I was over on the Done Deal forums today. I don’t go there often, but I stopped in, hit some posts, answered some, recoiled at others, put in my time. It’s the giving back phase and I had too much coffee so there I am. And I keep seeing this message spewed out over and over again over there: “If it’s ‘great,’ they will want it.”
That’s not actually true. The ongoing message, “If it’s great they will want it,” repeated over and over again to new writers (often just parroted without any thought at all and by new writers themselves who don’t know crap about the industry they are just parroting) is not only not accurate it also can be debilitating to newer writers. It implies, if agents say no, the material is bad.
Okay, let’s take a look at who we are talking about there: Agents.
Agents don’t want great material. Agents want easy sales. Put that first and foremost in your mind. An agent is a salesman. And a salesman wants an easy sale. Translated, that means “easy commission.” Who is an easy sale? A new unheard of writer? Or Sorkin?
This is one of the barriers facing newer writers. You can have a great script, but it is still going to be cheaper and easier to ship out and sell a bad script from Sorkin (don’t get riled Sorkin, you write great scripts, this is just for example purposes and you are a name so a simple example, also I have chocolate settle down) than it is going to be to ship out and sell a script from an unheard of writer with no track record. Pitching and selling a new unheard of writer is a lot more work. Many man hours for no guaranteed pay off, whereas, you say Sorkin? Instant read and bidding war.
Also, the assumption agents always know “good” material when they see it is false. Be realistic here. People in Hollywood — agents, managers, producers, studio execs, actors, actresses — regularly get behind projects and make the whole damn movie and it splats at the box office. If everyone in Hollywood doesn’t always know what’s even going to work at the box office, why is it safe to assume they can unerringly spot “great” material that works on the page? They didn’t unerringly spot E.T. That went into turnaround even after it got picked up.
Bottom line. They can’t. They are guessing. And sometimes, they guess wrong. Do not base your evaluation of your material or yourself on what Joe Bob Agent says. Joe Bob Agent might not know “good” material from Cracker Jacks.
Do go out, do your work, do your study, learn your craft. Don’t think you can just toss off a script overnight. Nobody ever won an Olympic medal just showing up weekends and winging it. And Hollywood is the Olympics of the movie world. So do your due diligence. But after that? Don’t base your self worth or self value or the value of your work on the opinion of someone who is, actually, usually, just guessing — and looking for a commission. It is up to you to decide what your value and self worth is. And once you decide that? Go out and find the person who agrees with you. He or she is out there. It is your job to hunt him or her down.