Monday, January 14, 2013

"Are readers biased against scripts from smaller reps?"

Cameron writes:

Hello bitter script reader... First off, I enjoy the blog--and I really like the youtube videos as well. 

Second I was hoping you could shed some light on something I've been thinking about. I'm currently fortunate enough to finally break through that first tough barrier of getting representation. There are several agencies/management companies I'm currently considering. I know you have a long history of reading screenplays for various places--and probably know a ton of other readers as well. 

I was curious if there was any bias you've ever seen amongst readers when you get sent scripts--lets say from CAA vs. a boutique agency or Circle of Confusion vs. small independent manager. 

Do companies/readers take "bigger" agency/management submissions more seriously than a smaller ones? I would love to think that the writing will simply speak for itself, but from what you seen is this true?

The first time I read this, my gut reaction was "No, not at all.  I don't think that has ANY bearing on the read."  But then I thought about it a little more and realized the following issues MIGHT come into play.

- Scripts from bigger agencies probably will be read faster.  This has less to do with reader bias and more often to do with the fact that the exec who needs the coverage will assign a higher priority to a script that comes in from a more reputable source.  On that count, all you're really losing is time, though.

- If a submission comes in from one of the bigger agencies and it REALLY sucks, odds are we might be subconsciously harder on it.  Probably every reader has finished a particularly bad script and thought "CAA reps this guy?!  How the hell did that happen?"  But again, that's a problem for the bigger repped writer, not necessarily you.

- The one instance where having a lower-level manager might hurt you is if your rep has shoveled a LOT of shit to my company lately.  I'm not talking about the "Eh, it's not for me" kind of PASS, nor the "Generic on every level" PASS.  I'm talking about the "I don't believe anyone in your office read a fucking word of this script because this is so bad  you'd be embarrassed for people to find it in your trash!"  (And yes, these guys exist.)  That's when you really start off on the wrong foot with me and then everything you do wrong in the script will go into my master thesis of why this particular rep should not get his calls returned.

But again, not that for this to be a problem, you have to have written a bad script.  Down on my level, there aren't many ways for a lower-prestige rep to screw you over.  Where the lesser rep might present a problem is in getting someone to accept their submission, but that's mostly a decision made above my level.


  1. The implications of that final sentence are intriguing.

    As with unknown writers, a good rep may be considered "lesser" due to fewer connections, a smaller agency and an unproven track record in the big league. But if they have the poise, passion and talent, hopefully the scouts will push to get them called up to the majors. I'm a little surprised to hear that material "so bad you'd be embarrassed for people to find it in your trash" comes through the door with representation.

    I suppose the thing for writers to do is prepare, prepare, prepare. When the third draft feels bullet proof, read it one more time with plenty of rest and fresh eyes before sending it out. Remember that when we get that look, it's a brief moment that demands: OK, kid, show us your best pitch.

  2. I've seen this from both ends: being an assistant to a boutique agent and being an asst. to Dev Execs. What happens at the agency level is a writer meets with their agent and says, "hey, here are the three ideas I'm thinking about writing next."

    The agent listens to the ideas, then says, "Let me think about it, and I'll call you in a couple of days." The agent then calls a few dev execs and/or producers to see which of those ideas might generate meetings or reads. Then the agent calls back and says, "Write the Frog Prince meets Planet of the Apes story, but do it fast. I think it will sell."

    Now you have the worst of all possible worlds: a mediocre idea banged out in a hurry. The buyers flog the agent to get the script, the agent flogs the writer to write the script, and the writer flogs themself to finish the script without really fully developing the idea.

    A less-than-stellar 1st draft shows up in the agent's email attached to a note that says something along the lines of, "here's the vomit draft. Am I on the right track, or should I scrap it and write the R-rated comedy instead?"

    The agent, thrilled to get a draft, sneaks it to the couple of people who are interested with an email that plainly states: this is a first draft, but I'm sneaking it to you first. Any notes?

    The prodco then hands it to The Bitter Scriptreader saying nothing about it being a first draft, and waits for the coverage. Bitter then looks at this thing and wonders, "How the hell did this happen?"

    Welcome to Hollywood.

  3. Thanks ST

    This makes perfect sense.
    And fits in with other things I've heard.