Agent Your Agent - Complications Ensue
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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Q. What do you mean, "agent your agent"?
Many people come into the biz thinking that "an agent gets you work."

It is true that the best agents will beat the bushes looking for work for you. They will send out your samples. They'll keep their ear to the ground to hear of upcoming jobs, and put you up for them.

But no agent is perfect, and no agent has unlimited brain cells available for you. They have other clients, y'know.

So you have to agent your agent.

At a basic level, that means not only providing a steady stream of new material to sell, or sell you with: spec scripts, spec pilots, spec features. It means also suggesting places that you'd like her to send your stuff. Ideally, people with whom you have relationships, or at least people who've read you before and liked you, and maybe even met you. Keep lists of those people, and when you send in your latest new thing, have a chat with your agent about where she should focus her energies.

You should be reading the trades and talking to people about upcoming shows and upcoming projects. Is one right for you? Drop your agent an email, or call.

Engage with your agent as if you were another agent representing you. Consider yourself as a product. Where should we send my stuff?

I have periodic conversations with my agent, Amy, who may possibly be the best agent in Canada. I remind her of each of my current and available projects. We discuss: what's the next step with each of them?

Agenting your agent also means being involved in the deals. You always want your agent to negotiate for you. But you should be right behind the scenes discussing the deal terms with her. What do you want? What are you willing to settle for? How willing are you to walk away if the deal's not right? How important is money up front? How important are guaranteed scripts or rewrites? My philosophy is to push hardest for money that won't affect the budget -- e.g. guaranteed scripts that someone will have to be paid for -- and least hard for things like option payments that come directly out of the producer's pocket. Essentially I just want enough to know the production company is serious.

I almost always leave the pure money points to Amy. I want as much as she can get me, of course. But we discuss issues like creative control, continued involvement, print rights (I try to keep them), etc.

Amy reads every contract looking for language that needs to be negotiated. I also send her memos listing my concerns.

A successful writer is a businessperson, not just a creative. You never want to negotiate on your own behalf; but you are the key figure in the negotiating team. You will not get the best deal if you drop the whole problem in your agent's lap and head to the beach.

Agenting your agent really means continuing what you were doing to support your career before you had an agent. Only now you've got a partner who shares many of your goals. Give your partner the information and support she needs to succeed.

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2 Comments:

How often are your periodic conversations with your agent? Weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or bi-monthly. Is there such a thing as engaging with your agent too much (or producers and development people for that matter)? What happens if you pester them so much they won't take your calls, let alone work with you?

By Blogger George, at 11:53 PM  

Thanks, Alex!

By Blogger Mary, at 6:51 PM  

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