I don’t recommend you make a best buddy of your agent. Then again, I don’t not recommend you get bestie close with your chosen rep. That’s your call and, I suppose, theirs too.
But there’s this added bonus, should you choose to pal-up with your agent. Friends tend to share. Be it about relationships, inner-office politics or annoying visiting in-laws. And for a writer who spends miles of anti-social hours with his imagination and blinking cursor, a few minutes a day listening to one’s friend-forever-slash-agent share the petty, behind-the-curtain backstabbing that takes place within a major talent agency can be some wonderful rib-sticking entertainment.
“You won’t believe what I’ve been dealing with the last three hours,” blurted my agent who, for this post, would be delighted to be called Fletcher in lieu of his actual real name.
“All ears,” I said, fingers still on the keys and my phone cradled between my shoulder and ear. No, I wasn’t about to transcribe the private business he was sure to disclose. I just sometimes have a difficult time transitioning from the fiction on the page to the reality at the other end of the line.
“It’s him again,” said Fletcher.
“Your favorite client?” I wisely guessed.
“I told you before, that he’s not my client,” stressed Fletcher. “He’s my boss’s problem and I only take care of him.”
That part was true. Over time, I’d heard all about how this particular male movie star was so hard to handle that the head of the big time firm would employ a rotation system of capable agents to personally handle the testy thesp. Each turn was a year. When the twelve months were up and if the agent was still standing and speaking in coherent sentences, an extra-special bonus check would land on the rep’s desk.
As a matter of record, I’d never forgotten the movie star was not Fletcher’s actual signed client. I just couldn’t turn down any chance to tweak him when he had a complaint. Which pretty much was a weekly event.
“What’d he do now?” I prompted.
“You can’t tell anybody what I’m about to tell you.”
“I’m like a priest,” I assured him. “Only somehow I have to pay you ten percent for hearing your confession.”
“Ha ha,” said Fletcher, mocking me.
Fletcher went on to share how he had spent his last three hours, laying out a shocking tale of sexual harassment bordering on assault. The night before, the movie star had invited an attractive young intern to his house under the auspices of her delivering a script on which she’d been asked to give notes. Upon her arrival, the intern discovered that Mister Box Office had cooked up a gourmet meal to share and, before they could get down to working on the poor writer’s screenplay, the star suggested they go for a tumble in his eight-hundred thread count sheets. The intern, only twenty years old, kept kindly turning the actor down until he had her pinned against a corridor wall. According to the intern, he threatened her future employment in showbiz if she didn’t comply with his sexual advance. With that, she wrenched herself away and escaped the confines of his property. But instead of driving home under a watershed of tears, she pointed her compact car toward Los Angeles International Airport, set her parking brake in a short term lot, and used her emergency credit card to purchase a one-way ticket home.
The story would usually have ended at the movie star’s driveway were the intern not related to a rather famous litigator. By the next A.M., the renowned lawyer had personally spoken to every woman who worked at the movie star’s production company, recorded their own horror-worthy harassment tales, and encouraged all eight of them to leave their desks and the premises immediately.
“All eight?” I asked.
“They were out of the office and off the lot by nine-thirty,” said Fletcher. “(The movie star’s producing partner) showed up at the office at ten and the entire building was a ghost town.”
“So now what?” I asked.
“So nothing. It’s over.”
“It’s not even one o’clock,” I said.
“The studio paid,” said Fletcher. “Each and every one of them. Paid off and out of the business.”
“Can’t say,” he said. “But think of how much (he’s) worth to the studio. How much he’s made for them and you can pretty much do the math.”
“Had to be millions.”
“And nobody will ever know.”
I might’ve passed the story along to the War Department as a way of sharing my disgust at another Hollywood cover up. But I soon filed it under the rock from which it crawled and moved on with my own life and career.
Speaking of my career, a phone call landed in my ear a few months later. It was Fletcher with a gig offer.
“Quick production rewrite,” he said. “Big, easy money.”
“Okay,” I said, not so much agreeing but queuing him up to reveal the offer.
As it turned out, that same sexually possessed movie star had requested the studio hire me for a four-week rewrite on his next film, a sequel to one of his biggest hits.
“Requested me?” I asked.
“Well,” said Fletcher. “It was my idea. I told him about you. He told the studio and what (the movie star) wants (the movie star) gets.”
“No shit,” I joked.
“I know, I know,” he said. “But it’s easy dough. Might as well go into a pal’s bank account.”
“Yeah. But after all you’ve told me about this guy?”
I recalled for myself the stories I’d heard about this guy. One crazy, narcissistic act after the next. The over-the-top movie star demands. The suspected wife beating.
“I don’t think so,” I ended up saying.
“You’d really be helping me out,” said Fletcher.
“So you want me to do this as a favor to you?”
“He’s a nightmare. And it’s just a four-week rewrite. Please. You’d be working for the studio. Not him.”
A reminder. Fletcher was not only my agent. I considered him my friend. And he was practically begging for my help.
“I’ll think about it,” I said.
“Gotta know by this afternoon.”
“You will,” I said, fully intending to decide within the hour. I was still leaning toward saying no. But as promised, I would take the time to weigh if I should do this intrepid duty for my friend.
As it turned out, I wouldn’t have to wait that long. Fletcher was on the phone to me before lunch.
“Okay,” he said. “Things have sort of changed.”
“I know I said you’d be working for the studio and not for (the movie star).”
“Now he wants you to pack a bag and work out of his horse ranch as his guest.”
The ranch in question was the movie star’s weekend retreat. Fletcher had passed along stories of him and other agents being summoned there for summits. By all accounts it sounded like Shangri-La lorded over by this insufferable tyrant.
“So now you want me to leave my family,” I clarified, “In order to move in and work with this psycho for a month.”
There was a crackling over the phone as Fletcher paused.
“You’re right,” he said. “That’s too much of an ask.”
“Christ. I only have two more months of this douchebag then he’s somebody else’s problem.”
“So now you gotta find some other client willing to move in with the nut job?”
“Screw that. I’m gonna put it on the studio. If anybody knows the kinda problem he is, it’s them.”
And that was the end of that. At least I assumed it was. I couldn’t say for sure how exactly Fletcher solved his movie star problem.
Soon after came a summons from the Los Angeles Municipal Court, informing that yours truly was required to serve some jury duty. During that week or so I befriended a high-powered employment attorney who worked for that aforementioned studio. We began spending our lunch breaks together at the same little Italian joint. At some point I asked her precisely what function she served as the studio’s employment counsel.
“Any issues concerning employment,” she answered. “But what takes up most of my time are sexual harassment claims.”
“Deal with a lot of them?” I asked.
“All day long,” she said. “Seventy-five percent are bullshit. It’s sad, really. As a woman, you know? To see so much fraud when it’s such a serious subject.”
This is when I chose to drop the name of that sex-assaulting movie star. Her eyebrows arched. But she proved to be good at her job, and kept a pretty convincing poker face.
“What about him?” she asked.
“An agent of mine used to be on the account,” I said. “He shared lots of stories. There was one really bad morning involving your studio, that particular star, and a mass walk-out involving every female at his production company.”
“Yeah. Of course, I can’t confirm or deny a thing.” Then she dry-swallowed, sipped some of her soda through a straw before putting a cap on the subject. “But that fucker? He’s a real pig.”
Yes. He surely is.
Get help with your agent with Chad Gervich’s book,
How to Manage Your Agent: A Writer’s Guide to Hollywood Representation