How much influence should an agent and/or manager have on the specs that you choose to write? I have an idea for my next project that one of my reps is enthusiastic about, but the other doesn’t care for at all. I love the idea and several execs to whom I’ve pitched it seemed to like it as well, but is it foolish of me to write the script anyway despite the knowledge that one of my guys may not be interested in sending it out when I’m finished?
Agents aren’t producers. Or directors. Or studio executives. But they deal with these people constantly, so they tend to have a pretty good idea what everyone’s looking for. If your agent or manager doesn’t care for your idea, it’s worth asking whether he, personally, doesn’t love it, or whether he, professionally, thinks it’s going to be a hard sell. Only the latter opinion actually matters, and perhaps not as much as you’d think.
Remember: Knowing the market isn’t the same thing as taste, and everyone’s taste is different. Nineteen readers can be non-plussed by your “Wuthering Heights on Mars” spec, but if a few key execs at Dreamworks love it, Spielberg will read it this weekend.
When I was writing Go, my agent was unenthusiastic, both about the concept and the chances of selling it. I finished the script and found another agent. In a way, the original agent was right — every studio passed. But it only took one “yes” to get it made. Go became my first produced movie and started my career.
I’m not telling you to dump your agent (or manager), but to keep his advice in perspective. Yes, he wants you have a long and satisfying career, but most immediately wants you to write scripts that will sell. Ideally, scripts that will sell for a lot of money. And his sense of what those scripts are may not jibe with what you’re doing. So listen to him, but don’t feel obligated to take his advice.