Representation: 3 Reasons Not To Go Big
Half the writers I talk to have a very clear goal: They want to get repped. And not just repped. Repped by ICM, WME, CAA or, if their ego can bare it, UTA. Lets not even discuss Paradigm or APA. However, what most never stop to consider, outside of what the agencies’ logo will look like on their cover page, is the danger that come with being a very small fish in a very very big industry pond.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Martin Spencer or the like. On the contrary, they have all worked hard building names for themselves, and you should be well aware of them, their rosters, and their innumerable successes. But that is not the same as saying that you should aim to sign with them the first time out of the gate.
So here, without further ado, are the reasons you DON’T want a big agent from a big agency to be your very first rep:
1. You are an unknown commodity
If you sign with a well known agent, you are likely joining a roster littered with known commodities. Known commodities are those who have guaranteed returns. This means that when Agent X makes a call or returns a call on a known commodity’s behalf, they have a basic understanding even before they pick up the receiver (or earpiece, or iPhone) of how much revenue that call can generate. Until you’ve booked revenue on a consistent basis, you are not a known commodity, no matter how much effort you’ve put into your work. So on any given day, you can expect Agent X to prioritize calls for guaranteed revenue assets. Calls on your behalf, unless you are the writer behind the hottest scripts in town, are bound to come after that. Remember: A bigger rep does not need your success. They are successful enough without it. Therefore, and while they do come with superior connections, there is no guarantee that they will hustle for you as though their career dependent on it.
2. Overhead, overhead, overhead
Agents have to generate revenue for their companies. Help cary the cost of the overhead. The company has assistants to pay for, expenses, dinners, Lakers tickets, private jets, not to mention rent. Therefore, any agent’s first order of business is generating revenue for their company, rather than developing new talent that may or may not come to book revenue some day. If you turn in a script that your agent does not think they can sell, they will likely not have time to give you notes or go through revisions draft after draft. Agents are there to put contracts into place, to procure for their clients paying work, to “paper the deal” as they say. While many would love to spend time doing more development work, it is simply not built into the business model.
3. Big rosters, big names, bigger competition
As a client in a big agency, you are competing with not only your agent’s current roster for your agent’s attention; You are also competing with every other writer who wants to be repped by them. Agents are reading all the time, looking for that next client, the next brand they can promote and script they can sell. Therefore, you don’t have the luxury to take twelve months to write your next script or deliver anything less than ready for market. While this is true industry wide, it is that much truer when it comes to big agencies: You have to produce in a timely fashion, and you have to stay relevant. If not, there is a slew of writers on your agent’s current roster eager to get his or her attention, not to mention a talented crop in the waiting, ready to impress.
The moral of this story? Before you send your material into the big agencies and go crossing all of your appendages, consider what you need of your rep, and what are realistic expectations for you to set. If you are not the writer to deliver a solid, sellable, air-tight script every 4-6 months, it is probably not the environment in which you will excel. Same can be said if you know you will need questions answered regularly and your hand held. Getting repped is not about being represented by the best house or the biggest brand. It’s about finding a rep whose agenda supports yours, and who can support your growth and needs in the way that you deserve.