Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path With Manager Geoff Silverman

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

Geoff Silverman picFinding 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.

As a young PA on the Suzanne Somers show SHE’S THE SHERIFF, Geoff Silverman got some career changing advice when the show’s EPs suggested he go where the real money is, the executive side. That set Silverman on a path working as an assistant at the William Morris Agency and Susan Smith and Associates before working in drama development with Robert Greenblatt, Brandon Tartikoff and Brett Ratner and then embarking on a career as a literary manager with The Cartel.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY THE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?

I guess when I get someone in for a showrunner meeting and I get to make that call and say the showrunners want to bring you in to meet for this potential job. And then when they actually book it, when you get to call them and say like, “Hey I have amazing news. They want you start Monday.” I had somebody get on THE BLACKLIST this year and it’s just an amazing call to be able to like, just change somebody’s life.

And I love setting meetings. They call me “The Grinder.” The name of my company, my business L.L.C., is The Silver Machine, because I’m like a machine. I just set meetings for clients. And agents, I think for every one they set, I set like 10. I just grind out meetings.

That’s kinda what I feel management is good at. It’s so hard to get jobs in this town that you need as many people working for you as possible and yeah, it costs you another 10 percent, but actually it doesn’t cost you anything until you’re working.

HOW MANY CLIENTS DO YOU PERSONALLY HAVE?

I probably have 27, somewhere in that range. But I would say, like when you’re an agent at an agency, you have your 30 to 40 clients and you’re on teams for who knows, 100 other clients or something. So they’re being torn in a lot of different directions and the thing about management is, I think of agents as being more macro and management as being micro.

HOW DO WRITERS FIND THEIR WAY TO YOU?

It tends to be my writer clients will refer people to me a lot of times. Attorneys sometimes. Other managers if they have a conflict. I just don’t really take queries because usually the person is a new writer and it’s just so hard to break a new writer unless they’re an assistant to an exec producer on a TV show, like if they’re J.J. Abrams assistant or something.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A WRITER?

I would say someone who’s an executive assistant or script coordinator on a show or someone who’s in a writers’ program like the Fox Diversity, CBS, NBC Writers’ Initiative. The great thing about these writers’ programs is like the ABC Fellowship actually puts you on a show. They pay you $50,000 and they put you, the writer, on a show. It’s definitely a good leg up.

There’s just too many people with no credits that you could have the best material in the world, but I’d still probably rather sign somebody who’s a little bit colder but who has credits.

WHAT CAN A WRITER DO TO HELP YOU HELP THEM?

A-B-C always be creating. Always be writing something new or coming up with ideas. Always be out networking even if it’s writers being in a writers’ group, going to social events or things where they have the opportunity to meet executives and people to get their material to.

And then calling me on a regular basis when they see something in the trades or on Deadline. How about, oh, I heard this show got picked up. That one script I wrote called, blah, blah, blah would be perfect for that show. Are they going to be looking at my level? And I might say, I’ll check it out and go like, yes they are looking or nope, they already staffed it before they announced it or something like that. So, you know, I think it’s just being proactive as a client. You really gotta be proactive, because if I have 30 people on my list, some of them actually never call me. Some I’m always the one calling them, going hey, I did hear about this one thing. What do you think about this and they’re very reactive.

But at least if they’re proactive and nudging me a little bit, you tend to address people who are in your face a little more so those people do get more attention.

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU GOT ALONG THE WAY?

I guess it’s to always be open and communicative and not be shady because there are instances where, I don’t know it just seems like anytime I’ve tried to hoard information just for me either it’s pissed off my clients like by not helping their clients out or not sharing. I guess it’s just always being open and even if other people aren’t open and are shady, you just gotta really strive to always tell the truth and be honest.

What Bob Greenblatt said at the National Hispanic Media Coalition, I liked what he was saying about trying to find someone to be your mentor. Bob’s always been a bit of a mentor to me. There’s been a couple. Brandon Tartikoff was a mentor and in a way, I guess Brett Ratner sort of was a mentor, but finding some of these 800 pound gorillas who will at least vouch for you and say nice things is really important.

IS THERE ANY ADVICE YOU GIVE TO YOUR WRITERS?

I feel really strong about like when they go into rooms, just trying to make it memorable, tell what makes them different, what sets them apart. So that when you walk out of the room they go oh, she’s the girl who used to work at the Hustler store or something. I have a client who literally moved out here and got a job working at the Hustler store as her first job. It is memorable. Or I know that maybe you worked in Washington, D.C., for a Congressman and blah, blah, blah, but when you go into rooms, you have to bring it up. You can’t wait for them to ask you or expect them to have read your bio.

You can’t even expect them to read your script half the time. You never know. People might read ten pages. You don’t know what they read, if they just read coverage on your script. So you really gotta go in and make yourself memorable and you gotta say, this is what sets me apart and ask questions and sometimes let the other people talk. Like a lot of times you do all the talking and other people start to glaze over.

Sometimes you have to try to involve them and find that commonality, that common ground. Like oh, we both went to the same college or we both grew up in the same part of the country or something like that.


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.

Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path With Manager Eddie Gamarra, Part 2

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

by Kelly Jo Brick

Eddie Gamarra headshotFinding 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.

Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path With Manager Eddie Gamarra, Part 1

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

by Kelly Jo Brick

Eddie Gamarra headshotFinding 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.

