My first full-time boss in the movie business wasn’t in the movie business. He represented playwrights at the William Morris Agency in New York. He was a brilliant agent and his writers were top of the heap. He had a rule, which I learned to follow after a period of time and which was the only way I could stay being a manager: stay true to yourself but make money. That is, write your plays, the things that bring you the most love and fulfillment but you must survive as a writer. Therefore, everyone who wrote plays also worked in film and television. A few years ago one of those clients won a Tony and kept his job as the show runner on a top rated network show. Another wrote for FX and had a one act play produced in New York. One has a wonderful screenplay, it will probably never get made because it is unique and special and his own but he just sold a spec to Sony and he doesn’t feel stifled by ‘the man.’
In the beginning of my career working with writers I took clients on based solely on my interest in the piece of writing they showed me. It didn’t matter how small or how obscure it might be – if I was affected by it, I wanted to be part of it. Guess what, we got close a few times but none of those small projects ever got made and even if they did I couldn’t have paid my rent. It is a business after all and I learned that down the road. I too took the notion that my clients could have their small special piece of writing for film, the theater, a poetry reading, whatever made them happy, but they had to provide me with sellable material as well or be open to writing it.
There is no crime in conforming to the world’s capitalist attitude. We must make money. It doesn’t mean we have to sell out. There are great writers I have worked with, directors and actors too, who have done the small important films or shows they wanted to and supplemented their income by writing for television or selling a spec for the screen. A manager or agent, whatever representative you choose should hopefully support this way of thinking. It’s possible that the small character piece you write and love may never see the light of day but you wrote it and if you write something that does get made you may then have the means to get that passion project made. Don’t give up on this. Don’t get swallowed whole by Hollywood and its expectations of tent poles and ratings sweeps. You can have it all. You have to be true to yourself and make sure have a team on your side who supports this way of living. If they don’t, find someone who does because an unhappy writer is an unhappy person, an unfulfilled writer is an unhappy person and an unhappy person may write something successful but they’re going to hate themselves for it. Thanks George.