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.”
Either way, rep having second thoughts
CAA agent Bob McElroy prefers to work with veteran writers, but after he read Tom Nettle’s hilarious action-comedy, he decided to give the 24-year-old scribe a chance.
“That was before I met him,” said McElroy. “Now I’m thinking, ‘Was that sweat on his face, or did he just get really scared and start crying?’”
According to McElroy, the meet-and-greet with Nettle wasn’t even a minute old before the literary agent noticed drops of liquid on Nettle’s cheeks.
“My first guess was sweat, but then I realized it was like 65 degrees in the office. On the other hand, I’ve made a lot of people cry in my life, and I don’t think I said anything remotely worthy of that response,” said McElroy. “Whatever. I can’t send an unstable psycho like that on meetings. This is why I like veteran writers.”
Nettle, however, thought the meeting went just fine.
“I was a little nervous at the beginning…it’s CAA, after all,” he said. “But after I got done crying, I think we really connected. I can’t wait to start pitching assignments!”
‘Recession or no recession, that’s my fucking Beamer!’
Mark Hanson can no longer afford the $939 monthly lease payment on his silver 650i convertible, but that isn’t stopping the 34-year-old former WMA literary agent from trying to hang onto his most prized possession.
“Let’s just say those bastards have to find ‘Chelsea’ before they can tow her,” said Hanson. “And I’ve got a lot of friends with three- and four-car garages. I’d rather die than give up my baby.”
Hanson, whose actual baby lives with his ex-wife and is draining his savings at an alarming rate, doesn’t regret leasing the car eight months ago, despite the fact it was nearly twice as much as he could afford.
“I was a big-timer,” he said. “I mean, I’m still a big-timer. Look, the point is the BMW is mine. And anyone who thinks he can take it from me has another thing coming.”
Hanson then removed the foreclosure notice from his home’s front door, tore it up and pretended like the whole thing never happened.
Managing ‘Wilshire Ballers’ occupies most of rep’s time
United Talent Agency’s Bobby Demarco has his priorities in order, which is why he recently dodged a phone call from one of his young writers so he could focus his attention on trying to pick a third receiver up off waivers.
“I’ve guided the Ballers to three straight championships,” he said. “That writer hasn’t even optioned a script yet. Maybe I’ll get around to reading his spec after the season.”
According to Demarco, playing fantasy football feeds his passion for sports and helps keep him grounded while he builds a career in the fast-paced world of Hollywood agenting.
“It’s also way more fun than dealing with whiny clients, most of whom are talentless hacks, to be honest,” he said. “Peyton Manning, on the other hand? There’s no denying that guy’s skills. In fact, he’s probably a better writer than most of the people I represent.”