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Complications Ensue:
The Crafty Screenwriting, TV and Game Writing Blog


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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Q. You mentioned before that getting a job at a literary agency is a good idea for a baby writer. A short while ago I applied to one and when they asked me why I wanted to work for them, I'd said I was a writer trying to learn as much as I could from the biz, by being involved in the biz and by reading as many scripts as I could. That seemed to scare the agent off, and the assistant that told me that I wasn't getting an interview was nice enough to call me and tell me that, though my resume looked good, it was because I seemed like I just wanted the job to break in as a writer. Well, isn't that why anyone wants a job? To make connections? Or is the problem that we should be saying that we want to be agents as well?

I now have some interviews coming up with other agencies and I don't want to scare them away too, but I also would prefer to be honest.

How do I phrase my intentions?
Um, how about: "I long to be an agent. I think I would love making a living reading great material and selling it to producers. I've loved negotiating ever since I was 4 years old. I haggle at Dollarama. I haggle at the Post Office. And I can't go to enough parties and meet enough new people."

I'd hesitate to say the agency is wrong. Someone who wants to be an agent probably makes the best agency assistant. They'll stay later and go beyond the call of duty more. I think a lot of employers in any field will be uncomfortable if you tell them that their position is a your waystation to something else that you actually want to do.

On the other hand, maybe you'd make a great agent and you just need exposure to the job. Maybe your writing skillz will help them find good material, and you'll be less antsy to get out of the assistant's chair and into a junior agent gig than an agent-wannabe would be. Maybe it would take you ten years to get your writing career going, and in the mean time you're the best assistant they ever had.

Whether you tell the naked truth or dress it up in a seductive narrative, of course, between you and your gods. But this is, ahem, show business...



And why give the job to a writer who wants to learn all he can then leave as soon as he gets what he wants when you can hire someone who wants to grow with the company and will work as hard as he can because he loves the job?

The agent was completely right.

By Blogger Emily Blake, at 10:55 AM  

I work at an agency and I want to be a writer. It definitely depends on where you are and who you work for, but yeah, it's probably not best to say you want to be a writer. I know that people can tell I don't want to be an agent, so I say I'm interested in being a development exec at a production company or studio, and that I know how valuable agency experience can be.

It's kind of tricky...but if you appear to just be an aspiring client it probably won't get you too far.

By Blogger Amanda, at 5:22 PM  

Telling them that you are an aspiring writer is the kiss of death. If you have been looking through the listings I'm surprised you haven't come across the footnote "no aspiring writers need apply" because it's posted with the listing all the time. For reason already mentioned in other posts don't mention it at all. Otherwise, look for an internship which gets your foot in the door and you can make contacts from there and if the company grows you never know what can happen. I started as an inter for Brooklyn Weaver at Energy Entertainment and contacted him several years later and he is now my manager and shopping my first script. Anyway do your proper research before any industry interview so you can feed their ego and don't bring up the writer thing at all. Good Luck

By Blogger Unknown, at 1:21 AM  

Lie. Honesty is overrated.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:00 PM  

I bet it also depends on the agency.

In my current job, which is out of the writing industry where I want to be, I freely admitted that I'm taking the job to bide my time and my bills until I get my writing career going (plus get my degree, where I have to write a novel and thesis to get), which I have an indefinite time table. I had already worked five years previously in this industry (insurance). After taking a silly test for my intelligence, showing them I have an amiable personality, know the industry, product and technology and showing my determination to get a job and sell myself, they hired me. Just a couple days ago, I had my annual review and they asked me my future plans, how soon I'd get my degree and start my writing career. I told them it was still indefinite, but at least a year or a year and a half. They then told me that I'd be getting a raise on my next paycheck. Woohoo (even though I dislike this industry).

I also read a job article once that managers don't necessarily like someone who's ambitious and hungry. It's a lot more of a threat than someone who's just learning the ropes of the industry to get better at another aspect of the industry. A person doesn't want to hire someone who'll eventually be taking their job. . ..

So, sure, my example is from a different industry, but what business and what industry generically wants someone who's just biding their time until something better comes along? The moral of the story, if you can find a literary agent that's cool with hiring an assistant that's not necessarily hungry for the agent field but that's very eager to do well and learn all they can about the industry, especially if they'll be around for an indefinite time or for awhile, then you've got a chance.

Just don't come out and state that fact in the resume, cover letter or necessarily in a job interview. Wait until you've seduced them, they're comfortable, you're comfortable and THEY ask you what your life goals and aspirations are. Never know, they might like to have someone who's a little different and adds some variety to the office.

My advice applies to the exception that proves the rule, though.

By Blogger The_Lex, at 3:32 PM  

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