A series of interviews with hard-working writers – by another hard-working writer!
by Kelly Jo Brick
Finding 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.
Manager Tracey Murray didn’t always know she wanted to be involved in the entertainment industry. She started out working for a New York public relations company before moving to Los Angeles to explore a career in news broadcasting. Realizing broadcasting wasn’t for her, she turned to the entertainment world, landing a job as an assistant to Lee Gabler who ran packaging at Creative Artists Agency. She spent 11 years as an agent at CAA before becoming a manager. Tracey now works with writers as a Managing Partner at Industry Entertainment.
YOU WERE AN AGENT BEFORE BECOMING A MANAGER. WHY THE CHANGE?
The industry was changing. William Morris was about to merge with Endeavor. And basically it was just going to be the two larger agencies so I thought now’s the time. There’s going to be a real need. I could always go back to the agency world if I was wrong, but I figured timing-wise, it was probably the best time to try it.
Actors have always had managers. Then it was the feature writers and directors and then only about 7-8 years ago did TV writers take on managers because there was a real need. The agencies were getting so large that they couldn’t manage all the clients, so that’s why they needed the extra help.
WHAT’S SOME OF THE BEST ADVICE YOU RECEIVED AS YOU WERE BREAKING IN?
Work in television. It was funny because I was a French major and I thought that I was going to use my languages in international, in features. I started working for a feature agent for about a minute and didn’t like it. I then moved into television and my boss at the time, he said, “My wife works in features, the best advice I can give you is work in television.” And clearly I picked the right lane because right now television is the hottest and features are sort of non-existent, sadly.
WHAT’S THE MOST COMMON QUESTION YOU GET FROM WRITERS WHO ARE TRYING TO BREAK IN?
How do I get representation? There are many ways to get representation. I think lots of times it’s through relationships. People don’t accept unsolicited material, so it’s either through a lawyer or someone you know in the business. I think it’s also reaching out to your contacts. I know when I was starting out, I went to Penn and I tried to meet writers at Penn or younger writers that went to the Ivy League schools.
I think it depends on what level you are, so when you’re starting out and you’re trying to find representation, you should be reaching out to the newly promoted agents, the newly promoted managers who are trying to build their lists. I think that’s probably the best way to get representation.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A WRITER?
For me, it’s all on the page. You could be a superstar in the room, that’s added bonus, but for me it has to be on the page. You know it when you read it, but I can’t really say specifically. I feel like I have very good taste and I’ve always sort of picked well the people I thought were going to succeed.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WRITING CONTESTS?
I think it’s great. Put it this way, we read everyone from all those programs, whether it’s Warner Bros., the Disney program, awards, all that stuff. Yes, absolutely. I think that just adds to your resume.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN DOING YOUR JOB?
I think one thing is keeping up, now there are so many networks and you have to be familiar with all the shows. I mean, as I say to my clients, I expect them to work as hard as I do. I expect them to watch everything. I expect them to read everything. During development season, I expect them to read all the scripts and know what’s in development and then when the pilots are shot, I expect them to see all the pilots. It’s hard to keep up with series, but you really have to do it. I do it, so I expect my clients to do it. That’s one of the challenges.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY THE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
First of all, I love writers. I love representing writers. I love reading. I love giving notes. I love being hands on with my clients and getting to know my clients and as a manager, I didn’t think that my relationships could deepen with my clients because I’ve always had a close relationship with my clients, but now I have more time to spend with them. And you represent less writers as a manager. I have about 20 clients as a manager.
IN COMPARISON, HOW MANY CLIENTS DID YOU HAVE AS AN AGENT?
You’re on teams and then you’re servicing a bigger list. You’re pitching all the clients of an agency and that’s thousands of clients. As a manager, you’re representing the clients that you want to represent and you represent them in all areas. So I’m not just a TV manager, I’m managing my clients in all areas of the business. Whether it’s television, features, theater, I represent them. In an agency, you’re either a TV agent or motion picture agent and then you pass your client off to another department and person when they want to branch out into a different area.
WHAT CAN A WRITER DO TO HELP YOU DO YOUR JOB?
Write. I mean you’d be surprised that a lot of writers won’t give you a new script and I can’t do my job if I don’t have new material. In television every year it’s the same cycle, at least for the networks. So if for development season I’m getting out their script, I need a new script for the following development season. Same thing for staffing.
Writers need to write. They also need to generate ideas. They need to be pounding the pavement, looking. Whether it’s optioning books, optioning articles. Reading articles, just figuring out how to generate ideas.
HOW IS STAFFING CHANGING NOW WITH MORE OUTLETS?
There was a time when if you did not get a job in May or early June, you could be out for a year and that’s not the case anymore. Because there are so many networks, there are jobs all year long.
The same goes for you can pitch network season the same every year, but cablewise, you can pitch all year long. There’s just a lot more opportunity and it’s not as scary for the clients because they know that if they miss that window, there’s much more opportunity throughout the year.
Coming soon – more from Tracey including building a brand as a writer, common mistakes writers make and advice on sustaining a long career.
Kelly Jo Brick is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. 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.