Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path with Manager Tracey Murray, Part 1

A series of interviews with hard-working writers – by another hard-working writer!
by Kelly Jo Brick

Tracey MurrayFinding 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.

Manager Tracey Murray didn’t always know she wanted to be involved in the entertainment industry. She started out working for a New York public relations company before moving to Los Angeles to explore a career in news broadcasting.   Realizing broadcasting wasn’t for her, she turned to the entertainment world, landing a job as an assistant to Lee Gabler who ran packaging at Creative Artists Agency. She spent 11 years as an agent at CAA before becoming a manager. Tracey now works with writers as a Managing Partner at Industry Entertainment.

YOU WERE AN AGENT BEFORE BECOMING A MANAGER. WHY THE CHANGE?

The industry was changing. William Morris was about to merge with Endeavor. And basically it was just going to be the two larger agencies so I thought now’s the time. There’s going to be a real need. I could always go back to the agency world if I was wrong, but I figured timing-wise, it was probably the best time to try it.

Actors have always had managers. Then it was the feature writers and directors and then only about 7-8 years ago did TV writers take on managers because there was a real need. The agencies were getting so large that they couldn’t manage all the clients, so that’s why they needed the extra help.

WHAT’S SOME OF THE BEST ADVICE YOU RECEIVED AS YOU WERE BREAKING IN?

Work in television. It was funny because I was a French major and I thought that I was going to use my languages in international, in features. I started working for a feature agent for about a minute and didn’t like it. I then moved into television and my boss at the time, he said, “My wife works in features, the best advice I can give you is work in television.” And clearly I picked the right lane because right now television is the hottest and features are sort of non-existent, sadly.

WHAT’S THE MOST COMMON QUESTION YOU GET FROM WRITERS WHO ARE TRYING TO BREAK IN?

How do I get representation? There are many ways to get representation. I think lots of times it’s through relationships. People don’t accept unsolicited material, so it’s either through a lawyer or someone you know in the business. I think it’s also reaching out to your contacts. I know when I was starting out, I went to Penn and I tried to meet writers at Penn or younger writers that went to the Ivy League schools.

I think it depends on what level you are, so when you’re starting out and you’re trying to find representation, you should be reaching out to the newly promoted agents, the newly promoted managers who are trying to build their lists. I think that’s probably the best way to get representation.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A WRITER?

For me, it’s all on the page. You could be a superstar in the room, that’s added bonus, but for me it has to be on the page. You know it when you read it, but I can’t really say specifically. I feel like I have very good taste and I’ve always sort of picked well the people I thought were going to succeed.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WRITING CONTESTS?

I think it’s great. Put it this way, we read everyone from all those programs, whether it’s Warner Bros., the Disney program, awards, all that stuff. Yes, absolutely. I think that just adds to your resume.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN DOING YOUR JOB?

I think one thing is keeping up, now there are so many networks and you have to be familiar with all the shows. I mean, as I say to my clients, I expect them to work as hard as I do. I expect them to watch everything. I expect them to read everything. During development season, I expect them to read all the scripts and know what’s in development and then when the pilots are shot, I expect them to see all the pilots. It’s hard to keep up with series, but you really have to do it. I do it, so I expect my clients to do it. That’s one of the challenges.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY THE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?

First of all, I love writers. I love representing writers. I love reading. I love giving notes. I love being hands on with my clients and getting to know my clients and as a manager, I didn’t think that my relationships could deepen with my clients because I’ve always had a close relationship with my clients, but now I have more time to spend with them. And you represent less writers as a manager. I have about 20 clients as a manager.

IN COMPARISON, HOW MANY CLIENTS DID YOU HAVE AS AN AGENT?

You’re on teams and then you’re servicing a bigger list. You’re pitching all the clients of an agency and that’s thousands of clients. As a manager, you’re representing the clients that you want to represent and you represent them in all areas. So I’m not just a TV manager, I’m managing my clients in all areas of the business. Whether it’s television, features, theater, I represent them. In an agency, you’re either a TV agent or motion picture agent and then you pass your client off to another department and person when they want to branch out into a different area.

WHAT CAN A WRITER DO TO HELP YOU DO YOUR JOB?

Write. I mean you’d be surprised that a lot of writers won’t give you a new script and I can’t do my job if I don’t have new material. In television every year it’s the same cycle, at least for the networks. So if for development season I’m getting out their script, I need a new script for the following development season. Same thing for staffing.

Writers need to write. They also need to generate ideas. They need to be pounding the pavement, looking. Whether it’s optioning books, optioning articles. Reading articles, just figuring out how to generate ideas.

HOW IS STAFFING CHANGING NOW WITH MORE OUTLETS?

There was a time when if you did not get a job in May or early June, you could be out for a year and that’s not the case anymore. Because there are so many networks, there are jobs all year long.

The same goes for you can pitch network season the same every year, but cablewise, you can pitch all year long. There’s just a lot more opportunity and it’s not as scary for the clients because they know that if they miss that window, there’s much more opportunity throughout the year.

