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.
Eddie Gamarra, a former college professor, has spent the last 11 years working at the management/production company The Gotham Group. After starting as assistant, Gamarra stepped into the role of literary manager where he represents animation, children and family entertainment talent including writers, directors, artists and publishers. You may want to read Part 1 HERE.
TELL US ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP YOU HAVE WITH YOUR CLIENTS.
Part of the job description is I’m the priest confessor. I am the psychoanalyst. I’m the Guidance Counselor to these people because, you know, one of the things you hear in our business is, “Well, this isn’t brain surgery.” And it’s not. And we shouldn’t be too filled with self importance here, but on my side, on the representation side, you are dealing with people who are going through divorce, who lost a baby in the third trimester, who have become homeless, who are suffering from addiction, who have to file bankruptcy, who have to become adult caretakers of senior parents, who have no health insurance for their family.
And while it may not be brain surgery, I’ve had clients who’ve had to have brain surgery and they’re relying on guild health insurance or steady payment from their employer with no disruption in their payment flow. And so even though what I do is not necessarily in the surgery theater. It’s potentially equally lifesaving. Not to inflate our own self-importance, but we are really in the thick of it with our clients on a very intimate level sometimes.
WHAT CAN A WRITER DO TO HELP YOU DO YOUR JOB?
I need them to number one, pay attention to the marketplace. They need to see what’s being released. What pilots are being shot. What series are being launched. They need to pay attention to what’s actually coming out. Then they need to look at those end credits and see who’s making those things. They need to educate themselves about what’s actually happening around them, because you have to be able to speak to your comps. You have to be able to make those comparisons that are smart and current.
Number two is stay on top of things that are happening outside of your industry like you may be in film or TV, but take a look at the New York Times Best Seller list. More than half of the film and TV projects out there are based on books or comics. Learn that industry. Expose yourself to that industry. Be reading outside of your interest area because you need to know what’s exciting that’s happening in storytelling beyond your media.
And then thirdly, have a day job. Try not to rely on a freelance lifestyle for your rent. The best writer is an employed writer and if you’re not getting the jobs as a writer yet, we believe in you and you believe in you, but have a day job if you can. I find that people who’ve had interesting, diverse life experiences are often better storytellers in general. Verbally, textually, visually. They’ve seen more life. They tell more complicated, interesting, layered stories. They have life experience.
Don’t be afraid to go take a one day seminar on personal finances or take a one day seminar on intellectual property law or invest in going to licensing show in Vegas or invest in going to Toy Fair in New York or invest in spending the weekend at E3. Look at how stories are being told in these other ways. Through merchandise. Through toys. Through digital. That stuff stimulates your brain.
WHAT IS SOME OF THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE GOTTEN ALONG THE WAY?
I think the best business advice I actually got was from my dissertation advisor because when grad students have to write that dissertation, that’s a giant thing. That is a big, giant onerous task in front of you. My advisor said, “Eddie, the best dissertation is a done dissertation. And you could keep researching and you could keep revising your manuscript for your dissertation. Just get it done.”
And I’ve carried that mentality with me to Hollywood. How do we translate that to our clients? Client comes in, “I have an idea for a movie,” it’s a writer/director filmmaker client and we say, “Okay, what’s the minimum amount of money you need and the minimum amount of time you need to get this movie done?”
So the guy says, “I can probably shoot this in a week for about $200,000.” Okay. Let’s work on getting the script to a place where you can actually do that. And let’s encourage you to not wait for Warner Bros. and Sony and Paramount and Universal to read a script and probably note it to death and maybe say yes, maybe say no. It’s cast contingent, it’s schedule contingent, it’s budget contingent.
You can walk into any coffee shop in LA this weekend and cast and crew a movie. You could. Go do it. Go make a movie. Go make a pilot episode. Why not? You can do this. Don’t wait for other people to give you permission to do it. You came here to do it, go do it.
WHAT OTHER ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR WRITERS?
Build up a war chest. Really create some savings. Learn how to manage your personal finances. It’s not creative advice. It’s life advice. Learn how to manage your personal finances, because when you do get that big check, you may not get another check for 5 years. So don’t go buy a Ferrari. Don’t go buy a house that you can’t afford the mortgage on. Learn how to manage your personal finances. Get a good accountant.
Before you enter the game, learn the rules of the game. Observe the game. Read Deadline. Watch the politics of it. See how it all unfolds. Figure out who are the meaningful people and focus on getting your stuff to those meaningful people. There’s really only a few thousand people in this industry who really make decisions.
Find out who matters. Who are the people who have output deals who actually are guaranteed distribution? Who are the people that are making the big hit shows who are probably going to have commitments from a network or from a channel or from a studio for more? Try to get your stuff to those people.
There’s a lot of fly by night people here. There’s a lot of loose money, financiers, foreign money. That’s fine, but if you really want to be in this for the long haul, who are the Chernin’s of the world? Who are the J.J. Abrams of the world? Who are the people who aren’t just selling a show or a movie? Who are the people who are building empires? Focus on getting to those people. You can do all that research on your own. That’s easy to do with the internet now. When I grew up, all I had was my subscription to Variety and my film classes.
Think multi-media in the sense that you may be struggling with your script. Maybe it’s a graphic novel. Maybe it’s a book. Maybe it’s something other than what you intended it to be. Why not try practicing those other creative modalities?
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.