Thanks to his high school offering both film and a psychology as class selections, manager Eddie Gamarra fell in love with Hitchcock and Freud, sparking a passion for film and psychoanalysis that led him to major in Psychology at Vassar with a minor in Film. Eddie furthered his education by getting his Masters at NYU and a PhD at Emory. Rebooting his career after working as a professor, Eddie moved to Los Angeles where he started as an assistant and eventually found his way to The Gotham Group where his love for animation and experience working for a book packager found him well-suited for a role as manager with the company.

WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON QUESTION YOU GET FROM ASPIRING WRITERS?

How do I get you to read my stuff? That’s the most common question and it’s the easiest to answer. Almost every company has a corporate policy of no unsolicited submissions so finding an executive, a lawyer, an agent, somebody who’s in the business to vouch for you, to make a call on your behalf. That is going to be the key to breaking in. The personal introduction makes all the difference.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A WRITER OR DIRECTOR? WHAT MAKES A PERSON STAND OUT?

The God’s honest truth is just their personality. It’s gotta be on the page and it’s gotta be on the screen. The talent has to be there, of course, but after you’ve read something or after you’ve watched something, if they don’t know how to carry themselves, if they can’t articulate their vision, if they can’t defend their creative choices in a non-combative way, you know. You have to be able to understand it is a collaborative industry.

Not everyone’s going to hand you a check for millions and millions of dollars.  You have to be able to justify your project and know how to market yourself, know how to read your own contracts. I encourage my clients to learn marketing, to learn the distribution models, to learn the financing models, to learn how to read a contract.

If I’m vetting a potential client and they have an openness to learn, that makes a huge difference for me. My clients have often said, “Wow, working with you for two, three years, I’ve learned more about how the business works than I ever have from any previous rep.” I want my clients to be empowered. But in order to sign a client, I’m going to sign a client who wants to be open to learning these things. To feel a sense of ownership. You can be a starving artist and that’s fine. I don’t want to sign starving artists who want to keep starving. I want starving artists who want to learn how to build empires.

WHY A MANAGER VERUS AN AGENT?

It’s not an either or game. I don’t put it in an organically adversarial kind of question. I think it’s really just about fit and focus. I just want to find someone who’s going to believe in me and my work. I want to find someone who’s willing to dedicate the time and energy to advance me and my work.

If that’s an agent, great. If that’s a manager, great. If it’s both, even better. People say, “I can’t afford 20% off of my salary.” Okay, but you have another person and another company out there pitching you, getting you meetings, putting another set of eyes on your work, sending emails out with a link to your film, proofreading your stuff.

It’s a simple thing, 80% of something is better than 100% of zero. If you can build a team around you, build a team around you. Agents have different resources, typically. They have different backgrounds, typically.  Usually more of them come from a business affairs or legal background. They’re going to be a little more deal oriented. I just came out of a meeting with one of our writer/directors and me and my colleague and our client and the client’s two agents, who are feature agents. The client said, “Okay, well, I have a new script,” and they said, “Great, Eddie and Eric are going to read the script.” And Eric and I said, “We’re going to read the script and we’re going to give you notes and when it’s ready to share with the agent, we’ll share it with the agent.” And that’s kind of the process. We just accept that.

It sometimes frustrates me, but I understand they have a different set of pressures than we do. Our job is inherently focused on the long-term growth opportunity for the clients, not what’s the immediate check. Although we are very concerned with the immediate check as well, of course. But it’s a slightly different perspective.

HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU REPRESENT?

It’s hard to say because we joke around, we call ourselves The Gotham Group and we actually do work as a group so I share clients. I partner with my fellow managers.

For example, one of our clients created the animated show Daria, Glenn Eichler. Glenn then went on to work on the Colbert Report, so one of the things I do with Glenn is I’ve also taken some of his screenplays and I sold them as graphic novels. So Glenn’s a storyteller. He’s a really brilliant, smart, funny guy and his stories can exist in different media. Even though he’s my boss’s client, I work with Glenn. So it’s less about the number.

The way I like to provide the analogy of the big agencies, CAA and what not, they’re like big universities. Management companies are like small liberal arts colleges. There’s a smaller client to rep ratio just as you have a smaller student to professor ratio. We want to make sure we’re really in the thick of it with our clients on a day-to-day basis.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY THE MOST ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?

I’m very lucky to work with some of the best people in their respective industries.  That’s amazing.  My weekend read is filled with manuscripts and treatments and bibles and screenplays and pitch documents from people who are Oscar winners and nominees. Emmy winners and nominees. In the publishing space, Newbery and Caldecott winners. Printz Award winners. Geisel Award winners.

People who are just so creatively stimulating to work with. That’s the best. And there’s also a blessing and a curse in the diversity of what I do. Because I get to a little bit of everything, which is a creative challenge, but it’s also fun. That’s probably the best part of the job is the diversity and the quality.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE WITH YOUR JOB?

The diversity and the quality and really trying to stay on top of so many different industries. Like I’ve really pushed myself and some of my coworkers, particularly in the animation space, to really try to delve deeper into the digital space even though there’s not a lot of money flowing, we have to know it.

I think we also really love finding new voices, discovering new talent and it’s hard to break new voices and break new talent into this industry. We joke around that we push the boulder up the hill and then they’ll sign with an agent and then the agent kind of pats the boulder and says, “Hey, good job getting up here.”

We’re very developmental. We’re very editorial. We’re very much like come in and practice a pitch. Let’s do 9 drafts of that script until we’re ready to go out with it. That’s very different than a lot of agencies. They’re much more transactional. Close the deal. Fill the job slot.

Coming up in Part 2 – Manager Eddie Gamarra talks about the client/manager relationship, expectations, and shares advice for building and sustaining a writing career.


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.