are you under obligation to inform the current person of you interest in said new person/relationship, or are these two different worlds?

- "Sleepless in Seattle”


Hey, Sleepless, thanks for a great question. I’ve been in this situation, and it’s a toughie. It’s been said that it’s better to have no agent than a bad one. I don’t know of any handbook called “101 Ways to Leave a Bad Manager/Agent”, or that there’s even a totally correct or wrong way, but let me tell you what I did. (I’m prefacing my answer based on the belief that you’ve tried to work things out with your current manager/agent, it hasn’t, you’ve given it a lot of thought, and you’ve come to the reluctant but necessary decision that for the sake of your career, your goals and your peace of mind that you have to make the move).

There’s nothing wrong or untoward with making discreet inquiries to a potential new manager/agent while you’re with the old one. If a potential rep questions why you’re leaving your current one, you simply trot out the universally accepted “creative differences” answer. There’s no reason to blab that the real reason you’re quitting the son of a bitch is that he blew your last deal because he was too busy lounging in the Caribbean to make a lousy phone call. Be professional at all times. It’s a small community, agents and managers work and play together, and you sure as heck don’t want to get the reputation of being a “difficult client”.

I wouldn’t say sayonara to Manager 1 until you gauge where you stand in the food chain. You may think that you’re a prime catch, but others may differ, and that realization alone may cause you to rethink your exit strategy. Plus, it makes no sense to dump one rep for another who may not be any more connected or higher up on the ladder than the one you’re leaving. In other words, sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don’t.

I’d tell Manager 1 once a firm offer was in place. And however you handle it, if at all possible, leave the old rep on good terms. Most reps accept the fact that clients will leave for any variety of reasons, its standard operating procedure. However, you never know when you might need that connection again. No need to burn bridges unnecessarily.

If you’re with an agent and you want to add a manager to the team, ideally, you should be confident enough in his expertise to ask him for a recommendation on who they think might be a good fit and the same goes for a manager regarding an agent. Why would you pay a commission to separate reps and not have them know about each other? That’s what a team is, all working on the same side for a common goal or good, which is to advance your career. You don’t want them working against each other or at cross-purposes.

Actually, I’d be more concerned if you brought the subject up and the agent/manager balked and refused to give you a referral or a recommendation. Nowadays, it’s very common that most established screenwriters have both, so unless they had a really good take on why you shouldn’t go that route, I’d consider that a red flag. I once had a manager who, whenever I mentioned the idea of getting an agent, got all hot and bothered, so I didn’t pursue it. As it turned out, I stayed with her way too long, but that’s another story.

Wavers - keep those questions and observations coming. It gives us something to do here at the Rouge Wave. Because honestly it can get boring rehashing the same subjects over and over - we are here to serve YOU so BRING IT.

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