A series of interviews with hard-working writers – by another hard-working writer!
by Kelly Jo Brick
Finding the right representation can be a key component to growing and developing a writing career. TVWriter.com sat down with several managers to find out what they’re looking for in writers and what writers can be doing to help achieve success in the industry.
From starting as an assistant at ICM to pursuing endeavors as a writer/director and then becoming a development executive, manager Markus Goerg found that he really enjoyed working with writers and helping them to achieve their visions. This led Markus to co-found the production and management company, Heroes and Villains Entertainment.
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO BECOME A MANAGER?
I had an idea that maybe managing was something for me when I was an assistant at ICM and I had received a query letter from an aspiring writer out of New York that I thought was really interesting. The writer’s name was Kevin Bisch and he pitched a script called THE LAST FIRST KISS and this was a time when romantic comedy was still something that you could get made and I requested the script and I loved it. I gave it to my boss, who also loved it and six weeks later it sold to Sony.
So I knew I had an eye for material and for what was commercial and interesting and then 2 ½ years later the movie came out as HITCH starring Will Smith. That was sort of where the seed was planted. After I left ICM, I became a development executive, just working with writers and breaking story. Trying to get stuff done in the business was exciting to me, so when the opportunity presented itself to go into management and do our own thing, I took it. I co-founded Heroes and Villains, I’m one of the three original founders of the company.
HOW MANY CLIENTS DO YOU HAVE?
I work with all of our clients to some degree. We do run point on people. It varies. I run point on about between 17 to 20 writers right now, but we all work on everybody together. It’s very much a team atmosphere at Heroes and Villains.
You have to pool your resources. You ask for help with getting to certain executives that you may not have as good of a relationship with as someone else or you may not know them or you may need an introduction or whatever it is. So you’re always working with your teammates and trying to get the best possible result.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A WRITER?
I look for C-D-E, which stands for character, dialogue and emotional resonance, with emotional resonance being the most important. It can all be summed up into, do I really give a shit. If I don’t give a shit by page 30, you’re in trouble. If I get to page 30, it means your writing’s good enough.
The writing just has to be exceptional. Their voice needs to be unique. I’m maybe a little bit of an outlier in that I look for very literary writers, so I want people who just paint a beautiful picture. Consider the page a canvas and paint me a picture. I do not respond well to perfunctory writing. Guy walks into the room, puts the suitcase down, lights a cigarette, picks up the phone and makes a call. That does not get me excited. I need you to set the mood.
At the same time, you’ve got to be very careful because you don’t want your script to start looking like a novel where it’s just twenty, eight line paragraphs of description. That’s the kiss of death. I’m looking for that very delicate balance of give me a few sentences and get me into the world. Make me feel and smell and taste what it is that you’re talking about and then get me excited about the characters. Make me feel for them.
Then it comes down to what is that person like in the room, because as a manager, it’s my job to get you in the room. We help you create that piece of material that will open the door for you, but then once you walk through the door, you’re going to be walking in on your own. And you’re going to have to be great in the room.
When executives sit down with writers, they’re looking to be inspired. They’re looking to sit across from someone who spins them a yarn, who tells them a tale that they find entertaining. And if the tale is, I grew up in L.A., then I went to USC and now I want to be a writer, that person’s not going to have a ton to talk about. They’re looking for somebody who has some life experience that they can talk about. I’ve met some of those people in my career and I’m most fascinated by those that, yeah, I went to USC and then I took two years and I backpacked through Asia. Tell me that story. People are looking to sit across from storytellers and they want to be told a story. Everything you say becomes part of the interview process.
In the business, as a representative I represent writers, I don’t represent single screenplays. If I take on a new writer, that’s a person’s career I’ll be responsible for, so I’m looking for longevity. Does this person have the chops to survive in this business for the next 20-30 years? And of course you never know. You take an educated guess and then you hope things will fall into place.
HOW DO PEOPLE GET CONSIDERED BY YOU?
Where I get my clients now, I want to say to 98% of the time is referral. An agent comes to me and says I got a client who I just signed or I have a client who was hot two years ago and he needs new material, she needs new material. We need somebody who will come in and just crush it and help them create that new piece of material and we all, with combined efforts, can get them back to where they were or an attorney will call me, or anybody who has a direct connection to us will say I know somebody whose script I just read. It’s amazing. You’ve got to check it out.
A lot of referrals actually come from our own clients, which I feel speaks to the quality of representation we have because, why would they send us other people if they weren’t happy with the service they get from Heroes and Villains.
Development executives will call us and say, hey I just read this person. They’re not represented. I don’t know why. I think they’re amazing. I met them. You’ve got to check them out. Let me send you their material. That’s exciting because what that says to me is that person has been vetted and has gotten the seal of approval from someone in the business whose business it is to find great writers and great voices and so that person says to me, I think this person is great, you should check them out, then I’ll be happy to do that.
Every once and a while, I’ll find somebody. This literally happened just once. I found somebody on the Black List. Not a Black List, list winner, but somebody who had uploaded their script on the Black List and gotten some good reviews and the Black List just kept pushing it at me as featured script of the week. For whatever reason I had enough time to read the first ten pages in the office and was actually intrigued by the writing and said, “Wow, this is actually quite good. How is this person not represented?” Then I read the rest and I ended up signing that person.
Coming soon – more from Markus including his insights on how to stay relevant, building industry relationships and mistakes he sees writers making.
Kelly Jo Brick is a Contributing Editor at TVWriter™. She’s a television and documentary writer and producer, as well as a winner of Scriptapalooza TV and a Sundance Fellow. Read more about her HERE.