DEALING WITH AGENTS
or
DEVELOPMENT HELL
1.Motivation 2.Budgets & Breakdowns 3.Producer Stuff        4.Editing & Actors       5.Festivals & Distributors
6.Clean Up   7.Dealing With Agents  8.Production Checklist      9. Digital Proletariat Home



So, you've got to the point where you realize you are going to have to get a marquee actor in your film to;

a) Get the budget you need to make this film.
b) Attract a large enough audience so the film gets seen.

Unless of course you can call up the actor and hand him the script because he's your poker buddy,
how do you find out where he is, and how do you get him a script? Well, finding out where is the easy part; call the Screen Actors Guild and ask them for contact information for the actor in question. Now the proverbial ka ka hits the fan.


I hate the agent system.

An actor finally proves himself in some arena in which people can see his work and then he's isolated from the good scripts because his agent doesn't see a percentage for himself or the 'commercial potential' of a script. Take it or leave it, that's how things work with agents. They are not necessarily bad people, doing their job entails all the superficial tripe of Hollywood, it's not about the actors but about the money in which the agents can get for their actors, and of course, their 10% (some of them get 20%). Yep, it blows.

Recently I've been shopping a project around, take heed, learn from my mistakes.

First of all,
representing yourself as both producer and director is just bad news, unless of course you have a commercially successful film under your belt. Even if your films have had phenomenal critical success in their limited theatrical release (5 million is the bench mark), unless your name is thought of with Miramax or October, you are NOBODY. You must find a producer that you trust. Don't minimize this attribute, he may have millions at his disposal but could rip you off for your work, sell you down the pike for money or just be so greedy that his involvement could ruin your film even if he gets it financed. If you get 10 mil to make a film and it turns out to be a piece of crap, who loses? Not the producer, (Who asks "Who produced it?"?) not the actors ("What could they do with material like that") - the director. Yep, that's you babe. I don't know how to tell you how to find this person. Obviously it's somebody you have some connection with, and that reads your work nearly as well as you do. He has to be one of your fans, with ideas of his/her own. It's a collaboration, a marriage, your Carlo Ponti or whom ever you envision as being a good producer but it's hardly ever the person waving money in your face with a double digit IQ. Not that it couldn't be, but it hardly ever is.

If you have somebody else telling the world how great you are, you already have credibility with whomever they are talking to by proxy. YOU are not telling them how great YOU are, someone else is extolling your virtues. THAT MEANS A LOT. That means that already somebody else believes in you, SOPHOMORIC BUT NOT SUBTLE OR DISMISSIVE.

One of my producers is a guy who has just lived through some horrible melodrama in which he lost his business, his money, his house, his girlfriend of 7 years and he owes the IRS some million or so dollars. The guy was a walking country western song for so long he was beginning to make me puke. However, when I met him, he still thought he was up, he got it, he liked the work and we made some connection. I saw through his bad, and I do mean
bad times, and he has worked very hard trying to get my film to screen. He's a younger man than I, he has a tendency towards arrogance, twerpism, and doesn't know what to do at times, but, I showed a guy that likes my work, and was smart, how to deal in straight business terms with the people that might be interested in my work, and the guy has taken the ball and run with it. He has the potential to be a great producer, and I will always be grateful for our relationship.  This is what I told him to do.

First of all, I knew I had a good script . Do You? Are You Sure? Is it Perfect? Well? OK then, who are absolutely the best actors, bar none, that you would like to see in the parts? No, Mel Gibson cannot play a 22 year old junkie on the streets of Moscow. But who could? No, Tommy Lee Jones can't do it. GET REAL.

Casting is the most important part of your film. Even if you were to get it to Mel Gibson, would he even consider doing a 22 year olds part? Don't be stupid, who could do this part?

OK, you've narrowed the casting down to 8 people, or couples that could do the part, what next?
Call
SAG and find out who represents them. Now what? Well that's where a little creative publicity comes in. I don't know what you've done, but I've had some pretty good reviews, we wrote a letter of introduction and included some clippings from reviews, 1 sheets, and production company interest with the letter and just sent it to the people involved (agents, managers etc.). Accentuate the positive, build up whatever you've done and make it look as good as possible without sounding like you are, like someone the actor might like to work with.

SPELL THEIR NAME RIGHT. Simple courtesy, I screw it up all the time, unintentionally, with a name like mine I've learned to forgive people their poor spelling, but agents are not regular people, awful lot of self inflated ego you have to deal with. Spell their name right, you need them on your side.

