Writers on the Verge: Who Needs Screenwriter Management?

Every writer I’ve ever met has told me: I need to, I want to, I have to get repped! Heck, I knew one writer who had written on assignment and made a pretty good living that way who considered getting repped by CAA his single greatest career accomplishment. It doesn’t matter that once the buzz wore off his script the material ended up languishing on the shelf. Getting signed by CAA had meant that he arrived, so far as he was concerned.

Jeremy Piven of 'Entourage'

Jeremy Piven of ‘Entourage’

This week, I met with one of my hardest-working writers, a writer not afraid to work hard and always willing to learn, who is slowly but surely building a name for himself. This guy is a schmoozer. And I mean that in the best way. He can talk to anyone, anywhere, make friends, win fans. He’s gotten himself some impressive general meetings and even landed a number of interviews for TV staff position. All by his own two hands.

And he’s not just a schmoozee; the guy has real talent. Not only is he writing screenplays, he is blogging, contributing, directing shorts and delivering consistent work. He makes me think of my friend, manager Jewerl Ross, with whom I once sat on a panel. After being asked five or six times: How do I get a manager? Jewerl finally turned to the audience and asked: Why do you need a manager? You’re just starting out. You don’t have a name yet. What will a manager do for you that you can’t do for yourself? What Jewerl forgot is that many people just don’t have it in them. But this writer? He could. Any given day.

Only this writer is already represented. So, in theory, the story should end there. He’s been with the same management company for almost a year. By all accounts, all should be going great. Except… It isn’t. Agents and managers have a single job: To get you out there. Get you read. My writer’s manager? Not so much. My writer hasn’t gotten one meeting, General or otherwise, through his shinny new management.

My writer’s management, even though they courted him and made rich promises before he was there, have been distracted with “other work” as of late. In fact, when my writer pressed, he found out his scripts had not been sent anywhere. Which doesn’t surprise me, because when I checked Scoggins’s 2012 Year-End Spec Scorecard, I realized that this management company had not one single spec sale.

And there you have it: A bird in the hand situation, as simple as they get. My brave writer, he is walking away. No longer resting on his laurels, hoping they will do something on his behalf. He is working that muscle, the one that helps us build networks and get ourselves out there, which I wish so many other writers would have.

For the record, this is not a rarity in this industry: I know many a scribe with an agent or manager who is, at this very moment, doing little with them, be it because they have other more important clients, or because they didn’t respond to the writer’s recent work.

The point? Never expect representation to do all the work. They never will, not until you’re a sure-thing, anyway. So keep working on your own behalf. They have their agendas, their clients, their responsibilities, their overheads. It’s up to you to keep your career moving forward, with or without their help.

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2 thoughts on “Writers on the Verge: Who Needs Screenwriter Management?

  1. Michael ODanielMichael O'Daniel

    Representation is wonderful as long as you understand you’ll probably have to do most of the work. You have to give the rep direction as to how to sell you, and provide the ammunition he/she needs to do that. This applies across the entire entertainment / media industry, not just in filmmaking. Ideally a rep is a creative partner who is also giving you ideas, direction and suggestions, but let’s face it, many of them are not really capable of doing that. When you are courting, or being courted by, representation, ask them: What is your plan for getting me out there? What do you need from me to do that? What do you think is unique or saleable about what I have to offer? (This last question is something you should have already figured out for yourself.) If you don’t feel comfortable with the feedback you’re getting, or if you’re getting no feedback at all, be prepared to move on.

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