An agent’s week

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There’s no such thing as a typical week, in the life of an agent, but if any writers are curious as to what it’s like sitting at this desk…
(Oh, and bear in mind that there’s a lot I can’t talk about in detail right now, since it’s either confidential or libellous.)
It’s the usual struggle to balance admin and selling stuff. I’ve been concentrating on phone conversations with producers in L.A. They all seem lovely (apart from the one that told me he was going to start picking his nose; mercifully he switched off the skype camera beforehand). They all seem to want to talk excitedly for about two minutes. Often. Their promises and suggestions seem wildly exciting, in a way you suspect they’re not ever going to happen. The weird thing is that sometimes they do.
Several lengthy catch-up conversations with writers, one of whom has got major funding, which is very good news. The other conversation had to be cut short as the writer noticed her small child was starting to eat cat litter from the tray.
Continuing worries about what the government is going to do about ‘orphan works’ ( I’ve been involved in the consultation and can only counsel writers to make sure their ownership of their work is readily findable on the net (and that their heirs know to be findable, too, by anyone who wants to licence work).
Wondering how to manage a situation where a producer wants to pay a writer drastically below the minimum rates, on the grounds that the writer knew what she was getting into when she agreed to write the script. You need the writer to be willing to decline the commission – and mostly they don’t want to because they want their career to move forward.
Had a breakthrough with a writer yesterday, after I’d spent weeks trying to push him to do more development on an idea that wasn’t working. It’s a high concept premise, and the beginning didn’t seem to match the end, and didn’t seemed to be pointless anyway. Turned out he’d just pitched it to me wrong, and now that I understand, I think it’s quite exciting.
Producers report incremental but good progress on some films and TV series by my clients – feels a bit like watching cathedrals being built.
Coffee today with a lawyer friend. I often get the feeling of being a fighter pilot reporting back to mission control. My new bombardier starts next week but more on that…next week.


Client round-up

FireworksHi everyone

Lots going on!
Emma Adams has a new play commission from Space 2.
Mike Carey continues work on his two movies and two TV series, as well as writing his next book. The paperback of The Girl With all the Gifts comes out next month, and he’s done a webchat for The Guardian today. This book got fabulous mentions by Martina Cole (“it’s amazing”) and Joss Whedon (“A jewel”).
The City of Silk and Steel, which Mike co-wrote with his wife Linda and daughter Louise, is now out in paperback. It’s a 1001 Nights-style tale of a lost city in the desert: “A thrilling tale,” as Publishers Weekly says.
Anne Perry’s currently touring the US for her new paperback there, Death on Blackheath – a New York Times bestseller.
Simon Scarrow’s new paperback is out – The Blood Crows. Macro and Cato are back in Britain…and really wish they weren’t. Great trailer here:
Catherine Webb revealed herself as Claire North, author of the amazing First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, in an interview with BBC Radio 2.   We’ve been very amused by the speculation on who Claire North was a pseudonym for, which included Kate Atkinson, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, William Boyd or Julian Barnes.

What Was I Doing, Again?

I’ve been pondering (in short bursts) the effect of modern life on our concentration. When I was a kid, I’d spend a whole afternoon reading. Now, a minute seems like a long time if I’m not shifting between emails, phone calls, making notes on a contract and drafting a submission list for a new project. Looking around on the train, everyone’s checking messages and Facebook while reading short articles in the paper.
We spend a lot of time wondering how to attract someone to a book, programme or film, but it feels like an even bigger challenge to keep their attention. Does writing need to change, in response?
TV has long been viewed in relatively short periods, broken up by commercial breaks and trailers. We’re also used to thinking of it as a background to making a cup of tea, having a conversation and playing a game on our tablet. Television is the medium where the drama is slow enough to dot all the I’s and cross the T’s; lots of redundancy so we don’t miss too much. If you do, the catch-up services are good enough (and will soon be even better) that you can relax and have another look. Or, conversely, watch it in a glorious binge.
It’s harder not to be fully immersed in a film, since a screen that large is kind of hard to miss (although some people manage it – you see the annoying lit screens of their mobiles as they text).
Some books can still make me miss my stop, and I wonder if that’s what it takes now to keep someone riveted to the page: cliff-hangers, plot twists, vivid characterisation, outrageous wit – and perhaps the pacing, too, as if writing in sprints can mesh with a reader whose concentrating in sprints.
I’d hate to suggest to writers that they change their style, but perhaps it’s worth bearing this tendency in mind.DSC_0261ap (2)