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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Five Magic Words

What else have you got? Those are the five words that come just after - I loved your script.

The Wave-inatrix has toyed with moving into management many times; it's something I do for a select group of clients on an informal basis anyway. The jury is out but in even considering such a thing, I have an insight into how a manager might choose to represent a client. I'm not going to earn a living unless my client does. No sale, no option, no assignment work for you - no rent, no car payment, no vacation for me. So in deciding whether to rep a writer, a manager is looking at not only whether this writer has a salable script now but whether this writer has other salable material on deck as well. Does the writer have legs, in other words? Or is this a one trick pony? Because if a writer appears to be a one trick pony, then that writer is probably not worth the time to manage and develop his or her career. Managers essentially work on commission. So if a writer has ONE great script, that's terrific but it's going to take hours and weeks and potentially months to get that script sold - IF the manager can make that sale happen and there's still an element of luck to that. Connections, great writing, great writers, material that is appealing to buyers - a lot of stars have to align.

So to make it work, a manager needs several clients and those clients need to be producing a fair amount of salable work. See how that math works? So a manager thinking over whether to represent you is going to need to not only be impressed by your initial script, but they need to know: what else have you got? Is this good script a one off or is your writing consistently good? Are you writing salable concepts? How much time do you put into your writing? How easy are you to work with? Will this writer call frantically everyday for updates? Is this writer going to do a JD Salinger and just disappear? Why should a manager put his or her heart, soul and the majority of their work week into getting your work out there if a payday is not imminent?

So - what else have you got? If you're shopping a romantic comedy, do you have another one written I can also read? Do you have two others that you are outlining? Do you have a list of ideas you are developing? Why would you make a good investment for a manager?

It's not personal - it's a time-to-income ratio we're talking about. Put yourself in the shoes of a rep; it's a very speculative business, right? Your manager doesn't earn until you earn. And shopping you and your material is front loaded and time consuming. So either you've got a script that is so GREAT that I feel very confident I can sell it and then we can buy some time while you get it together with some new ideas, or you have a selection of scripts, and I can see that you're in it for the long haul with consistent, salable talent.

So look at your arsenal and ask yourself - would YOU work for free for YOU hoping that maybe just maybe you will earn money? What would you see need to see on the table to make you feel pretty good about investing in you as a writer? A great personality isn't enough. Great ideas that you spout out but have not written down or tested is not enough. Some script that you're on page five of is not enough.

Personally - I would not rep a writer, or even consider it unless that writer had at least two scripts that I LOVED, another one he or she was working on right now and several really great ideas in various stages of development. I cannot speak for all managers - I'm not a manager myself, to be clear, but in even considering the idea, I can see the huge risk involved. Who can afford to work for free without a pretty strong indication of money down the line?

So - what else have you got?

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PJ McIlvaine said...

Excellent post, as usual. But there are some other words I'd like to add after your "five magic words"...

"I loved your script...but I can't do a thing with it."

Meaning...they don't have the right connections. Or while your writing emotionally engaged them, it's not the right script for the current marketplace. Or a thousand other crazy little things.

Managers are just like us. They have needs and wants. And sometimes the two conflict.

I had a manager recently tell me that he liked my comedy...but that he and his partner wanted a "bigger" script. And nothing else I pitched him seemed to intrique him.

Sometimes you just have to know when to fold em'...

I didn't say it, some Guy in Burbank did said...

We all have our favorite five word phrase.

I'm sorta partial to, "I loved your's a check for $_________."

Now that's the five words I love to hear or a variation there of.

Julie Gray said...

I'm right there with ya, Guy in Burbank :)

Christian M. Howell said...

The beauty of those words is that sometimes they come after it wasn't our thing but we loved your voice.

I haven't gotten that from a manager but have from prodcos.

Any writer whose serious should have more than enough ideas and outlines. I have a few more to finish before I really start searching for reps, but I could, at this point, give ANY studio a 40+ script "idea package" at varying levels of completion of story.

If my day job would calm down, I could stop studying and really have no life, I'd be finished several more at this point.

I guess that's the good and bad of having a well-paying job you love(I'm above the reported WGA average).

PJ McIlvaine said...

Well, late this afternoon, I heard my own magic words from a manager: you're a good writer, I want to rep you and I'll send you contracts in the next few days.


Anonymous said...

Those five words have haunted me since I got laid off two months ago! I've been in a fury to produce and prove that I can do something right that it's making me crazy.

Drinking helps, though... :)


Judith said...

Hi Julie,
I found your site through Billy Mernit's blog.Great post,it was really helpful.I've just finished the professional program at UCLA and was wondering whether to focus on the two scripts I have,or to keep going with the advanced program.I'll have time to re-write one up to the point where I can show people,then I guess its better to show that I have a lot of good ideas that I'm still working on.Thanks :)

Julie Gray said...

Hey Judith - welcome to the Rouge Wave! We have lots of fun here, so I hope you stick around :)