FOUR PIECES OF ADVICE FROM AN EX-LITERARY MANAGER TO WRITERS, DIRECTORS AND ANYONE ELSE LOOKING FOR REPRESENTATION.
by Jenny Frankfurt.
Before founding The Finish Line Script Competition, I was a literary manager for almost 15 years. I worked in New York and Los Angeles and represented writers, directors, and producers. The relationship between writers and their manager is a special one, mainly because managers are there to help develop and guide a client’s career. An agent, for those who are often confused about the difference, is there to field offers, submit long lists to studios, networks and producers and hope someone calls. The manager makes the calls to push the writer amongst the many others submitted for a project and so it’s a personal experience with both writer and manager needing to commit fully. So how does a relationship like this work and how do both sides get the most out of one another and therefore their careers?
Now that I have a manager can I sit back and relax?
Writers – you must be proactive. Every client I took on had something to bring to the table other than their writing. They were active in writing groups, they knew producers, actors or directors and were actively working on their own to get work before I came along. Some of them were working on short films. One of the things managers find attractive about taking on a client other than their writing talent is that they bring opportunities that the manager, with their contacts and outreach, can make happen and help negotiate. This is an added bonus to the relationship, and it’s also here where the manager can help determine what might be a good career move to make. Not all opportunities are good ones and having someone who sees the bigger picture can either help facilitate them or say, “not now”.
What should writers ask of their manager?
Managers must have a plan. I have spoken to countless writers who feel discouraged by the lack of activity a manager is garnering for them. When I was a manager, I would construct a game plan for each client because I didn’t approach each with the same set of tools in my manager toolbox. Some were high concept writers; others were into indie film. Some wanted to direct what they wrote, others were not from the US and wanted to keep their toes in both sides of the pond. It is perfectly acceptable and in fact, necessary, for a client to ask their manager what they plan to do with a certain script or what the beginning of their relationship will look like. This ought to be done not by challenging the manager, but by acknowledging that you expect results. If the manager is serious about working for you, they will show you a plan or at least discuss people and places they intend to send your work.
Will any manager do?
Writer’s ought to be selective about who represents them. Do not accept representation from just anyone who raises their hand. It’s tempting, understandably; everyone wants to have representation. But more importantly, writers ought to have good representation. Managers should be transparent about their other clients, the work they’ve gotten for them, who their contacts are and what their access is like. Because managers don’t have to be licensed as agents do, anyone can say they’re a manager. Do your research and make sure you’re a good fit and that this person can move your career forward with the content you provide. Believe me, it feels worse to know there is someone, who is supposed to be working for you and isn’t or can’t produce results, than not having anyone at all.
Trust and Passion
Don’t insist work be sent out when it isn’t ready. You have hired your manager to advise you. There is usually only one chance to go out with a script and while everyone wants to be out trying to make things happen, they won’t go out there with something that is less than your best material. The clients who thrived with me were ones I thought were the greatest and whose work I was super proud to pitch and go the extra mile for. If a piece of work wasn’t ready, I would not go out with it. Trust the person you have hired to help you guide the traffic of the entertainment industry. If it’s not ready, make it ready. Your manager should be able to give strong notes and the best managers will call in every favor they can to get your script read. Passion goes a long way.
There is nothing like having an ally in this industry, who knows your work, and whom you feel is the person to represent you and who has your best interests at heart. Managers can be a shoulder to cry on and the person you spend the most time talking to about your career. It’s an investment for both sides. Nurture it well, communicate honestly, trust one another, and make sure you’re both bringing your best to the table.