Do Writers Get Typecast? - Complications Ensue
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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Q. An agent is now going to be representing a script of mine, and therefore, in some fashion, me.

1. AGENT is not a fan of going out wide to 40 companies at once, because he thinks all the development execs will just post their thoughts on the script to the hive mind bulletin boards. I get the impression he's been burnt by this before. He prefers to try to identify, through conversation and relationship, the 12ish companies who would be the best fit for the script. Is this normal/a good idea, in your opinion?
I don't buy the argument about bulletin boards. They're going to make comments about your script on the trackers whether you go out to 12 or 40. But he may feel that the script has niche appeal of some sort, and therefore he's picking the 12 most likely prodcos.

He's the expert, and in any case you have to rely on his expertise.
2. I ran a couple ideas by AGENT as to what my next script should be.
Good on you!
He didn't take to them, so they probably aren't commercial enough to bother with for now. But CURRENT SPEC is a broad comedy, so he wants me to write another comedy. This way, when I get meetings based on CURRENT SPEC, I have something similar to pitch. How do I go along with this plan (which seems smart) without getting pigeonholed as a comedy writer? I was thinking of writing a comedy hybrid as a means of transiting to other genres.
I don't think writers get pigeonholed the way actors do. You could sell 5 comedy scripts and then come out with a drama. If it's a good drama, it will sell. A comedy actor may have trouble convincing people he can play drama. But a comedy writer can simply write a drama, and there's your proof that he's capable of it. The proof is in the writing.

If you have a rep as a one flavor of writer, you might have a little trouble getting commissioned to write something out of your perceived drama, but all that means is you'll have to spec something in the other genre first.

I might have been seen for a time as a comedy writer because of BON COP BAD COP and NAKED JOSH. But currently I'm working on a metaphysical drama for pay cable. So as the pilot for that circulates, or word of it does, I've been getting more spec fiction offers.

Frankly, it wouldn't kill you to be typecast in the beginning. You're more likely to get comedy gigs if you're seen as a comedy writer. Whereas if you have an action script, a horror movie, a comedy and a drama, they may not know what to make of you and they may not put you on any lists.

Don't be one of these comedy people who feels they're not a success unless they can make the audience cry. Writing great comedy is just as hard as, if not harder than, writing great drama. And the audience is always dying for something to laugh at.

I would say, write the funniest comedy you possibly can.
3. I have a book adaptation and an indie drama in my arsenal. Neither are commercial, but might be good writing samples for possible future gigs. AGENT has not expressed any interest in other existing works I might have. Maybe he thinks I would have told him by now. Should I?
What are you, a teenage girl at a sock hop in the 1950's? Of course you should pitch him your other material.

If he reads your other stuff and doesn't like it, then it probably isn't commercial. Maybe best to write some more scripts, and get back to your old projects later. You probably will see what's wrong with them. You can fix them, if you have the time, or consider that a lesson.

If he doesn't offer to read your other material, or offers but doesn't actually read it, then you have a bit of a problem. You need an agent to rep you, not just a script. If this script sells, then he probably will get more enthused about your other material. If he doesn't, then you might consider quietly searching for a permanent agent, while continuing to work with him. (Never leave an agent until you have another agent lined up.)

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4 Comments:

"Don't be one of these comedy people who feels they're not a success unless they can make the audience cry."

Oh, I was thinking something closer to: "Damn. I hope I can actually write another comedy."

And I guess more importantly, come up with a comedy idea I actually feel some passion for. But I may have to make that a secondary concern to coming up with a comedy idea that makes people want to buy it.

By Blogger glassblowerscat, at 11:48 AM  

Hopefully, your comic sensibility is close enough to the audience's that you can write what you love and they'll love it too.

I would never recommend writing something you DON'T love. You may have to work to fall in love with your idea, but don't write it until you believe you can love it. Otherwise your lack of affection for your story will turn the reader off.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 12:11 PM  

True enough. I think that was actually my problem for a while on CURRENT SPEC (fortunately not anymore).

Also, to be fair all 'round, AGENT is willing to go out wide, just doesn't think it's a good idea. He said it's up to me.

I told him I wouldn't have a clue what to do with my career if I made it my full-time job. But it's not my job. It's his job (now). My job is to write something else amazing.

He agreed.

By Blogger glassblowerscat, at 12:24 PM  

"Don't be one of these comedy people who feels they're not a success unless they can make the audience cry."

A caveat: If all you've ever done is Ants in Your Plants, it may be a good time to disguise yourself as a hobo and hit the road learn about real life, with the hopes of finally being able to adapt O Brother Where Art Thou? for the big screen.

By Blogger W, at 5:17 PM  

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