Managers and Agents
Ellen interviews Manager Adam Peck:
ELLEN: How do you define the difference between agents and managers?
ADAM: A manager's responsibility is perhaps more broadly defined than that of an agent, and it's fluid according to the specific needs of each client. I oversee, advise, consult, promote, track down and follow up leads on career opportunities in addition to helping to evaluate and negotiate those that are presented to the client. In a way, I'm the client's brand manager: developing them, selling them and ultimately safeguarding them.
Agents essentially seek out and help to secure specific job opportunities and then assist in negotiating the terms of the deal. They are often also less involved with the more personal aspects of the client. They also do not get involved with the production of a client's project whereas I will produce a client's TV show, film or play on a case by case basis.
ELLEN: About how many clients do you handle? Is that more or less than an agent typically would handle?
I try to keep my list fairly small because one of the merits of a manager should be the level and quality of attention and nurturing they give the client. I try to be available literally 24/7. I'd say I have 20 to 25 clients. And some clients require more consistent daily oversight than others depending on the various cycles and seasons of their particular fields and depending if one of their particular projects is in production.
ELLEN: Why does a writer need both a manager and an agent?
It's become far more competitive now for writers and it's become that much harder to find and secure work, so an extra set of eyes, ears and hands can really make a difference and enhance the opportunities. Particularly so when there is a good working relationship between the agent and manager. A manager surrounds the efforts of the agent and if anything should make his or her job way easier. And when a career has a lull -- make no mistake, they all do at some point -- a manager can keep the fires stoked at the agency and all around town.
ELLEN: Do managers work differently for TV than for film?
They both require good working relationships with studio executives but in TV there are also network, showrunner and producer pod relationships to nurture and exploit as well. Both features and TV require an understanding of and skill in selling projects and advocating clients for open assignments and positions but in the feature world it is proportionately more about the development of material rather than production of it, so story skills may come more into play there perhaps. But a good manager should be able to assist the client in developing their material in TV as well.
ELLEN: Are managers more open to new writers than agents?
Generally yes. Many agents, particularly those working at larger agencies, have a great many clients, entities and relationships to service and they have more corporate responsibilities within their agencies as well. Thus they have to be particularly selective with committing their resources and often that means gravitating to the low hanging fruit rather than developing and nurturing talent which is generally extremely time consuming and does not often pay dividends for quite a while.
ELLEN: Where do you look for new clients?
They are everywhere! You've got to be open and also have a pretty good understanding of what your sensibilities and skills are in order to find suitable clients for yourself. For instance, I discovered my client Brett Paesel at an evening of spoken word called The Triangle Room a client brought me to; I had no idea who she was but was so struck by her work that I stalked her outside the bathroom after the show and asked to read everything she'd ever written. I told her right then and there that from the piece she had just read I would work with her to package and sell a book and then develop it into a TV show for HBO with a writer from Sex & the City. Two years later, we have developed several TV shows together and her novel MOMMIES WHO DRINK is being published by Warner Books and it is in development at HBO with Executive Producer/writer Jenny Bicks.
What is it about a writer that makes you interested in handling him/her?
I look for talented and prolific writers with very unique voices. I seek out passionate writers with a specific point of view who simply love to write. It's also important for writers not be reluctant to do all the work it requires to succeed in this business, which on top of writing well also requires some real networking skills and a sense of politic, both of which can be difficult for many writers. I also look for people I genuinely enjoy spending time with since I tend to work very closely with my clients with an eye towards a long term relationship. I also look for writers creating original work which lends itself to a variety of media and retail platforms and I have developed a specialization in this regard.
ELLEN: How do you suggest that writers approach a manager?
A referral is best but basically any way you can.
ELLEN: Once you take on a writer, what do you expect from your client in terms of working relationship?
I am here to foster their creativity but I expect them to work as hard as I do and continuously provide me with as much information, ideas and suggestions about their work and their career trajectory as they can. I see the relationship as a partnership.
ELLEN: What should a client expect from you?
Constant availability, a lot of empathy, tenacious, aggressive and enthusiastic representation, strategic counsel and solid creative input.
ELLEN: Advice for breaking into the business?
There's no recipe, just keep writing and refining your work. Get in any way you can and keep learning about the business, making contacts and constantly evaluating what makes you happiest and fulfilled as a writer.
ELLEN: What can writers do to make themselves viable for work in the industry?
Write well and continuously and try to maintain a good attitude in spite of all the stupidity, cowardice and evil which will surround you.
ELLEN: Thanks, Adam, for those insightful thoughts.