Agent, Manager, Lawyer – Representation Means Exactly That

WW
hen you’re young and hungry and someone shows interest in your writing you listen. When they say they want to represent you, you don’t think twice.

An acquaintance of mine had achieved a certain level of local celebrity. Celebrity that was fading. But she had made some connections. Knew a lot of people. When she offered to represent a script of mine how could I refuse? A chance to open some doors. To get read. Maybe even get this movie made– If you can raise the money, I told her, you can be my producer.

She was flighty. Always on. A personality that seemed painfully transparent to me but which seemed to charm everybody else. I wasn’t expecting a whole lot but she was a talker. And I am not. Maybe a little charm and a little talk was what I needed to get this project off the ground. In no time we had a meeting with a top producer that she told me was a friend.

The meeting went well. Small talk. Ha-has. Love the script. Tell me about your vision for the project. This sounds real good! We’ll be in touch! Cool!

But the call didn’t come. Rep decided it was time we followed up with Producer. I sat beside her. She dialed. Speakerphone. It’s ringing and she puts her finger to her lips, indicates for me to keep quiet. Not my style to wire tap a guy I’m trying to do business with but hey, it’s her call. She wants me to be a fly on the wall, I’m a fly on the wall.

They chat. It’s a pass. She asks him what’s up– Thought you loved the project? He confides in her… On speakerphone… I do love the project. It’s just that after meeting him, I don’t think I can work with the writer / director.

Me.

Ouf. How’s that for an awkward lesson in eavesdropping? If I had human feelings that might have stung.

Long drive home. I’m nothing if not self-aware but I just couldn’t figure out what I had done to offend this guy. And in under an hour, no less. That he’d pass on a project he still claimed to love. A project that had already secured a small measure of financing to boot. It was a mystery for a long time.

And during that long time I watched my de facto rep stumble from meeting to meeting. Pitch project over project in the same sitting from her growing roster of “clients”. Sometimes even pitching scripts she’d written against projects she was repping. Projects that I eventually read and discovered were terrible. It’s easy to amass a roster of clients when you disregard quality. For the first time, I saw her for the mess that she was. The red flag that she was. A charming freeze frame of an explosion in heels. A business liability.

That’s when I understood what I had done to offend Producer. Friendly acquaintances though they were, she was the one he couldn’t work with. Not me. She’d poisoned the well.

Representation means exactly that. The person you choose to represent you. To be you when you can’t (or shouldn’t) be there yourself. You have to choose that person carefully.

I thought that as long as my work was strong enough, it wouldn’t matter who was delivering it. That was a mistake. Because between two strong projects, which would you choose? The one being handed to you by a professional or the one you have to pull out of a train wreck?

I still get calls from Rep. She’ll call and tell me she just sent my script off to a hot producer in Bucharest or something. I have to politely remind her that I asked her not to do that anymore. It’s embarrassing for both of us.

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7 Comments

Filed under Misadventures

7 responses to “Agent, Manager, Lawyer – Representation Means Exactly That

  1. You have 84 likes for the ‘name’ post and none for this one. That makes no sense. Great blog, looking forward to following your story.

  2. Agree wholeheartedly with everything here.

    Do you have a lawyer yet? If so, you need to get them in touch with that old rep PRONTO and sever that connection.

    • T

      Have a lawyer, N.G. Guess who introduced us… Fortunately nothing was ever formalized and I have witnesses to that effect. Script was shelved a long time ago too. The lesson, however, lives on.

      • Even if it’s “shelved,” I know a couple writers with horror stories that start exactly like this. Deals that were ready to be inked and wound up killed because a former rep wanted a piece of the pie now that the writer was suddenly successful.

        She can easily pipe up and say, “He mentioned that idea to me while I was still repping him and we spent weeks shaping it.” She may have no proof of this, but it can easily create enough apprehension — especially with a new writer — to sour a deal. If you can get something sent to her on paper from a lawyer (do you need another one?), you’ll probably be better off.

        Then again, it may never come up again. But I figured it was worth mentioning.

        • T

          You are right, N.G.. Especially about the mere threat of legal complications poisoning a deal. That’s about 90% of entertainment law right there, by my understanding. A day may indeed come when my poor judgment here has to be dealt with.

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