Monday, November 21, 2011

"The Shit List" - Agents who don't give a damn

This is half-lark, half-serious.  I just got through a week where I had several sub-par scripts.  These weren't just "PASSES" they were "Ohmigod, you should be embarrassed to waste someone's time by sending these out!"  I've gotten used to seeing these over the years, but they're frequently the product of someone deciding to answer a query or perhaps someone in the company submitting something that a friend gave to them as a favor.

All the scripts I'm speaking of came into the various companies I read for through agents.  That's depressing on two levels.  First, these incredibly shitty writers - and I assure you, the scripts were inept not only in concept, but in basic story construction, dialogue, character depth and development and pacing - actually managed to impress someone with their writing enough that an agent actually took them on as a client.  Secondly, that agent, when confronted with a complete turd of a writing sample then got on the phone and convinced some schmuck at my company that this was worth two hours of their time.

There's a lot one could take from that, but I think two things are at the top of that list.  If this happened repeatedly from the same agent or manager, that person would lose ALL credibility with me.  I wouldn't trust anything they said was awesome because their submissions in the past would have shown they wouldn't know awesome if it walked into their office and stripped down to slinky lingerie.

The second point is one more relevant to writers out there - guys, there are lit agents with clearly ZERO standards or taste.  If those schmucks can get repped, anyone can.

Here's the half-lark: what if I spent the next six months or so keeping track of agents and managers like this?  What if I invited other script readers to do so and at the end of that, we publish the list.  We'll call it "The Shit List."  If you wanted, you could query these guys in the hopes of getting repped.  Now that comes with a fair amount of risk, for even if you could get a rep, would you want one who isn't known as a connoisseur of fine material?

Hmm... perhaps a side project could be for you fine readers to come up with deliberately terrible query letters, which will then be submitted to Shit List honorees.  It'd be interesting to see which, if any, result in script requests.

I can see an argument against this being that it's negative and bound to piss off agents.  I can see that, but if this list gained any credibility, perhaps it would shame some agents into being more discerning about the material they foist upon others.



  1. Not to be rude, but yeah, this is super negative. Could you imagine how pissed off we'd all be if reps started a 'Shit List' of terrible writers? Not that that would ever happen, but you know what I mean.

    The way I see it, there are plenty of reasons why an agent would send out a bad script -- trading in (or for) favors, desperation, self-delusion, maintaining contacts, to be seen as doing something, etc. They may even want the producer to take a look at one specific thing in the script, the overall quality of the script notwithstanding.

    Or, yes, they may just suck at their jobs. If that's the case, then I can't muster up any anger towards them. I just feel bad for them.

    There's too much bitching and bitterness in this town already. If we start going around Scarlet Letter-ing people who suck at their jobs, we're no better than the goddamn monsters in the Deadline comments section.

  2. I take it you're not a fan of The Wrap's "The Brown List" then, either? :)

  3. Not so much. But I guess they have to compete with Nikki Finke somehow.

    I know you were half-joking in your original post, but I stand by my point. The industry is too much like high school already. :)

  4. I think it's a decent idea, with a major caveat. In my opinion, agents as a whole are philistines who have no taste, and no one calls them out on their poor choices, so it might be nice to try to hold them accountable. On the other hand, I doubt it would make agents have better taste, or result in smarter people becoming agents, and it might just make existing agents more hesitant to sign writers and/or send out their stuff.

    I mean, I figure only about 5% of those guys have some idea what a good script looks like.

  5. As an intelligent and talented writer with very few connections who is currently seeking representation, all I have to say is: please do this, so I know who to avoid! Even if you didn't publish it, you could still keep the list and share it privately with, ahem, interested parties.

  6. Oh, and I wouldn't be remotely pissed if reps started a 'Shit List' of terrible writers. As a non-terrible writer, I would think that could only work in my favor.

  7. Funny idea, but in regard to the real world I'm with Xander.

    Granted, my knowledge of the industry and the world of readers is limited at best, but my practical business experience says this isn't a smart idea, at least not publicly.

    However, as an April Fools joke for the site, this would be comedy gold.

    I'd like to think with some effort you'd get a lot of people to fall for that one if you set it up correctly.

  8. Unfortunately, history has shown that a decent chunk of the readership is vulnerable to such April Fool pranks even when NOT set up correctly! I still hear from people who think that Wonder Woman gag is legit.

  9. Ha! That's awesome!