“In your experience, AO, do you think an agent is necessary?”
Good heavens, yes! No self-respecting Hollywood writer would go more than two days without the careful guidance, sympathetic support and expert career strategies of an agent. In fact, I’ve had seven – some at the same time! You can never be too prepared for the Screen Wars. And the winners were:
- Ms. HS – It was her telephone call to the print shop where I worked in one of those vowel-laden Midwestern states that convinced me to sell my house, send my lovely young wife to Europe to study, pile my scripts and a couple of shirts into my VW and head west seeking fame and fortune. My first script (having been published as a book – we’ll get into that some other time) had been very favorably reviewed in the Hollywood Reporter. Several agents contacted me (one of my favorite memories is my boss holding the telephone, her eyes wide with wonder, saying, “AO. It’s…it’s…Hollywood!”), but Ms. HS was the most tempting. She was a senior representative in a major agency. They represented the author of my favorite film, several notable directors of Italian ancestry (yes, them), and those directors’ favorite actors. “You have to be here. I can’t get you started unless you are out here. I don’t mean to shake up your life, but if this is what you want to do, you have to be in L.A.” Two weeks notice, house on the market, wife to France, car loaded, three days of driving and I was waiting in her antechamber. She didn’t remember who I was. She didn’t remember my script. She mentioned that I should go back to school and learn screenwriting if I wanted to take a stab at it. No, she had no interest in reading my other four scripts. And she never even tried to explain herself.
- Mr. MK – He was a young hot-shot at another major agency. Hungry. Power tie. Pretty darn fine haircut. He worked his way through the seven scripts I had written by that time, each one earning his compliments and a request for another. Finally we met face to face. He leaned back in his chair, interlaced his fingers, looked at me over the pile of screenplays with my name on them and asked: “So, tell me, just what is it that you want to do?”
- Ms. MH – I found her after a low-budget producer, who shared office space with her, turned down a thriller of mine because it wasn’t “pornographic enough.” But he suggested her as an up-and-comer. And she evidently was. She got that script into several indie-prod offices through her personal contacts. Then she decided that she wanted to be an elementary school teacher, left a message on my machine and moved to Northern California. None of the producers were interested in me without her.
- Mr. IG – Had been one of the agents to call me in the Midwest in those heady early days. A courtly gentleman of the Old School, he found a couple of my properties interesting and even delivered them to a couple of interesting places. Then he stopped calling and I didn’t pursue him. We seemed to have exhausted our possibilities together. We never spoke again. Five years later (I emphasize, five years later) I received a letter from Mr. IG saying that he was filled with regrets, but he had to sever our relationship.
- Ms. NH – She was a spectacularly intelligent and accomplished woman who had been involved in Presidential politics before deciding to conquer Hollywood. She was, however, completely, insanely smitten by my handsome friend (whom she also represented and who lived next door to me in the apartment complex). One night I was awakened by cries and wails from the alley behind my building. In the alley was my agent, calling my friend’s name, literally rending her clothing, screaming her lovelorn anguish to the world. He, of course, was with someone else and pretended not to hear her. It may have been a mistake, dear reader, but I simply could not bear to be embroiled in their story. She’s the one agent that I have fired. I wish her well.
- Mr. GB – Very large agency. Without even meeting me or taking any commission at all, arranged for an option of my first comedy (rather a long story, but those are the basic facts). I owed him a big favor and was eager to meet him. When I walked into his office he turned to his large, muscular personal assistance and, indicating me, said quite viciously, “I want you to kill this guy.” The interview went downhill from there and I ended up trapped in an elevator that I busted in a burst of rage. Two days later I moved to Wyoming.
- Mr. CE – Remember the Big Muscular Assistant whose job it was to kill me? Well, many years later (after he had made a few scores as an agent himself and then, of course, went and became an EMT in Las Vegas – don’t ask me to explain this stuff) he decided to become an agent again. He liked a script of mine and was going to take it to his old Mentor (not the putz from the previous episode) – who was, literally, Dear Reader, the Biggest Man in Hollywood. Mr. CE left Vegas, went to L.A., set up the fateful appointments that were to rocket us both to the top of the game…and then developed acute peritonitis. He spent three months in the hospital and has since retired to Seattle where he lives “in the family compound” and doesn’t return telephone calls.
So, should you have an agent? Listen, I couldn’t have gotten to where I am without several.