Contacting Talent Agencies

November 30, 2001 - So much for (Marketing) Agencies, Film fests away.

Didn't get into Sundance. I decided to scan the letter and post it here. Feel free to insert your name and print out a copy for yourself. (You'd have saved the $45) I figure if I collect enough of these things, I can make the ultimate screen saver and desktop wallpaper for indie filmmakers.

Also got shut out at the 'talent' agencies, and also tried a couple of entertainment lawyers. We got tapes and fishnet packaging out to all of these, here's how they stood:

International Creative Management (ICM) - At least these guys didn't slam the door on our asses as we left. They told us they "were split" (on liking the film) and that IF we got into something like Sundance, they would consider going with us. I asked them what they didn't like about it. They thought it was sorta low budget looking. I told them that is WAS low budget, to the tune of 30 grand for an entire FILM. That seemed to shut him up for a moment.

Creative Artists Agency - We bullshit our way into these guys. We made two psuedo 'contacts' within the company. (More on that later.) No other information other than 'they passed'.

William Morris Agency - The initial contacts (youngish interns?) who got the film seemed very enthusiastic about the movie and especially my goofy packaging. The guy who DID see the film like it, found it "really smart" and felt confident that we would find a distributor, but they were overloaded with films for Sundance at this time.

United Talent Agency - This was the agency who I had made a contact through my karate school. A woman who goes there had a son who moved out to L.A. and was working for this agency. She had put me in contact with her son and I had spoken to him and he personally requested a tape. He was a literary agent, not some one who worked in the film department. He liked the film. He tried to get the film in the hands of big mucky-mucks at this agency. They wouldn't even look at it. They told him they were too busy, no 'funds' available.

Endeavor Talent Agency - These are the guys who were the agents for The Blair Witch Project. I was hoping we had a better shot with these guys, since they were smaller than the others. We were told "they are a small unit who needs to be extremely selective and they want bigger movies." Go figure. :-P


All agencies claim that they don't look at unsolicited people/material and you need a referral by someone in the industry. I think Dan heard this from all the secretaries who man the phones at their main numbers. (To find all the phone numbers to ANY agency, get the Hollywood Creative Directory: Agents and Managers.) If you attempt to ask the secretary (at the main number) to put you through to the person in charge of acquisitions of indie films, she just goes "WHO do you want?" This is usually followed by the standard disclaimer of not taking unsolicited stuff.

Here's what you do: Pick a random name and number of someone who works at said 'talent' agency out of the HCD directory. Phone the main number (you'll be speaking to the same secretary who told you to fuck off just a few minutes before.) Tell her you would like to have so and so's extension. (As if you've known the person for years.) Bang. Transferred right away, no questions asked. So and so gets on the phone.

You go, "Oh hi! Is this So and so? I'm not sure if I have this right, I was told that you were the agent who deals with indie film acquisitions? (Or what ever section of the company you are interested in infiltrating.) This person is usually busy, it's not their job to ask questions, they almost always know WHO in their company does what, they tell you right away. (And maybe even transfer you directly, just to get rid of you.)

You are now transferred to the CORRECT person. They answer. You go, "Hi! So and so (your random contact) said I should contact you! I've got an indie film that I produced..yada yada yada. The implication is that you were suggested to them by an industry insider. (An agent! One of THEIR agents no less!) Once you get this person on the phone, you've got to move the conversation along to your wonderful doo-hickey that you've just created. Since so many people work at these agencies, it's not likely that everyone is on intimate speaking terms with everyone else, and it doesn't seem likely that your (new) agent is going to interrogate so and so (the random contact) about you.

Concord New Horizons - This is Roger Cormans office/distributor. Dan wanted to fire a tape off to these guys because of Roger Cormans past experience with being independent. They thought the film had a "genre problem", it didn't fit into the typical categories that they deal with. (Note: Bob Hawk thought it WAS part of a genre, a movie that features computers. Brother.)

John Pierson - (Famous producers rep) John saw the film and apparently liked it. He said it was "fitfully funny and a clear indication of my talent as a filmmaker." Cool. Dan chatted with him for a while about the whole indie filmmaking process. The bad news: John is moving to an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and plans to write a book about his journey. He will have nothing to do with independent filmmaking FOR A VERY LONG TIME. Oh well.

