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.

munchman: And the Award for Most Useless Showbiz “Analysis” Ever Goes to…

…TheWrap.Com, of course.

Emmy vs. Oscar: Which Honors the More Substantial Work?
by Steve Pond

It’s become conventional wisdom that there’s more vital work taking place these days on television than in movies.

At some point, goes the story, a bunch of TV writers tired of the usual small-screen fare and started stretching their creative muscles. (And strangely, lots of them were named David: David Milch did “NYPD Blue,” David Chase did “The Sopranos,” David Simon did “The Wire”…)

But how long has it really been going on? And how is it reflected in the awards picture? If one were to compare the Emmy-winning drama series and the Oscar-winning movie from each year, which medium would consistently deliver the more significant achievement?

I did just that, and the results aren’t pretty for Oscar, at least not lately. Since 2000, we’ve had 11 Best Picture winners and 11 Emmy drama-series champs—and by my reckoning, the TV shows have been more substantial, and more impactful in the culture, nine of those 11 years.

Read it all

By his reckoning? Who the fuck is he and how did he arrive at his reckoning? His own personal taste? Don’t get me started.

Oh-oh, too late. I’m revving. Under orders, as I am, to be cooler than I, um, may have been in the past, I’ll just go back to the basic premise of Mr. Pond’s masturbation article: Hollywood trade organizations – cuz that’s all the TV and film “academies” are, don’t you know? – honoring “substantial work?” In your dreams, Steve-o. You know, the ones about you and the Davids in the steam bath with Revolta swapping writing tips?

Seems to me that if a site like The Wrap, which makes, like, real money from real advertising, unlike TVWriter™, which has no advertising at all because whenever we contact those miserable ad reps to get them to buy some space they in turn put on the pressure for us to buy from them so we can improve our visitor stats and attract – maybe – Final Draft or Creative Screenwriting or some other niche company that has no money and just wants to trade links anyway…

Where was I? Crap. Oh, wait – if a site like The Wrap is looking to fill up pages so people don’t notice that 90% of it is P.R. handouts, they could at the very least give us something helpful or fun, like pictures of hookers hanging with Michael Bay, because catering to my fantasies over some other writer’s definitely gets my vote.

Bottom line: Forget TheWrap. Go to P.R. wire. Or Deadline.Com because even though Nikki’s got a lot of the same stuff she’s nutsy fun.

munchman