My encounter with the agent from Sacha Baron Cohen’s masterpiece ‘Bruno’

Let’s talk about Lloyd of AB Management, apparently an agent for actors and writers based in Los Angeles. When I was pitching my tits off at the Pitchmart – Lloyd also happened to be at the event. Once I had finished pitching to my choice of producers, I noticed he was sitting alone. He looked miserable. So I walked over to his table and introduced myself. He asked me what I have for him. I mentioned the title, genre, logline and gave a very brief outline of the story. He asked me what happened to the Pope in my story. I told him that I didn’t know because he’s not a character that I had included in my story, therefore left to the reader’s imagination. Since the villain had taken over the Vatican, it was obvious he had obliterated everyone including the Pope, I explained. But, agent Lloyd would not accept this. He began to raise his voice and get angry, and insisted that I explain what had happened to the Pope. Then, I politely made it clear that the Pope and his posse had been exterminated by the villain and his clan. By now Lloyd was furious at me for not including the pope in the script, and said that my script (which he hadn’t read) did not make sense. I asked him to calm down and not take it too seriously, at which point he responded by demeaning my work and said that he wouldn’t pay a dime for my script. I replied that I didn’t give a toss about his opinion, and left.

To cut an epic short, it turned out that Lloyd had a part in Sacha Baron Cohen’s ‘Bruno’ in which he was cast as himself – the agent. If you have seen the film you will definitely remember the scene in which Lloyd sets up a panel of casting directors only to watch Bruno do a nude weenie spinning dance act. How traumatic for Lloyd……and that’s all I have to say about that…

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Do I really need an agent? And how long must I continue to hone?

There is so much conflicting advice and no definitive answers on whether one should adamantly seek an agent or try alternative methods such as networking and pitching to industry personnel in the hope that you will get lucky with a script sale.The whole system makes me wonder though. Writers create something from a death-defying blank page and the agent takes a bite out of it. So why does the writer always have to be the one to impress an agent? How about the other way round where the agent has to demonstrate how writers can benefit from hiring them as a representative. After all it is the agents who make a percentage from the writer’s talent. I have yet to come across an enticing agent with a bright enthusiastic approach. So why is it they are always looking for not only brilliant writing samples, but also a writer with an equally electric personality? Surely, it is meant to be a partnership, and I certainly would not want to be in alliance with an agent who cannot equalize my current.

I have met several agents at various events and generally they give the same advice; ‘hone in on your writing skills’ they say. I am honing. I hone regularly. I hone with reverence. I accept the honing process is an infinite task, or tragedy, depending on how you look at it. But deep down inside we all know the truth. Screenplays sold and produced did not get there because of brilliant writing honed to perfection. Success is an outcome of great tenacity, an industry connection, or being in the right time at the right place scenario. Perhaps it’s time to ease off the honing and get networking…

A link to a great article on agents by an established screenwriter Ashley Scott Meyers.
http://www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/screenwriting-faq/how-do-you-get-an-agent-for-your-screenplay-and-why-you-don%E2%80%99t-need-one/

Screenwriting: Should you register copyright your work?

Yes. As writers we begin to financially invest in our careers the moment we buy the correct software for screenwriting. Then we may even spend money on attending events, hiring consultants and books. So why cut back on something imperative as copyright especially if you believe, feel and know that your script is going to be the next blockbuster. Some writers choose the age old method of posting or emailing a copy of their work to themselves. This is all fine, but it won’t hurt to do that little extra and register your script with The Writers Guild or even better the US Copyright Office. The following article explains the benefits http://www.writersstore.com/wgaw-registration-vs-copyright-registration/

There is an interesting story in Ken Rotcop’s ‘The Perfect Pitch’ about copyright infringement by a well known company in Hollywood who stole a story idea. They hired a writer to pen a complete script based on a pitch. From what I can remember, the project went into production and of course the lady who had pitched the story found out and decided to take legal action. She had her script registered and without doubt was able to prove ownership. To cut a long story short, the production company settled out of court paying her a sum of around $8 million which they could have quite easily avoided by purchasing the script for much less, not even having to go anywhere near the million range.

However, this type of thing rarely happens. The studios and big boys apparently have enough dosh to buy you, and your script. The small production companies with barely enough finance to finish off a movie, well I guess it wouldn’t really matter if they stole your idea because the chances are it probably won’t materialize onto the screen.
Nevertheless, it is still a wise move to copyright your work. $20 to $40 investment is a small price to pay for peace of mind. It’s also a good idea to keep a database on verbal pitches; who, when and what you pitched, along with supporting documents, email, letters and faxes. This could prove invaluable in case you needed to make a claim for copyright infringement, but it is also a great way of keeping a record of your activities to save you from duplicating your pitch or query letter to the same production company.

“All I ask is the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy”. Spike Milligan

Screenwriting: Avoid Stagnant Screenwriters like the Plague

September 2011, at Menara Airport Marrakech on my way to a resident writer’s workshop run by Euroscript http://www.euroscript.co.uk/ I met a man in his 50s who had been attending workshops for almost 10 years and still writing his first script. What a lemon, I thought. Needless to say but I’ll say it anyway, he was a total bore. When he spoke his words complacently plodded around in my brain, depleting my precious energy. When he asked me to read his unfinished script, I politely declined explaining that my trainee critique of his work would be of no use for a script that sounds like a masterpiece in the making. I noticed his chest inflate a few inches, and he went on to explain every little tedious detail of the story at which point I conveniently escaped to the toilet.

An event held by The Script Factory at BAFTA Piccadilly in June 2011. At morning coffee, I met a young lady around the age of thirty displaying a crushed demeanour. She had a somewhat sloppy and sluggish feel about her. When she spoke her words lacked enthusiasm and the sentences just trailed off. It turned out that she had been writing for almost three years and was almost half way through her script. Another plodder, I thought, and another escape to the toilet.

I don’t mean to be cruel, but generally these people are not screenwriters. They are dreary, mind-numbing, uninspiring dreamers that go nowhere and do nothing. Keep away or you will be exhausted.
As a screenwriter you want to be proactive and accomplish writing a complete spec script as soon as you can. And then write another one. Practice makes perfect. There is nothing better than writing stories that inspire you and in the process enhance your screenwriting skills. Sure, you can read and reread as many screenplays as you like, but nothing will teach you better than revising your own work over and over.

If you need a dose of enthusiasm then I highly recommend the following book: ‘I Will’ by Ben Sweetland – Foreward by Melvin Powers. The best book on writing a screenplay: ‘Save the Cat’ by Blake Snyder. http://www.blakesnyder.com/