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 **
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…”
Lists are great.
But sometimes you have to experience Hollywood events in script form. Like the year of 2009, for example.
Download 2009: The Script (PDF)
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!”
Anxiously eyes bathroom while rolling calls
Moments after polishing off his second bottled water of the morning, CAA assistant Tony Anderson knew it was a mistake.
“I felt that dreaded tingle in my bladder,” he said. “Anytime I have that tingle before 10:30, I know there’s gonna be trouble come 11:45 or so when my legs inevitably start shaking uncontrollably, and the tingle turns to sharp shooting pain. Why do I always do this to myself?”
If Anderson had a normal job, the Princeton grad would simply take a quick restroom break and remedy the situation. But the life of an assistant is anything but normal, as evidenced by the lengths Anderson has gone to make sure he doesn’t miss a single one of his boss’s calls.
“I remember back in November when I had food poisoning,” said Anderson. “Probably the worst week of my life. Thank God for Depends.”
Still, Anderson’s doctor thinks the overworked assistant should consider a career change.
“For a 25-year-old, he does seem to have an inordinate number of bladder infections,” said Dr. Mark Grissom. “His blood pressure is also about 200% higher than I’d like to see.”
‘Probably had more to do with the script sucking ass’ says agent
Screenwriter Jason Noble would have sold his action script ‘Explosion Dome’ this year were it not for the failing economy, according to an entry he recently posted on his blog. According to everyone else in Hollywood, that’s not entirely the case.
“You could turn back time to 1991, slap Shane Black’s name on the cover page and still not find a buyer for this turd,” said CAA agent Thomas Binder. “This has less to do with the economic crisis than it does the guy’s total lack of talent.”
Noble disagrees, claiming the weak state of the spec market combined with the recent economic collapse to “create a perfect storm even the best writing couldn’t overcome.”
“Even if that were true,” said Binder, “that’s not the kind of writing he brings to the table anyway. He’s as wrong as his own script’s plot choices.”
Noble plans to re-title the script ‘Boom City’ and try his luck on the spec circuit once the economy improves later this year.
‘Who’s shaking up the industry now?’ boasts Gores
Paradigm Chairman Sam Gores had heard just about enough of the Endeavor-William Morris merger over the past few months, so he recently challenged his agents to make a big splash of their own.
“We got this hot new writer from Miami…or maybe Boca Raton,” said Gores. “This guy’s script is flat-out hilarious. Really, really funny. So I guess that begs the question: who’s making news now, WME?”
According to the press, it’s still WME. But that hasn’t put a damper on the spirit in the Paradigm halls.
“It’s almost like we’ve been waiting for our chance to pounce,” said one agent. “Now the time has come to show everyone what Paradigm is all about. Those guys at CAA and WME better watch their asses, because this new writer from Tampa Bay is just the beginning.”
‘Just easier this way’ he says
As long as there have been gatekeepers in Hollywood, determined writers and actors have tried every approach imagineable to get around them – and gain direct access to the town’s decision-makers. Screenwriter Mark Lahey recently developed his own unconventional approach when he snuck behind the CAA building and placed his romantic comedy script in one of the agency’s dumpsters.
“I just wanted to be able to tell other managers and agents that one of my scripts was currently at CAA,” he said. “But every time I tried to send them one in the mail, they returned it unread. It never even made it to the trash!”
Unfortunately for Lahey, CAA is so diligent about returning unsolicited material, their legal department combs the dumpsters every night in search of discarded scripts and query letters. It was during one of these searches that Lahey’s script ‘Friends with Benefits’ was found.
“This was a unique attempt by Mr. Lahey,” said CAA legal assistant Sherry Harpe. “But we were forced to send his script back to him, unread, and coated in caviar from one of our many lavish catered lunches. In the future, we look forward to receiving and rejecting his material through the proper channels.”