Cinetic Media/John Sloss - (Producers rep/lawyer.) Someone in the office liked it, found it "quirky" (uh-oh). They stated that Sundance/Slamdance acquisitions (buyers/distributors) are not confident in buying. They said we need critical support, acquire press, get good reviews. This was vital because we have no stars. It was left as that.

Jeff Dowd - (famous producers rep) Never got through to him. I have 11 documented phone calls to his office over the course of two months. I DID start up a nice relationship with his assistant Melissa. (By the 11th call, she knew my voice and remarked that she enjoyed speaking with me.) I sent a FAX, Melissa did give it to him. Nada. I think I get the hint.

Next Wave Films - Passed. No funding available, no other information.

Mark Litwak & Associates - (Producers rep/Lawyer) They have a pretty descent webapge with all sorts of info on legal issues with filmmaking. When we got through to their office, the first thing Marked asked was, "Who's in it, and what's it shot on?" We sent the tape and packing off with big hopes.

A week later we got a letter back stating: "Thank you for the opportunity to view your film, "alt.sex." I enjoyed it, it's original, and I think it shows a great deal of promise. Unfortunately, many low-budget innovative films that dare to challenge conventional story formulas, like yours, are passed by."

At first I thought, "Oh..cool. He enjoyed it, thought is was original, innovative and challenging!" (Woo hoo!) Then I noticed this printed on the bottom left hand side of the page: E\wpdocs\LEGAL\CORR\filmpass\frothingham.wpd. The directory on his hard drive where he keeps his rejection letters! Great. At least I didn't get the form letter that read, "I DIDN'T enjoy it, found it un-original, repetitious and dull."

Mark's form letter was revealing. It said: "I think this film will be difficult to sell, however, because of the lack of name actors. As you may know, there has been a tremendous increase in independent production. Ten years ago, 50 independent films a year were produced; today, that number has swelled to 800. With the market flooded with product, distributors have become very selective. In the eyes of many distributors, unless a film has one or more name actors, or has garnered great critical reviews by major publications or has won a top film festival, they simply don't know how to market it, and they often don't have the courage to try a novel approach."

Dan and I had also tried contacting some distribution companies for the hell of it. They basically asked us straight out, "How can we SELL this film of yours? Do you have stars? (no) Big budget? (no) Awards? (not yet anyways)" At no point did they ask "Is the film any GOOD?" or even "Is it FUNNY?"

I think I'm finally getting it. They're not 'talent' agencies...they're MARKETING agencies. Do you have something to offer us which we can (easily) SELL? Who cares if you have potential in the long run, HOW can we make money off you or your film? If not, why should we even bother? From a business stand point this makes sense. I'm not knocking any of these companies on what they do or how they do it. If you're big enough to pick and choose through everyone on the planet, you just have to wait until someone starts to become successful, THEN you can start kissing their ass. (Obviously these people are very selective on the asses they kiss.)

Mark Litwak had some good points too. The distributors are the same way. Why should they make an effort to sell something that's unknown (even if it IS good or original), verses something that's already starting to leap off the shelves. Now I know why people like Pauly Shore, Carrot Top and Yahoo Serious are actually packaged and put on a shelf. I'm sure the distributors don't think they're funny, but if they're known and some nitwit buys them, they don't care...there's money to be made! Got it. (I now put distributors a small step above pornographers.)

I've got a crazy plan for my own marketing that I may put into effect very soon. I'll keep you posted.

Still waiting to hear from Slamdance. I recently learned that the question on their application; "What is your shoe size?" is NOT a dumb joke. (I had put "see dick size.") I guess they have a sponsor that gives a pair of athletic shoes to everyone who gets in. Gees, if I DO get into Slamdance, I hope they request my correct measurement, or else I'll be walking around with clowns feet. (HARDY HAR HAR!)

A bunch of tapes have gone off to: HBO Comedy Festival, South By Southwest Film Festival, New York Underground Film Festival and the Boston Underground Film Festival. We'll see what happens with these guys sometime in January/February.

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