Coming soon – more from Tracey including building a brand as a writer, common mistakes writers make and advice on sustaining a long career.


Kelly Jo Brick is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. 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.

Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path with Manager Markus Goerg, Part 2

A series of interviews with hard-working writers – by another hard-working writer!
by Kelly Jo Brick

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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.

Manager Markus Goerg shares advice and experiences from his years of working with writers as co-founder of the production and management company, Heroes and Villains Entertainment.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A MANAGER?

Working with the clients, being in the trenches, developing story, coming up with solutions for problems that we encounter. And then as an extension of that is to then take that piece of material that we’ve honed and made it into this wonderful piece of writing and take it out and show it to the world and try to sell it and try to further the client’s career.

There’s something really magical about that process of having that new piece of material. There’s so much possibility with something new that nobody has seen. Especially something you’re really excited about. To get that out to people and convince them that it’s as great as you think it is.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU FACE AS A MANAGER?

The biggest challenge is to learn how to deal with rejection. I have to deal with rejection on a daily basis. For every client that sits there and gets frustrated about the rejection that they feel on an individual basis, compound that by 20 or 60 overall. And that’s the type of rejection that the representative deals with, because for every yes, you get 150,000 nos and it can be challenging at times to remain positive, but that’s your job as a manager.

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU RECEIVED AS YOUR CAREER WAS GROWING?

You have to focus on the people that you’re most passionate about. If you’re passionate about something, then chances are other people are passionate about the same thing and if you focus on that, that is going to give you the highest probability of success because you carry that passion out to others as you present the material that you’re working with.

WHAT’S THE MOST COMMON QUESTION YOU GET ASKED BY ASPIRING WRITERS AND HOW DO YOU ANSWER IT?

How do I become your client? And the answer is by writing an absolutely fantastic piece of material that you find a way to get to me. Be that send me an amazing query, find out who we do business with and somehow make a connection with those people or upload it to the Black List website and get a bunch of great recommendations and use that as an argument in your query why I should be taking a look.

WHAT CAN A CLIENT DO TO HELP YOU DO YOUR JOB?

A client can be relentless in their initiative to create new material. That is number one. I always say if your problem is not working, then you got to throw work at the problem. Okay, this script didn’t hit the way you wanted it to. You got a bunch of meetings out of it. You made new connections in the business.  Write the next thing.

Stay relevant. Don’t be precious about material. If you become precious about one piece of material, you’re in trouble, because nobody else in the business thinks it’s precious. The only person who thinks it’s precious is you and to everybody else it’s just words on a page. So write more. If you want to break in the business as a feature writer, you’ve got to have 2 new features a year.

You want to diversify your portfolio a little bit. This is particularly true for television writers. I consider a television writer as somebody who needs a portfolio of work because there’s so many different shows out there and you want to have various samples that will make you a viable candidate for the various shows.

The other thing that you can do is maintain relationships that your agent or manager helped you get. So stay in touch with people. Go out to drinks. If you particularly connected with somebody that you sat down with, wait a few weeks and say hey, I really enjoyed our meeting. I would love to grab a beer next week or whenever your schedule allows and just catch up in general.

You’ll find that a lot of executives in business are open to this, especially if they are fond of you as a writer. You stay on an executive’s mind by two ways, one by continuously creating great material and the other by just staying on their radar. This is not to say ping them every five seconds and become a stalking nuisance. Obviously exercise caution in how much you want to be on their radar, because you may end up being on their radar as a stalker.

If an exec loved you, keep track of that. Keep your notes of your meetings. Know who you sat down with and when and what was discussed and why you liked them. Once you’ve sat down with sixty different executives, it’s going to be very hard to distinguish what was discussed in what room, so I implore people when they get out of a meeting, write themselves an email, keep a running notebook or an excel spreadsheet. Send an email afterwards to your representative. Hey, this meeting was great. We talked about blah, blah, blah. We connected on x, y, z. Shoot us an email and keep it in your own records so you can look back and find out what you connected on, especially if you end up having drinks with them six months later.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST MISTAKES YOU SEE WRITERS MAKING?

The biggest mistake I think is becoming the jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Young writers always feel they should be and could be writing in every genre there is. So you get a query, hey, I wrote this comedy and also I have this horror movie, but also I have this thing. I’m not interested in that person because I don’t know who they are and they don’t know who they are.

I’m interested in somebody who is a brand. Who understands what their brand is and who keeps pounding on that brand until the door opens. They haven’t asked themselves the question, what do I enjoy doing most and what can I be doing continuously with success for the next 25 or 30 years. And granted, that can change.

The other piece of advice that I would give is to go back to something I said earlier, which is keep creating opportunities for yourself by writing new stuff. Make it great. Make them give a shit. Hook people in by telling emotionally resonant stories. I think that’s really the biggest thing. Tell emotionally resonant stories. Tell stories that matter. Tell stories that are unique and only you can tell and keep telling them.


Kelly Jo Brick is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. 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.

Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path with Manager Markus Goerg, Part 1

A series of interviews with hard-working writers – by another hard-working writer!
by Kelly Jo Brick

image1Finding 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.