Literary agent Bob Wendell knew the spec market was rough, but yesterday marked the first time he’d ever heard a cackle emanate from the sky once he started sending copies of his client’s new spec to producers.
“They said things were getting better, but that howl of angry condescension can’t be a good sign,” said Wendell, looking at the dark clouds above. “And for some reason, every time I send a PDF to a studio contact, my computer crashes. Eerie times, man.”
Wendell isn’t the only one dealing with the abnormally difficult spec market. According to manager Terri Mason, one of her client’s screenplays literally burst into flames when she tried to hand it to a producer.
“One moment I’m giving my friend a copy of Lover’s Landing, a hilarious romantic comedy with heart, and the next thing you know, a giant bolt of lightning incinerates the script, nearly killing me,” said Mason. “It’s just not worth it right now.”
In fact, some writers have sworn off writing new specs altogether.
“The more I think about it, game show writing really isn’t that bad,” said WGA member Allan Bourne. “You get free lunch, you learn a lot, plus you don’t have to hear that your script didn’t sell because the credit markets are too tight. What does that even mean?! Maybe if I’m on Jeopardy long enough, I’ll find out.”
Form rejections sent out almost immediately
Widely regarded as one of the top agencies in Hollywood, CAA has not let the industry stature go to its head. Surprisingly, the representation powerhouse routinely responds to query letters in 48 hours or less.
“We like to get that form letter rejection in the mail as soon as possible,” said Judy Denton, an associate in CAA’s legal department. “We feel for unknown writers and realize the waiting can be hell. That’s why we’re committed to informing them (a) we have not read their query, (b) we will not consider their concept and (c) any similar ideas we get involved with in the future were developed independently.”
Adds Denton: “I think writers appreciate our expediency in the matter.”
The practice serves to remind aspiring writers that CAA hasn’t forgotten about the hardworking scribe still trying to get his or her foot in the proverbial Hollywood door.
“How could we forget about them?” asked Denton. “We send them close to fifty ‘status notices’ each day.”
The status generally being?
“Rejected. We have no interest in their scripts, thus the status of their project is dead on arrival.”
** This THR Classic was first posted in October 2008 **
‘Finally, I catch a break’ says literary rep
Moments after meeting potential client Andy Gorman, ICM agent Bob Halford exhaled deeply, excited that the scribe was neither bald nor 40 years old.
“Hollywood is chocked full of ancient hacks,” said Halford, patting Gorman on the back. “What are you, like 29, tops? You have a good 10 years of relevancy left. After that, well, let’s just focus on the positives right now, okay?”
Gorman, 35, whose maternal grandfather went bald at age 36, responded to Halford’s enthusiasm with a nervous laugh.
“That’s right, dude!” he exclaimed. “Don’t even get me started on those old fogies in my screenwriting group. It’s time those geezers gave it up already. Not me, though, I’m totally chillaxin’ with my tweeter page and stuff.”
‘It wasn’t annoying at all’ says ICM lit agent
New ‘preemptive rejection technology’ envy of industry
As is the case with most of his peers, CAA’s Bob Demarco works hard for his clients and is nothing like the stereotypical, money-grubbing agent so often portrayed in movies and television.
“Still, it would be pretty sweet to get that 25%,” he admitted, referring to a nightly dream he’s had since early 2002. “I mean, think about it, I don’t even get 10%. The agency does. I only see a fraction of that.”
In the dream, Demarco lands an 8-figure development deal for one of his TV clients and is awarded 25% in cash, on the spot. Demarco then drives off into the sunset in his gold-plated Ferrari with a naked Jessica Alba in the passenger seat.
“Then I wake up next to my wife, who is attractive enough, I guess, but definitely not Alba quality,” said Demarco. “Next thing you know I’m pulling out of my cramped 3-car garage in my boring 2008 Mercedes.”
Added Demarco: “Just once, man. Just once…”
Norelco shaver sent back to North Pole unopened
Shortly after discovering a green and red package marked “from Santa” under his Christmas tree, Creative Artists Agency lawyer John Hansen brought the present to his local UPS Store and shipped it back to the North Pole.
“Although I appreciate your holiday spirit, I have a firm policy of returning all unsolicited material,” Hansen wrote to Santa Claus. “Accordingly, I am forwarding your present back to you, unopened. To the extent that your gift is similar to what someone else may have given me, the similarities are purely coincidental.”
Unfortunately, the package was actually a gift from his wife.
“He’s like some sort of automaton,” said Brenda Hansen. “Anytime he comes across something he didn’t ask for, he rejects it. The other day we were at the Olive Garden and he demanded they take back his glass of water.”
Asked if she would replace the gift, Brenda wasn’t sure.
“I guess I’ll have to ask him first, just to go through the proper channels,” she said. “It’s too bad, because I think he really would have liked that shaver.”