Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path with Manager Zadoc Angell, 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.

Literary Manager Zadoc Angell of Echo Lake Entertainment brings with him the unique perspective of having worked first as an agent and now as a manager. He shares experiences and insights from his years building, growing and revitalizing writers’ careers.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU FACE AS A MANAGER?

The first is breaking in someone who’s totally new and hasn’t staffed before. It’s always hard to get that first job at the staff writer level and be taken seriously. People break in all different ways. It can be through your manager or agent submitting you to a show or it can be working your way up as a writers’ assistant or script coordinator or a showrunner assistant. It can be winning a contest, it can be getting into one of the network programs.

The other biggest challenge is career transition, when writers may have established themselves in some sort of fashion, let’s say as a comedy writer and now they want to be taken seriously as a drama writer or a veteran writer who has been around a long time, but has gone a little cold and you’re trying to reinvent their narrative and their story.

The good news about writers is that you can reinvent yourself through material. You can write that new special script in a different genre to help show people that you’re not just the category of writer they may have perceived you to be. We deal with these challenges all the time, but they’re big hurdles and they need a lot of strategy and thought and care put into achieving them for the client.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU GIVE WRITERS WHEN THEY’RE TAKING THEIR FIRST MEETINGS?

If it’s a showrunner meeting, the biggest thing I tell writers is to make sure that you’ve read the pilot script and you have very specific thoughts about it, meaning you responded to a particular character for a particular reason or particular joke or storyline or bit of dialogue or a key moment.

You have to realize that these showrunners are meeting with writers on the hour or the half hour and everyone’s saying they love it. Everyone says it’s great, but if you’re only speaking in generalities, it doesn’t mean anything to them. So if you really have read it and really have internalized it and really can talk about specifics, then that showrunner is much more likely to think that you actually cared about his or her show and you really thought about it.

The best is when you can take those things that you responded to and turn it into a conversation about yourself, where you responded to that character because she reminds you so much of your mother, then you’re talking about your mother and where you grew up. Then all of a sudden a showrunner is getting to know who you are and why you’re specifically right for his or her show, but you’re leading into the conversation by talking about that showrunner’s show and their writing.

The worst thing you can do is come out of a showrunner meeting and feel like they didn’t get to know you at all, because then why would I hire a writer that I don’t think is uniquely qualified for my show or that I got to know as a person on any level. You have to find ways to insert that in the conversation because quite often they only want to talk about their own show.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?

It’s funny because the things that are the most challenging are also the most rewarding. So when you do get that client their first staff job, it’s just so exciting. You know someone’s life has just changed and a dream has come true for them. That’s really fulfilling on a lot of levels and the career transition, when you’re able to take that client and get them into a new side of the business or achieve a long-term goal that seemed really hard to pull off, that’s when you feel the most fulfilled and the most pride.

One of my signature clients is Ingrid Escajeda who started out as a comedy writer. I got her, her first job on HANNAH MONTANA when I was a Coordinator at Paradigm. That was a big first for both of us, because she broke in and it was my first time staffing somebody and we were so thrilled. And then she went on to BETTER OFF TED on ABC for 2 seasons and coming off that she was really interested in becoming a drama writer. She thought that was maybe where she would find more success.

So I told her to write a drama pilot. And she wrote a pilot about the LA Bomb Squad that was very RESCUE ME in tone and used the best of drama and comedy in one sample and it was gritty and compelling. I sent it to Graham Yost who was reading for JUSTIFIED.  He hired her and she was on JUSTIFIED for four years. Now she’s a Co-EP on EMPIRE and has an overall deal at 20th.

Her whole life has changed, but it changed through that one script. That piece of material that showed she could do it. And it didn’t happen overnight. We worked hard and were patient and did the right things. We got it to the right showrunner and the right show and it changed her whole profile as a writer in the community. When you do things like that, there is no better feeling.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST MISTAKES YOU SEE WRITERS MAKING?

