How long have you been agent and how did you get your start Rima?
I started agenting in the summer of 1984. Before that, I worked as an assistant at the WGA, William Morris, and Writer & Artists Agency. The folks at W&A had me work as an assistant for a while, and then moved me up. There's nothing like working a desk to learn your bosses' job. In 1994 I left W&A to start my own company. I'm not much of a corporate/staff meeting kind of person, so running a small, selective agency is just right for me.
What makes your agency different than any others?
My partner, Bruce Bartlett, and I have very different taste, so we end up representing a broad range of clients. I'm not sure our agency IS all that different, except in that our client list represents our personal taste. After all, that's what it's all about. If you have taste that the buyers respond to, then you're successful. If you send out material that other people don't like, they'll stop reading. Agenting is all about personal passion. If we don't love it, we can't sell it.
On the other hand, you also have to understand client relations. If you don't talk to your clients, you're not going to have enough of a relationship to weather the tough times (EVERYONE hits a snag once in a while, right?)
What Bruce and I try to do is (a) have material that buyers consider to be top quality (whether it fits their needs or not) and (b) choose clients we personally get along with so we can build a strong relationship based on trust.
What are you looking for specifically that you wish you would see more of?
Buyers. There really isn't a shortage of good material, and our voice mail and e-mail are constantly flooded with more requests to submit. What there is a shortage of is BUYERS. When I started agenting there were 12 studios, and now there are 5. It's harder to sell stuff when you have less customers.
However, a person who is a real self-starter, who's willing to do what it takes, is ALWAYS of interest. If you're a writer, you need to be constantly churning out material. If you're a director, you need to be out there all the time shooting film for u-tube until you "make it". We're always looking for a person who has done their homework, and knows how to play the game.
Rima what are you tired of receiving?
Letters from people who say they have a "commercial" or "unique" idea. Anybody who says they know what "commercial" is, is either stupid or lying. And NO idea is unique. Besides, it's not about ideas. Everyone's already heard your idea. It's about execution, your voice as a writer or director.
How can a new writer get your attention in a good way?
A referral is always great. If a friend of mine says, "READ THIS", I WILL read it.
How can a signed writer stay in your radar without driving you insane?
By not BEING insane. If you don't act crazy, I'll talk to you all day long.
Hollywood is a very feast-or-famine place. If you're planning a career in Hollywood, I would suggest that you invest in ANOTHER business right now. Buy a shoe store. Start a lemonade stand. Something. Because the film biz is a place where you can starve to death right before you make your first million.
You can't make good decisions if you're desperate for cash. Get your cash flow together, and THEN go for a film career. Then you'll have the luxury of making good creative decisions, instead of wasting your life taking crappy meetings auditioning for crappy jobs that pay crap money. Anyway, the competition for those gigs is just as stiff.
One of my fave producers recently said to me, "In this business, you can't make a living, you can only make a killing." He's right.
SO, get your life together, and THEN tackle Hollywood. THAT is the kind of client I love to have.
What do you wish more writers understood about you as an agent Rima that they don't seem to?
People sometimes forget that agents don't get paid until their clients do. I'm NEVER dragging my feet if I really think there is money to be had. If I AM dragging my feet, it's because, in my 25 years of experience, I don't think there's a chance in hell we'll get paid.
So, the next time you're complaining that an agent is dragging his feet, ask yourself WHY doesn't this agent think there's any dough to be had??? Addressing THAT issue will be way more effective than whining or nagging.
Point of view is VERY important. That's one of the reasons I wrote the book: Most folks don't understand how agents think.
Once you understand our priorities, it's easy to figure out why we act the way we do:
All we want is:
1. look smart in front of our clients
2. look smart in front of our buyers
3. get our clients paid
4. everything else
What's the best way for a writer to reach you?
There are two ways:
1. Referral. Find a producer, executive, or lawyer who I know, and ask them to call me on your behalf. Those folks go to the top of the pile. Yes, yes, I know.... but hey, if it was easy, EVERYBODY would do it!
2. www.abovethelineagency.com No kidding. We actually DO read the submission info we get from the site. We get a giant spread sheet once a month, we take the top 5 submissions based on our scoring criteria, and request scripts. I highly recommend you go to our site and submit there.