What does a screenwriter become someone you want to work with?
I sign very selectively and there are a number of factors that I use to determine when to pursue someone or when to not pursue someone. As a literary manager, I look for volume. Have you written more than one script? Can I see your voice in different ways on the page? If you’ve written more than one screenplay, then I’m most likely going to take a look.
What does a healthy agent/ client relationship look like?
Agents are people, and clients are people. I don’t believe that there is “healthy” or “unhealthy,” necessarily. People set all kinds of boundaries for themselves and what works for some may not work for others. Personally, I find that if you and your clients work effectively together, you can avoid a lot of the crisis/craziness that exists in the business. A lot of this comes down to planning thoughtfully, agreeing on what a good plan is for the client, and then trying to make it happen. I can’t say that this approach always works, but it is helpful because it compels both client and agent (or manager) to set coherent benchmarks for one another (e.g. if you write 2-3 specs a year, the rep will meaningfully introduce your work to 5 real filmmakers.)
What proportion of your clients do you sell/ set up with original scripts?
My practice is built on generating original material with my writing clients. This does not preclude them for going after open writing assignments or getting hired by studios to do work, but as a business principle, I spend very little time looking for jobs into which I would book my clients. I think I’m most effective when I find executives, producers, film-makers, and agents who are savvy script readers. When I do that, I can pinpoint which of my writers will work best with them and a natural dialogue/conversation unfolds about work, etc. My strength is in development and helping my clients generate the smartest material that they can for the market while staying true to their own voice and their own thematic preoccupations.
What most attracts you to a project?
How would you describe your current film and TV tastes?
My tastes have changed a lot over the years and also, they have very little do with what I tell my clients to watch. I keep up with what I need to keep up with and share my thoughts accordingly with my writers. Also, if I’m doing my job correctly, I’m suggesting things for screenwriters to watch and/or read that will help them navigate their own storytelling, rather than simply being knowledgeable about what’s out there in the marketplace.
The market changes frequently and without warning and isn’t a real barometer for me for what my clients should be doing. That said, aside from the work of my clients (I legit love their work, even if some of it is unmade thus far), I love High Maintenance, Broad City, and a number of other comedies that I don’t care to name. My taste is all over the map.
What is the current state of the industry and how can screenwriters take advantage of it?
Features are back (yay!), though not like with pre-2008 strike dumb money. If you write good features, it’s a good time to be in the business. Scripted TV has returned to its economically conservative roots – if you’re not buddies with a showrunner (or a showrunner yourself), your odds of getting paid work in TV are slim, in my opinion. Scripted TV makes a lot of money, so there’s not a ton of incentive for it to be a wide-open/free-wheeling market. The TV people don’t want to share the pie, as I see it, and are rightfully territorial about things. Features are always open to reading since no one really knows where the next smart spec is going to come from. I’m biased, of course, as I’ve done real business in movies these days, but I’ve done work across all of it and feel that this is the terrain right now.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions aspiring screenwriters have?
I have no idea about aspiring screenwriters. You’re either a screenwriter or you’re not a screenwriter. If you’re a screenwriter, you keep writing the movies that you need to watch (but that nobody’s making yet) and hope that one day one of your scripts will get made so that you can watch what you want to be watching. You might have your first script made or your thirtieth made: nobody knows.
Where do find new writer clients?
What makes you stop reading a script submission?
I usually know very quickly if I’m into the writing. I’ve passed on people who have literally sold specs for seven figures, but honestly, I couldn’t get through five pages without putting it down. What pisses me off on the page might get some other person excited, so who really knows? That said, if you don’t proofread your stuff or run a basic spell-check on it, then you don’t understand how the business works. You’re asking people to potentially write checks for millions of dollars to make your words come to life: the least you can do for them is write clearly and without typos.
Any closing thought for our readers?