Don't send them a synopsis. A 2 line condensation of the film might be better in your intro letter. They won't read your script if they don't like the synopsis. They probably won't read your script anyway, depends on the agent. Some are stereotypes, some have triple digit IQ's and have some concern for their clients, most will not read the script because they are busy and will have it 'covered', or can't read, or you are nobody.

BIDNESS

1. Write an introduction letter to the agent representing the actor you want.
2. Send them a script only when they request it, otherwise it will get sent back or thrown away.
3. Follow up calls - 2 a week - It will take weeks to
get a response, usually, don't get too antsy and become a pest. 1st they will have somebody else read it (coverage), then they may read and if they like it will call you back.
4. Offers - The agent may then ask for an offer to do
the part, if you can, make an offer. If not - improvise, but don't lie.
5. Dead in the water - you could be if they want escrow
money, pay or play money and you don't have it.

This is straight business. Agents make money when the actors do. This is a business transaction, not art. Make the agent (and their assistants) as comfortable with you and the work as possible. Your producer has to make you out to be someone the actor should work with in their career. How do they do that? I dunno. Make you out to be the creative genius we've all heard about? Fun to work with? That's why THEY ARE PRODUCERS AND YOU'RE NOT.

My take is always a good script. "If it's not on the page, it's not on the stage." Ain't cliché's great? Truth is most actors, most
actors, want to do something that will stretch them and their abilities - JUST LIKE YOU. Your problem is writing the script they want to do. Write it. OK, how do you get it past the agent? That's the catch 22 of the film business. Agents are the bane of the independent film community, usually for actors that are working a lot they will not forward a script without money, or play or pay money, or a whole host of other obstacles intended to dissuade you from 'bothering' their client. The fact is that their client may love to do your script, but if he doesn't see it or get a chance to read it, you are dead in the water.

O.K., I got a prestigious production company with over 2 billion in investment capital that is currently making a film with Jack Nicholson to write a letter of intent to produce my film contingent,
CONTINGENT on the cast for X million. The agents did not know this production company, they weren't Paramount, or October, so they would not even forward a script to the client without an escrow account. That means that they want to see cash they know is there rather than the promise of a good film. Well, OK, understandable from their point of view considering how many bad scripts are floating around, but incredibly lazy of them considering this company was financing films for Paramount. They only know how to play by their rules, it has nothing to do with the actor, usually. I know some actors tell their agents they ONLY want big budget films, so it may not be the agent at all.

You've been
NON-CONTACTED by the agent, now what? Cruise the places that your actor may haunt - bars, theaters etc.? Possible, but imagine you're an actor who gets accosted by somebody on the street with a script in his/her hand? It has to feel like getting stalked, and that is not conducive to a trusting relationship on the set. PRODUCERS JOB. Get your producer to do it, he/she wants to produce? Produce!

You might want to try getting a known
casting director on board that has cast the actor you want in another film (IMDB). Find out who some of the casting directors are in town, many of them want to produce, see if you can get them to read your script and if they like it, offer them a producer credit. If your script comes from a casting director an agent will automatically take a much more serious interest, mainly because he represents a number of actors who may ALL need this casting director in the future. If your casting director is any good, then the script will get read and the agents will treat your project with a lot more regard. They'll still play the game, but you now have some clout.

Other than that, it's personal relationships, who you know that can help you. I know, that sounds terrible, but it's the truth, and it doesn't always help. For instance, one of my actors has a personal friendship with an actor I had in mind for the lead in my next film, slept at his apartment in New York while working on his film. He liked the script, and would not give it too him. Jealousy? Selfishness? Maybe, probably, but the end result is with one degree of separation, I could not reach the actor. Blows doesn't it?

You have to try the straight route I've outlined above, it may be the actor you want is screaming for good work and he may get a chance to read it. It may be the agent sends it on and the actor hates it but won't tell you. It may be that the agent is playing the hollywood shuffle with your script for reasons of his own. None of that matters, you have to play the straight route first, and, if none of that works, be creative, buy a billboard on Sunset Ave. advertising your script, cruise the bars-try something, anything. You may be the reason your actor has a whole new agenda with his agent.

1.Motivation
2.Budgets & Breakdowns 3.Producer Stuff           4.Editing & Actors 5.Festivals & Distributors  6.Clean Up     7.Dealing With Agents           8.Production Checklist       9.Digital Proletariat Home


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