Once you’re a successful writer and you’re working on shows full-time, it becomes very hard to write your own material and so it’s really important you find time to continue to write your own pilots or features or film shorts, even prose. Just have some sort of creative outlet for yourself outside of your day job, because the day job can be all consuming and it can drain you emotionally and creatively, but you’re writing for someone else, on someone else’s show that is their voice, their characters and what can happen is that you start to lose touch with your own creative fire. So it’s really important to keep that going.

You have to be incredibly disciplined to do it because it’s so easy when you have a full-time job and a life and a family and that sort of stuff to not find time for your own writing. But I find that the writers who do, they’re the ones who really need to write in order to breathe and ultimately have the most success.

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

Write great material and be great in a room. There’s a marked difference when a writer goes into a room and has just an okay meeting and when they go into a room and they kill it, because when you call an executive for feedback, if there’s just middle of the road feedback, you made an introduction, but it’s not really going to add up to anything or go anywhere, but if the person that you met with is genuinely excited about you, there’s much more possibility of an opportunity coming out of that somehow, some way, whether it’s immediate or down the road, because they’re going to remember you for if not this thing, the next thing. They may be tracking that writer’s career. They’re excited about that person. You’re now on their recommended writers list when they’re thinking about writers for projects and staffing.

We work really hard to get our clients in rooms and get meetings and so if we’ve done all the work of opening the door, you’ve got to meet us halfway and barrel through that door and win over the people you’re talking to.

ANY OTHER ADVICE FOR WRITERS IN EARLY STAGES IN THEIR CAREER LOOKING TO BREAK IN?

Write material that excites you, that is daring and different and bold. It’s bad when writers just try to write for the marketplace or try to copy something that’s popular right now. It tends not to be writers’ best work.

What’s probably going to break you through the clutter and get you your first representative and get you your first job is really compelling, exciting material that is a distinct voice, that is a distinct point of view, that people read and they get really excited about. Trying to write down the middle just doesn’t do anyone any good.

You also have to think of the kinds of content that the tastemakers in our business are watching. Most people are watching HBO and Showtime and Netflix and AMC and FX and so that kind of taste in material is quite prevalent in our business. So your edgy FX sample might be the thing that gets you a job on CRIMINAL MINDS. That’s the thing that people don’t realize sometimes, because the showrunner of CRIMINAL MINDS is probably watching FX’s programming.


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 Zadoc Angell, Part 1

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.

Literary Manager Zadoc Angell was always interested in the arts. David E. Kelley shows like Picket Fences, Ally McBeal, The Practice and Chicago Hope drew him to the entertainment industry. While in college at Harvard, he did five internships over two summers including working at Malcolm in the Middle, Carsey-Werner-Mandabach and The Bold and the Beautiful. He got his start at the boutique agency, Genesis, which was eventually bought out by Paradigm. After three years working as an agent, Zadoc transitioned into management, first working at Artists International before making the move to Echo Lake Entertainment.

WHY THE SWITCH FROM AGENT TO MANAGER?

Agency culture was not the perfect fit for me. I wanted something that was more creative, more nurturing, where I could be closer to my clients, more creative, more hands on, more thoughtful and strategic. I thought that might be management, but it took my current colleague, Dave Brown, recruiting me into management. He really saw the potential. He wanted somebody who was an expert in TV Lit. and that’s all I’ve done over these years. We had worked together at Genesis when I first moved out here in 2003. He recruited me and I am so thankful that he did because right away it felt like the right fit for my talents and skills and experiences.

I think my years as an agent helped so much in making me a great manager, because I already built a foundation of relationships. I know how to negotiate. I know how to sell. I’m not afraid of picking up the phone and calling a showrunner. It gave me a lot of skill sets and access that have really benefited me as a manager.

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU GOT AS YOU WERE STARTING OUT?

