I’m Glad This Isn’t MY Agent…

I got an email today from an agent who is having trouble selling his client’s crime thriller screenplay. Every development exec he submits the script to says they aren’t interested in the project unless there is “some talent attached.” The agent wanted to know “if you have any suggestions how to get around this” and also if I was interested in reading the script… and if I wasn’t, if I knew of any producers who were looking for great new material.

I was astounded. What kind of agent needs to ask another screenwriter the best way to get his client’s material to buyers? Here’s the advice I gave him:

By “talent,” they usually mean an actor, director, or major producer. But it’s just an excuse. No offense intented, but what they are really saying is they think the script is terrible, or it sounds terrible, or they aren’t interested in your client at all. The only way I know of to get around this is to have a kick-ass idea, a great script, a powerful agent, or as the development people have told you, a big name involved with the project. The bottom line is, whoever you’re talking to simply isn’t interested in what you have to sell. Russell Crowe would have to walk in the door with the script under his arm for them to give a damn.

What I didn’t say was if this agent was any good at his job, he’d have relationships with the right development people. He’d know what they were looking for and who the right people would be to send the script to. The development people would respect the agent, know the kind of writers the agent represented, and would decide whether or not to read the script based on that. The email I received tells me this is an agent who doesn’t have relationships, doesn’t have much experience, and shouldn’t be trying to sell anybody’s screenplay. But if that didn’t tell me, his next two questions did.

Are you interested in “a terrific feature screenplay?”

Only the ones that I write. I’m in the same position as your client. I don’t buy scripts, I try to sell my own! So that kind of answers your next question, too…

Maybe if you are not looking but know someone who is you can point us in that direction?

If I knew such a person, I would be sending them my script!

I wouldn’t want this guy representing me. The screenwriter would almost be better off with no agent at all, sending his script out on his own…

What do you think?

9 thoughts on “I’m Glad This Isn’t MY Agent…”

  1. This just illustrates why it’s so much more important to have the right agent rather than just *any* agent. If I were the client in question, I’d dump this guy, start figuring out why his screenplays aren’t selling, and essentially start over.

  2. Was this the same guy who told me series mystery didn’t sell about a day before I signed my contract? And a week before I landed an agent? (Yeah, I wish that was the other way around, but it beats the third alternative, which is no agent and no contract.)
    I was told that was my first Spinal Tap moment in the business.

  3. Please identify this character so we can stay clear of him and keep our friends safe as well. He’s a menace.
    Lee 2.0

  4. Two questions about this:
    1. I’m more familiar with the book field, where there are editors (like Michael Seidman, who used to head the mystery line at Walker) who, for a fee, are willing to look at manuscripts and do a line-edit, or even judge its marketability. Are the same services available for screenwriters?
    2. Who are “development people?” Who do they work for?
    And, no, I don’t have a script for anyone to look at, although I am reading McKee’s “Story” and learning from it.

  5. I’m sure there are people you could pay to review your script for you, but I wouldn’t waste the money. (As far as that goes, I wouldn’t advise spending it on a book ms either.)
    The development people (formerly the “D-Girls”) are low-level Hollywood minions who read books & scripts, attend plays, etc. looking for new material to possibly develop for film. They work for various production entities: studios, production companies, etc.

  6. That’s right! There was a cute girl who published a book by that name a few years back. Amazon popped up the name for me: “Development Girls : The Hollywood Virgin’s Guide to Making It in the Movie Business” by Hadley Davis. She even went from there to write for “Dawson’s Creek” and “Scrubs.”

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