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Literary Manager Horror Story

The temptation for a screenwriter trying to break-in is to think that if you can only land a manager, you’ll make it.

Well...the struggle only starts when you get a manager. It’s by no means over.

I don’t want to get into my own experiences, but suffice it to say that managers are people too. If you think you’re exhausting yourself pitching to them, they’re doing the same thing up the next leg of the food chain—pitching to producers, studios, execs, agents, etc.

And like every other job out there, there are good managers and bad ones. Fast readers and slow readers. Some are truly gifted when it comes to development, while others could not write their way out of a paper bag.

Some talk about themselves like they’re God’s gift to story, but when you see the work they’ve produced, it’s like—Jeez bro, you have the world’s worst taste.

Because they’re swimming in an ecosystem of sellers and buyers, they tend to become savvy about what kind of concept or pitch will “move the needle.” That’s true.

But they might be disinclined to see the potential in something strange or unique. And they’re less inclined to look into the big picture of a writer’s career as opposed to find a hot script they can sell for a lot of money.

Anyway, check out this horror story, of a writer who learned his managers at Zero Gravity essentially sold him out on a project (encouraged him to cap his fee on false pretenses) so they could make more money as producers on that same project.

I don’t know any of the participants. But let me say the not surprise me.

The best way to think of managers is that they are producers without the money to buy scripts. So instead of paying writers, they offer their labor (their expertise) to help shape those scripts, on spec. That way they have something to produce. Get it? And they’ll make way more money producing than getting 10% of the writer’s fee.

Now, there truly are the “classic” literary managers out there: men and women who love to guide the careers of writers, enjoy the development process, and care about and look after their clients. They don’t want to be in the icky world of producing, and/or have very honorable rules (and stick to them) about when they will and won’t take producing credit.

But probably the majority of managers out there are in the “producer” model. And,’s a lot of sharks.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s perfectly okay to be a producing manager. But please don’t lie, cheat and/or steal to do it.

Now you know—and knowing is half the battle!

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