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.

Julie Livingston: The Big Leap

City-of-Los-Angeles-Downtown-Signby Julie Livingston

Or as LB calls it, “The Big Test.” Moving to LA. If you’re an aspiring TV writer, you’re probably already thinking about it. And, if you’re not, I promise you will. It’s not an easy choice to make (at least it wasn’t for me), so for anybody who might find a firsthand account of the experience useful (or just entertaining), I will blog as much of it as I can, as often as possible. Obviously, I can’t speak for everyone who comes to Los Angeles to try to make it in the TV business, but I will tell you honestly how it is for me.

I’m not gonna lie. This move is not for the faint of heart.  As soon as I made the decision, I started looking for ways to hedge my bet. I created a caveat: I’m definitely going to go but, not until conditions are perfect. No way was I about to haul my cookies (and my incredibly supportive spouse’s cookies) into town without some kind of foundation. In the fantasy I created, I would work from where I was until I landed a manager, an agent, a job. In reality, on the day I left, I had none of those things, but still it was time to go.

When I first decided I wanted to become a TV writer it actually wasn’t that big a leap. I already made a living writing commercials, so it is was kind of like deciding I wanted to give up my day job writing for TV in order to get my dream job writing for TV.

So I started writing scripts. I entered contests, took classes, got notes – first from friends, then from professionals, joined social media groups and added my email to every TV writing blog, ‘zine and podcast with a subscribe button. It was exactly what I needed to do and I could do it all from the safety of my seat on the heater grate (yes, I write sitting on the floor) in my Pacific Northwest home — for about two years. Then I arrived at a crossroad. I had gone about as far as I could go from where I was. I could, of course, stay and keep writing pretty much indefinitely, but if I wanted to become part of a professional community, find management, get staffed on a show, I was going to need to get off the grate.

For months I believed LA and I were locked in psychological battle, each waiting stubbornly for the other to say, “I love you,” first. Then it hit me. LA wasn’t waiting for me to do anything. LA didn’t (and, to be honest, still doesn’t) give a shit about me. And, I realized, it never would if I didn’t show up in person and get in the game. My problem wasn’t that I had to stare down a city, it was that I needed to overcome my own natural tendency to dream small. So instead of focusing on what I didn’t yet have, I gathered up the things I did — a few solid scripts, some budding relationships, and a steadfast mate, combined them with a sincere desire to become a better writer and what sometimes seems like an unreasonable amount of faith that I’ll be able to create a place for myself at the table — and leapt.

I’ve been in LA three months now. I still don’t have an agent or a job, but I did get a manager – for about thirty-six hours. This manager and I had been trying to get together for a while. In fact, our meeting had been rescheduled so many times I’d started to wonder exactly how many times a person could cancel on me before I turned their picture permanently to wall. (I still don’t know the answer to that question, but, turns out, it’s more than four). So when we did finally get together, I was surprised to realize the meeting wasn’t just another hoop to jump through. He wanted to sign me. I liked him. I liked his vision for how to advance my career. He seemed to have great relationships and, most importantly, he wanted to start right away. There was one small wrinkle, which was that he’d recently moved from a job at a literary agency to one at a studio, but that really shouldn’t be a problem since the two positions were at least complimentary if not actually symbiotic. We shook hands, drank a toast, agreed to talk the next day.

And then, nothing.

I sent what I thought was an appropriately enthusiastic email reiterating how excited I was about all the fun trouble I expected he and I would be getting into very soon. No response. A day went by. I tried to convince myself the silence was no big deal, but I had a feeling. A second day. Then the email arrived. It said, very politely, that in the time between our meeting and now, a deal he really didn’t think was going to happen, happened. Over night, my new manager had become the executive in charge of production on a movie that was starting immediately, which, unfortunately, meant he would not be able to take me on as a client.

Ouch.

He went out of his way to say the decision was in no way a reflection of his opinion of my work, which I appreciated. Still, my heart sank. Clearly a victim of circumstance, I felt a little sorry for myself. But, I truly was and continue to be happy for him. Much as I might like it if it was, it’s not his (or any manager’s) job to make my dreams come true. He is busy pursuing his own. I honestly hope he is wildly successful and our paths will cross again some day. In the meantime, I am grateful to him for wanting me in the first place. It gives me confidence that someone else might also want me somewhere down the road. The fact that I feel this way is itself a sign of progress.

Normally, I am a person who can suss the smallest shred of criticism out of even the sincerest compliment, but instinct tells me now is a time to cling to encouragement rather than search for rejection as a matter of sheer survival. Leaning into a tiny glimmer of hope is not quite as hard as I imagined it would be, now that my life depends on it.

As I describe it, my experience with the Thirty Six Hour Manager feels more and more like a rite of passage. It was a little painful, but it gave me something valuable – my first real war story. It also helped me gain perspective. Seeing a person who is much more established in the business than I am reach for his next step reminded me, I am not the only person making The Big Leap. Everybody here is leaping in one way or another. And they do it every day.