Monday, June 19, 2006

Agents and The Shark Sub

I hope you had a chance to read the FindLaw article I mentioned yesterday, since I will be short-handing a bit here in order to get to the really interesting stuff. I don't get too many emails from directors, so I'm mostly going to focus on writing. If you are a director and you have questions, comments, observations or kibbitzes have at it you know where....

Agents spend years networking and gathering information about executives, filmmakers, deals, and perks. The main function of their job is to find deals and make them. That's it. If in the course of that they can set you up on a meeting with someone who may hire you at a later date, great. When you hear stories about assistants "rolling" calls with their bosses, it's because the volume of information an agent has to absorb and capitalize on is tremendous. To handle this flow, every agency has staff meetings that guide these activities and act as information sharing sessions in which a quick wit, good intel, and a good memory can make or break an agent. Knowing that you are in for potential public humiliation at least a few times a week keeps folks on their toes.

This information gathering is also one of the main reasons why studio executives generally come out of the agency world (or are "blessed" by a particular agent). Studios do not share details of their deal making with one another unless they absolutely have to, but agencies, if they've been doing their job, know what is going on at every studio in town. They also have a broader knowledge of which executives at which companies have talent relationships, good scripts, or are plainly friends of the agency.

Into this walks the baby writer....

Most agents hate breaking new talent. It's brutal work, lots of phone calls, sweet-talking, follow-ups and, mostly, rejection. In the economy of Hollywood, a new writer/director/actor with an exposed, but unsold spec, short film, or commercial reel is like buying a nickel's worth of gas -- it won't get the agent, or the agency very far. (This is where it gets tricky when you are starting out and really need representation and work. You need to get the material out there, but you have to be at least slightly discriminating because the more folks who have read it and DO NOTHING, the less value the property has in and of itself. Now, I'm not advocating that you get all precious with your material. It needs to see the light of day, go through the evil heinous coverage process and all that. I am saying that when you are out there looking for representation, keep in mind that you are working a game of diminishing returns on every spec. Unless that spec gets good coverage, good word of mouth -- which will give it legs and that long shelf life that can get a writer work for years. But we'll get into this part later.)

So, every signing is an act of faith, and an agent may have to spend time convincing his/her colleagues that you are worth the time and effort s/he will be expending on your behalf. This will be a constant battle at most places, so every script you turn in could get you "fired" by your agency if it's deemed unmarketable. As money gets tighter around town, agency "purges" happen more frequently. Writers need to keep churning out material, at least every 6-8 months, to stay in the game.

Agents do sign people they believe in, however, so even it if ends up feeling like you've got the Great Santini repping you, know that when he's fighting for you, he's fighting hard, and probably dirty.

Tomorrow I'm posting about getting an agent, the spec'ing process, and the best ways to make contact. I'll probably also post a bit about managers, since increasingly, this is the way most writers get into the game.

And finally, The Shark Sub.... Yesterday, I went out to Redondo Beach (very beautiful, perfect weather) and went on a stinky fishing/deep sea salvage boat. I freaking loved it! My producer and I went with the lead actor and the director. We had to take a zodiac out to the boat, which had me smiling like an idiot. The producer can't swim so she basically dug her nails into my leg the entire ride over while I reassured her that I could drag her back to shore in case of an emergency. Of course, the boys thought it was funny to tell her the fat, lazy, sunbathing sea lions were aggressive and might "play" with us by tipping the boat over.

Once we clambered over the side of this ugly fireplug of a boat (no ladders) we saw a giant shark covered with a net. The Shark Sub. There was also a shark-diving cage and a giant winch for lifting said items. Between that, the engine room that was the size of my bathroom, but housed an engine that filled it wall-to-wall, the dive locker, and climbing up and down the hatch ladders I was in heaven! Very cinematic. Geesh, I'm such a cheap date.... :-)


Anonymous said...

How does a director get an agent? Does a director shop around a "spec" short film the way a writer shops around a spec screenplay?

The Film Diva said...

Yes, that is exactly how directors get work. Generally to get a feature your short would have to be truly original and landscape altering. I'm going to do a post just for you by the end of the week on this topic. Thanks for commenting!

Anonymous said...

Great! I can't wait to read it.