Andrea Dimity From Pannon Entertainment Inc. On Managing Screenwriters
As part of Creative Screenwriting Magazine’s commitment to interviewing top Hollywood literary managers, we sat down with Andrea Dimity, founder of Pannon Entertainment Inc. to discuss the role managers play in building screenwriting careers, and what screenwriters can do to help them!
We discussed the thorny issue of managers acting as producers, an advantage agents don’t have – officially. “There are times when it makes more sense for a manager to be a producer, especially if there is a lot of development work or packaging involved.”
In terms of signing new screenwriter clients, understandably, it always starts with the screenplay “because I need to know if the writer can write,” especially with emerging screenwriters. Ideally, writers seeking representation should have a portfolio, not just one script. Managers also expect consistency in terms of the frequency and quality of scripts you write. Also, write with passion.
Dimity sources new clients from a variety of sources, with the majority coming from screenwriting contests. Occasionally there are recommendations which land on her reading stack. An interesting observation is that many screenwriters submit to multiple contests, so their names and screenplays pop up across the board. This provides an additional vetting layer to vouch for the quality of a script and the writer.
Entering screenplay competitions can have additional benefits in terms of helping the manager select screenplays to consider for representation. Contest organizers may be aware of screenplays that didn’t win, or additional scripts that a winning screenwriter has written but not entered. Dimity has also established solid relationships with film schools which are aware of the types of material she’s looking for.
In terms of setting up a project, it always comes down to the screenplay. More experienced screenwriters with a track record of selling their scripts may be in a better position to sell a pitch. However, everything boils down to the quality of the writing. “Even if you’ve had something produced elsewhere, it really doesn’t matter if you’re not known in the Hollywood community.” This is sobering news for screenwriters looking to break in.
As your career as a screenwriter moves forward and you gain some heat after selling a screenplay or having one produced, the dynamics of pitching changes. Writers will undoubtedly take general meetings around town where they will be expected to pitch additional story ideas. “Even if you have other screenplays you’ve been working on, you should be prepared to come up with new pitches for the meeting that fits the portfolio of the specific company you are pitching to.”
A common issue for screenwriters is their relentless pursuit of securing representation. “I don’t believe that screenwriters should be looking for representation. We find them.” Writers should be more concerned with perfecting their craft. Word of a hot project quickly gets around town so managers scramble to stitch up that project.
Although the management landscape is highly competitive, each manager has their own industry relationships and interests. This means that each manager services a specific slice of the industry pie. That’s why it’s more important for screenwriters to have the right representation. “The more established and respected a manager is, the better it is for the writer because they will have better access to the industry. It takes years to establish stable industry contacts for both writer and manager. These relationships run on trust.”
Size doesn’t always matter. That’s great news for screenwriters. Smaller, boutique managers have lower overheads and consequently don’t need to turn a profit as fast. If clients don’t meet revenue expectations, there is greater pressure for the manager to drop them. Managers with smaller client rosters can also spend more time working with individual clients to develop projects.
Smaller management companies also tend to be partners so they have a greater investment in the success of their clients. Managers in larger companies may more likely be employees which can be turned over as rapidly as their clients. Moreover, these managers may not have the level of relationships that the partners have. Smaller managers often deal with the same industry folk as the partners of larger companies according to Dimity.
Andrea Dimity asks screenwriters to strike a balance between writing what you’re passionate about and what the industry wants. A great writing voice alone doesn’t pay the bills.
Writers should also define their target markets to contour their career strategies accordingly. A screenwriter interested in blockbuster studio films has different concerns than an indie writer. This advice won’t necessarily constrict a writer’s preferred genre, but rather enhance it when they focus on their target market. “I always ask my writers what kind of movie do you want to write? Who’s going to make it? Who’s your audience? Don’t come to me with your heart-warming, indie drama and expect to sell it to the studio system.”
Managers open industry doors for screenwriters. “After that, screenwriters are expected to maintain and nurture these relationships.”
She is particularly attracted to great dialogue and strong characters. “Strong characters are the foundation of everything. You can have an extraordinary story, but if your characters don’t jump off the page, it falls flat.”
Currently, she is focusing her efforts on feature films than television. She describes her strengths as being able to read a screenplay and summarize it and create a logline to pitch it more effectively.
Unlike many managers, Dimity reads script submissions almost all the way through. “I don’t pass after the first twenty-five pages because most scripts get better afterward.” This doesn’t preclude the importance of a tight setup. “That said, there are screenwriters who write a great setup, but they can’t pull off the third act. This could be screenwriting fatigue.” In Andrea’s experience, some issues she laments are overwritten screenplays that drop off in the third act. A screenplay should end at the end of the story, not when the screenwriter runs out of steam. Writers can also refer to the adage that a third act problem is often a first act symptom because the set up wasn’t strong enough.
Andrea Dimity also recalls stories of younger screenwriters chomping at the bit to take industry meetings before they’re ready. “They’re more interested in meeting people than they are in being read. This leads to empty meetings. You have to make an impression to make these meetings count.” Some conflicts arise between managers and their clients regarding their “meeting readiness.” It’s very subjective.
The manager’s final advice for screenwriters wishing to break in is to establish relationships with as many local filmmakers as possible who can produce your short film.”This gives you experience in translating your writing to the screen. Something that reads really well on the page can have problems in the execution.”
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