I started writing seriously when I was a senior in high school. I had a background in performance. I was a magician performing professionally from the age of 14 and had a small stint with stand-up comedy for a couple years when I was 16. To me writing was the purest form of creativity and I quickly figured that out when I was writing material for my stand-up act. It wasn’t before long that I turned to other forms of writing and banged out a novel when I was seventeen (moments of good dialogue but otherwise unreadable), and shortly thereafter screenplays.
Can We Just Take a Minute to Talk About How Incredible Writing is as an Art Form
You start with nothing and your fingers pound out these letter that form the words in your mind and those words create a world that exists solely in the minds of your reader. When you think about it, it’s really the closest thing to mind-control that we have. Even as you read this very paragraph, I am controlling the words that enter your mind – pretty bad ass, isn’t it?
Okay, Break Over Back to the Journey of Getting a Manager
Anyhow, by the time I was eighteen it was clear to me that I would be writing screenplays for a long time to come and even before I got into any kind of college I thought I should start getting my foot in the door. I got a summer internship going into my first year of college and really started to learn the ins and outs of the business side of things in Hollywood. As I continued to write I continued to read and learn about how the industry worked and it wasn’t before long that all my friends were also filmmakers and nearly all of the conversation I had in my life revolved around writing and filmmaking.
By the time I had finished college I had about seven feature scripts that I had written (three of them were actually worth showing to people), a couple spec pilot scripts, a two act play, a bunch of one-act plays, and a handful of shorts that I had written.
all my friends were also filmmakers and nearly all of the conversation I had in my life revolved around writing and filmmaking.
The theater and short-form stuff were things that I wrote to take a break from writing features. Sometimes I could get stuck on a feature for a while and it was always satisfying to try a new format or write something that could be completed in a few days to change things up.
I’m laying out all this history to show you that I was working my butt off writing. I even left my prom early because I was on page 85 and knew I could get to “fade out” if I just got an hour or two of writing in before my writer’s group the next morning (don’t feel too bad I just went with a friend of mine so I wasn’t passing up getting laid or anything).
Hollywood via the Holy Land
Throughout the four years of college I continued to write and I won a spot on a trip to Israel with other young producers and filmmakers to exchange ideas with young Israeli filmmakers. The program was thrown by the Jewish Federation with the intention of creating a bridge from Hollywood to Tel-Aviv. A few good friendships were made but I’m not sure if it was entirely successful in getting people to work together professionally across the ocean.
The program left literally the day after I graduated from UCLA. For about 10 days the American filmmakers hung out with the Israelis and talked everything cinema while grabbing a few drinks at night. It was there that I met my first manager – Rachel Miller (currently at Haven). At the time Rachel wasn’t even a manager, she was focusing on becoming a producer. Anyways, we hit it off and started hanging out together during classes and on the little excursions they took us out on and we sparked a friendship.
You Need to be Fun to be Around
This is my first piece of advice to anyone looking for representation – people like working with their friends. If you don’t have a Sundance audience award under your belt or a father who has been in the business for forty years you’re going to start at the bottom just like everyone else. It’s highly unlikely that some senior agent at CAA is going to read your script ever. Even if a friend of theirs tells them how amazing your script is, the chances are that they’ll probably skim it one Saturday and pass on it because they’re partially hungover and couldn’t get through the prose.
Young Agents and Managers Need You
Chances are if you are a young writer or director trying to make it that your first representation is going to be junior agent or someone who is also starting out their career. Young agents and managers can’t get clients with serious credits under their belt just like young writers can’t get agents to look at their work. So it’s the job of young would-be agents and managers to seek out clients to represent. These guys are your best chance at getting represented.
In my case Rachel wasn’t even a manager yet. She was still looking at herself solely as a producer. I talked to her so much while I was in Israel that I think I must have pitched her a couple dozen ideas for movies that would just come up as we were hanging out.
This is one of the biggest advantages to being friends with other people trying to break into the business. When you have friends who work as assistants to agents they are constantly talking about what sold or what kind of project they wish they had to present to their boss or a specific production company. If you’re creative you’ll be able to craft ideas around their needs which always goes over much better than some random idea in a genre they don’t even care for that much.
If you have access to people working in the business you can start tailoring your pitches to what people are actually looking for
Anyhow, one of the ideas I pitched to Rachel in Israel stuck and she told me to write it – which I did. She liked the execution enough to option the script as a producer and took it out to her contacts. Nobody bought the script but she was talking about how fun and talented I was in the room so much that several of the producers she met with suggested that she become a manager and represent me. She asked me if I’d be open to it and I jumped at the opportunity. I was her first official client but it wasn’t before long before she had a roster of talented young writers, a partner and a Beverly Hills office.
All the Scripts I Had Written Didn’t Matter
Here’s the funniest thing – none of the scripts I had written before meeting Rachel were things she even read. She saw some short films and funny spec commercials I put together but really the relationship was built on the fact that I was a fun guy to be around and we liked hanging out with each other. So much of your success in Hollywood is how well you do in a room.
Are you cocky? Boring? Nervous? Energetic? Passionate? Care-free? My years of working as a magician and a stand-up comic were things that really worked in my favor when going out to meetings. Of course, you need to have the talent and the vision to go with the winning personality but I don’t think I’m understating that your career in the Hollywood system hinges on you being a happy person who people love to be around.
Kind of Networking
If I didn’t have the family commitments that I do now (in case you’re new to the blog I have four kids) and I wanted to get representation the first thing I would do would be to go to all the filmmaker meet-ups I could find. I would go to meetups.com, join every facebook filmmaker group that was available, attend local film festivals and just start going around and meeting people.
If I saw a director with a short film I liked, I would go up and tell them how much I loved their work and ask them out to lunch. If I went to a meet-up I would find the people who were as passionate about film as I am and become facebook friends with them, get coffee ask if they need help making short films. Anyone who loved film as much as I did and was trying to break into the business (no matter what role they played) would be someone I would put on a list of people I emailed hi to at least every couple of months.
They Love Film as Much as You Do…It’s Fun
This is networking at its finest. You’re not really looking to get a job or get something out of the relationship with these people, you’re just creating a network of people who love film as much as you do. There are several actors who I’m friends with where the only thing we have in common is the love for movies. I’ve invited them over for dinner forgetting that films are our only common bond only to realize my mistake as my wife’s eyes glaze over when we get into conversations about this years Oscar nominees.
I promise you that if you keep writing or directing and keep expanding your circle with other people who also write, direct, act, edit etc. and keep your love for filmmaking alive it’s only a matter of time until the passion for your craft and the friends you have work together to find you opportunities where you can make a film or get representation and further your career.s