When I was training for my first assistant desk the woman who trained me said, “Go to drinks with your fellow assistants.” It’s so simple, but the networking is a big part of it. I think whether on the business side or the creative side you have to be willing to be vulnerable and to ask people out to not just drinks, but dinners.

I do it constantly. I’m booked for breakfast, lunch, and dinner almost every day. I’m on the sales side, so that’s a big part of my job, but I think the same goes true for everybody. Everyone has to work on their network of relationships and not be afraid to introduce yourself to new people or someone you’ve only talked on the phone once. Ask them out. And the good thing is, everyone in the business does it.

WHAT’S THE MOST COMMON QUESTION YOU GET ASKED BY WRITERS THAT ARE LOOKING TO BREAK IN?

If it’s anywhere not in Los Angeles, the number one question is, “Do I have to move to LA?” Which is yes. If it’s in LA, people still ask the benefits of writing a spec of an existing TV series versus writing an original pilot. I can’t believe we’re still having this conversation. People stopped sending specs out as writers’ primary writing samples I want to say 9, 10 years ago. Once in a while you have a show that’s kind of old school and wants specs, but working TV writers don’t write them anymore.

The only reason to write them is to learn the craft. There’s value in analyzing your favorite television show and figuring out how you would crack that for yourself. It helps you understand the mechanics of TV and you can use those samples to get in most of the diversity programs.

We’re in an era of the original voice. That’s what people want. The young writers that we have now are way ahead of the older writers who came up through the spec system, because our young writers are writing original material from day one and coming up with lots of ideas. A pilot is one of the hardest things to write. It’s way more complicated than a screenplay and you put a lot of pressure on young writers to be able to write at that level right out of the gate, but it does kind of cull the herd a little bit and you see who can really crack that nut.

HOW DOES A WRITER GET HIS/HER MATERIAL TO YOU?

It’s tough. Most of the new clients that I consider are referrals from other people in the business who are established. Sometimes agents will send me their clients, sometimes lawyers, sometimes executives are doing a favor for a friend. Sometimes clients will refer friends who they think are talented to us. Usually the personal referral basis is how it tends to happen. Once in a while I’ve judged writing competitions and have found a client, but they are few and far between. I think most of the time it’s personal referrals.

WHEN YOU ARE LOOKING AT A WRITER, BEYOND THE WRITING, WHAT MAKES SOMEONE STAND OUT?

The writing is the calling card. You do have to love the material in order to meet with someone. Sometimes you’ll ask for more than one sample because what you don’t want is someone who is just a one hit wonder, so don’t be surprised if you get asked for more than one sample.

Once you get the meeting and you are in the room, we always look for a person’s personal salesmanship of themselves because that’s a huge part of being in this business, especially as a TV writer. TV writing is so social. You’re in a room together all day long. You hang out with each other, hire each other on different shows year after year after year. The social is as important as the writing, but you have to know the writing is what gets you the face-to-face meeting. That’s true with representatives. That’s true with executives. That’s true with showrunners.

Our job as managers and agents is to help open doors for a writer. But what really sucks is when you have a great piece of material, doors open and the writer goes in and they aren’t great in the meeting or they aren’t good about talking about themselves or they’re just not memorable. Not every meeting can be an A+, but some writers are shockingly bad about talking about themselves, which is essentially what a general meeting is.

Writers need to prepare what they want another person to know about themselves. What their key selling points are. Be able to talk about your life story in an interesting way. People will think their own life stories are boring. Not everyone can grow up on a dairy farm and come to Hollywood like I did. I love my story, I love telling it, but I want my clients to love their stories too.

Talk about where you’re from and if you are that kid that grew up in Orange County and went to USC and now you work in TV and film, still find a way to make it interesting. Find points in your life story where you maybe took a different path or made an unexpected choice or, if you’re a comedy writer, had something really funny and embarrassing happen to you.

Coming Soon – Part 2 with Manager Zadoc Angell as he shares advice about taking meetings, breaking in and mistakes he sees writers making.


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 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.