Thursday, February 07, 2008

Parte the Seconde

More "How I Done Got A Agent", but first, my new favourite fictional agent: Ramsey, from which took me a while to get into, but I'm now starting to think might be really very good indeed.

JAMES MORAN (Severance, Doctor Who, Torchwood)

Basically, I got some scripts together (one TV episode and one film), got a list of agencies from that massive Writer & Artist & Workshy Fop book, and picked out the ones that seemed to accept things like what I wrote. I checked their websites for (a) friendliness, (b) bigness, and (c) a submissions section. Assuming all three were present, then they went on the list. My plan was: send my stuff to the first one on the list. Wait. If they reject it, go to the next one. And so on. I thought, with typical waiting times, it'd probably take a year or so. If I got to the end of the list and they'd all rejected me, then I would sellotape my scripts to my naked body, set them on fire, and leap off the top of Big Ben. Luckily for everyone, the first place I approached had my brilliant agent on slushpile duty, and there we go. Seriously, if I had got to the end of the list, I really might have just packed it in, as I had been writing for ages and didn't know if I was just fooling myself or not.

A few months before that though, I'd got a recommendation from someone who worked on the short film I wrote - they spoke to their agent, who agreed to read my stuff. All excited, I sent it over, only to immediately get a curt, two line rejection. And this was the same stuff I eventually sent out that got me my agent. So hahaha, fuck you stupid agent who didn't believe in me. Yes I still feel bitter about it, and yes I still have the rejection letter. There you go, rejection isn't always the end. And getting an agent isn't impossible, if you write good stuff it'll get through sooner or later.

Once I got the agent, I started getting general meetings, but all off the back of one of the scripts I'd sent him - everyone involved usually said "hey, great, let me see your next thing". I didn't sell anything or get a gig until a year later, when I sold Severance. Agents can put you forward for jobs, but without experience or a set of scripts to show you have the skills, you won't get them. I was up for a few gigs in that first year, but didn't get anything. Getting an agent is an important step, but if you don't write stuff that they can sell, then you won't get anywhere. And then your agent will tear out your heart and eat it while it's still beating.

STUART KENWORTHY (Green Wing, TV Burp, Spacehopper)

I got my first job just by sending work off to people and shit and that. However, I was still convinced that an agent was essential if my career was going to progress. One of the people I was working with was Nick Symons (producer of TV Burp and An Audience with Al Murray amongst many others) and he was very enthusiastic about my work. Nick contacted an agent friend of his and arranged for me to meet them. Of course I was living in Preston at the time, so I had to make a special a trip to London. I was signing on between jobs, so I was incredibly skint and this trip was going to cost me an entire fortnight's money so I knew I had to make it pay.
After another really fantastic journey on Virgin Trains I made my way up to offices on Regent's Street and felt intoxicated with expectation. I genuinely thought this was going to be my big break. I was then introduced to the agent in question and the very first thing she told me was that she was only interested in working with writer/performers, this was because writers earn peanuts and 'life's too short'. I started to sense this might not be my big break after all. She then went on to explain that she wasn't taking on new clients in any case and had only agreed to see me as a favour. The room had now merged into a dizzying array of shapes and colours and smells and my fight or flight impulses were starting to kick in (and as the agent was a woman, the impulse to fight was winning the day). She then asked if there were any questions I'd like to ask her, but there was only one: How am I supposed to live for the next fortnight you, repellent, stuck up, cankerous, old hag? And then I calmed down and went home.
I continued to send work off to producers and eventually ended up working on Green Wing. Oriane then asked a friend of hers on my behalf and he became my agent.


Oli said...

Story two sounds very familiar, just without the happy ending. The train, journey, the rush, the WTF, lost cash. If I'm going to get rejected, I prefer to have it happen via phone. Especially if they're paying for the call.

I also keep all my rejection letters. I have no idea what this achieves.

Anonymous said...

Hi Oli
Going to meet with an agent and have it go absolutely nowhere is unacceptable (producers, the little tinkers, are another matter entirely). Like you say, finding out where you stand can be done by letter, phone or email. By the time you actually meet there should be a more positive, welcome vibe to it all. But, like James is trying to prove, getting an agent is not the answer to everything. Making contacts with the industry directly is far more useful and the kinder members (and there are still some out there) will suggest agents and put in a good word for writers whose work they like.

Oli said...

Cheers, Alex, I was a little bemused at the time... and assuming you're the Alex what wrote "The Talent Thief", then it's time to get my creep on and tell you that I'm enjoying it at the minute.

Anonymous said...

Guilty as charged! Chuffed you're enjoying it. Not surprised you were bemused. Sounds as though Stuart's experience was one of a 'favour' being exercised but don't know why an agent would waste their time normally unless they were truly interested in a writer.

james henry said...

To be fair to the agent, Stuart's GORGEOUS.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I see. Tiz true, agents do like 10 percent of their client list to be total hotties.