I made a couple of New Year resolutions for 2008. The first is to murder less. I'm not going to stop murdering entirely, of course, I've got to be realistic here. But I definitely intend to decrease the amount of murders I actively participate in. My other resolution is one that I'm sure every other writer made -- I vow to write more.
Cut to this morning when I found myself staring at a blank computer screen for an hour in a post-holiday haze -- stubble adorning my cheeks, sweet potato fries clinging to my midsection, alcohol swishing around my brain, and one eye on the brand new Seinfeld Complete Series Box Set I'm dying to curl up on the couch and watch. Not helping my motivation is Variety's coverage of the WGA strike, which keeps throwing words like "standstill," "hostilities," and "vacuum" at me. Sigh.
So since I can't help myself, I'd love to try and help some of you. Let's open up the mailbag. I recently got a series of questions from "Eric," and I'm going to answer a few of them today. Eric asks...
I have a relationship with an agent at a major agency-- I have not actually signed a contract with them because they are not accepting new clients right now (and with the strike hitting them hard, now is not really the time to push for anything). So this agent is representing me under the radar and says that if I do get a writing job, she can use that as incentive to sign me. I submitted to a new Comedy Central show right before the strike started, and I am working on a pilot to fill out my submission portfolio in preparation for pilot season. I am currently living in New York (most of the TV shows I worked on were in NY), but I am making plans to move to LA in time for pilot season (assuming it happens). That's it for me. Now, as to my questions:
As I said, my relationship with 'my agent' is rather tenuous. How much should I depend on her? Since I'm not actually a client, I'm leery of going to her with questions and/or asking her to read things, etc. She's always been accommodating, however, even though she usually takes a while to respond. In my experience, agents wait until staffing season and/or a staff spot opens on a show, then send material from their clients and try to set meetings. Is there anything I can do to take the lead on this, or should I just let my agent work her magic and hope that
something comes of it?
I am fortunate enough to have a really great agent and manager, but know that there are many agents out there who are just as slimy as the movies portray them to be! Trust your instincts. With your unique situation of 'having an agent' but not being technically signed, you can never trust that your agent is working on your behalf. She's got several signed clients that she has to get staffed, and, like it or not, you are at the bottom of that list because she has no real ties to you. What this agent is doing to/for you is called "hip-pocketing." It can absolutely be mutually beneficial, but her intent is likely to send you on a few meetings, set up a friendly relationship with you, and hope you remember she did these things for you once you start making money. Just know this: if you get a job writing for a television program, you will have your pick of agents, because everyone will want a cut of that guaranteed money.
As for what you can do to take the lead, get as many writing samples together as you can and polish them until they shine. As for the agent, a lot of people would kill just to have a connection at an agency, so don't botch the relationship. But don't ever assume that this woman is busting her hump to get you work. She isn't. Even if you were signed, you can't make that assumption. But while you've got her, use her just as much as she will absolutely use you should you become successful. Hate to be so cynical, but that's the nature of the business.
I know that you write a pretty extensive blog, and I know other writers who do podcasts and You Tube videos and live shows. When I'm working on a TV show, I usually don't have the time to do those things on the side (in addition to my own writing, which I am always working on). It does seem like a good way to get attention, though. After all, Diablo Cody started out as a stripper who wrote a blog. Now that I have some downtime with the strike, would it be worthwhile to try something like a blog (or stripping)?
I HIGHLY recommend starting up a blog to any aspiring writer. If it catches on, gets linked to frequently, or the traffic is high enough, it is possible that agencies, magazines, and yes, even Hollywood could be pursuing you. I got my Cinematical job from my blog, and I landed a gig writing freelance for The Hollywood Reporter from someone who was a fan of my blog and contacted me out of the blue. If your site doesn't take the net by storm, you'll still have all kinds of writing samples in your arsenal -- reviews, essays, comedy pieces -- whatever you put into it. It's also a great way to motivate yourself to write every day, the comments and reader feedback becomes addictive.
As for stripping, if you've got the body -- absolutely go for it. It's the hot profession for writers this year. But always remember the words of poet laureate Wyclef Jean: "Just 'cause she dances go-go, that don't make her a ho, no."
More of Eric's questions to come. Do you have a question you'd like answered? Hit me up in the comments or at my personal site. And Happy New Year!