“Take Risks And Do Not Try To Replicate Others’ Styles” ROAR Manager Jay Glazer Advises Screenwriters
Jay Glazer is a manager/producer who represents creatives in film, television, & theatre. He worked at Brillstein Entertainment Partners & The Gersh Agency, where he started his professional career in the talent department.
Jay joined ROAR in 2018, where he represents screenwriters for both film and television as well as producing a slate of films. His debut feature, Get Luke Lowe, stars Emma McDonald and is currently in post-production. He has active projects with Mandalay Pictures, H2L, Storied Media Group, and Storyboard Entertainment. We spoke to him about how writers can better work with representation.
What does a healthy manager/client relationship look like?
A healthy manager/client relationship is one built on trust, mutual respect, communication, and ambition. I see my clients as partners — combining forces to advance our business and creative goals. There will always be ups and downs in the long arcs of careers, and it’s critical to be able to depend on your manager to have your back, but also challenge each other in a safe, trusting environment.
What are some of the misconceptions screenwriters have about managers?
Sometimes screenwriters who are in the developmental stage of their careers don’t want to “bother” their manager in fear of being perceived as a nuisance. The truth is that if I saw a client as a bother, I wouldn’t represent them. As long as it’s focused and productive, I will spend as much time as needed to help clients strengthen their work and put ourselves in the best position to succeed. My clients reflect upon me as much as I represent them, and I enjoy collaborating and developing emerging voices.
At what stage of their careers should screenwriters seek representation?
Screenwriters should seek representation when their writing is truly ready to be presented to producers and buyers. There is an inherent chicken or the egg nature to it — how do you make progress without the opportunity to have your work presented if you need to demonstrate progress in order to obtain representation? The answer is often hustling on your own, and ideally selling a project before seeking representation, thus building heat for your career and attracting interest from managers and agents.
How do you source new clients?
I primarily source new clients via referrals from other industry professionals. If a studio executive or producer calls me about a screenwriter that they have already hired, I am going to really listen. If an agent calls me with a potential client, I will probably listen. If I get a cold email, I will delete it. Sometimes I will read or watch something and feel inspired to look up who the writer or director is, and if they do not already have management, I will make a phone call and express interest.
There are countless screenwriting contests and it can at times be like trying to find a needle in a haystack to identify strong writing in what can feel like an endless sea of mediocrity. I never assert that I am the ultimate judge of great writing — screenwriting, like any creative endeavor, can be heavily subjective. That being said, I can generally tell within ten pages if a writer is highly skilled and if their voice speaks to me.
How much development do you do with your writing clients?
I am generally very hands-on with my writer clients’ development, both in terms of the conception of their ideas, and the execution of their writing. I only work with screenwriters whose voices speak to me, and I like to think that I can figure out what aspects of their scripts they need help with, often without them needing to tell me.
If a client is developing and writing a project speculatively, I particularly want to get under the hood with them and strategize together to create a pathway towards success before they even start writing. Time is precious, both my clients’ and mine, and although there are never any guarantees, a critical aspect of my job is helping to guide writers’ development towards success.
If a client is writing on an assignment, it’s a different story. It’s their job to hit the target that the hiring party has directed them to hit. Writers who are good to work with — communicating clearly, making deadlines and yes, playing some politics — become more in demand and are able to build relationships that can feed their careers over many years, beyond the assignment they are working on.
I am a resource to help make both sides happy, particularly my clients.
Describe a typical workday
I thrive on organization and structure. The nature of the business is that there is always going to be chaos, stress, uncertainty, and problems to solve. When I wake up, I make sure that I know what my day looks like, what responsibilities I have, and what I want to accomplish. I try to triage my work so that I don’t miss a deadline or let someone down because I was busy working on something that isn’t important or doesn’t need to be done that day.
In addition to representing writers, I also work with actors and directors. Part of why I love my job is that there isn’t really a typical day. As a manager, and one who also produces, I am doing a thousand different things at any given time. I try to be mindful of steering myself in the direction that I am interested in and passionate about.
A typical day is some combination of creating new opportunities for clients, making sure that we are doing what we need to do for existing projects, calling and emailing with a wide network of industry peers, and broadly, advancing both my clients’ and my own interests. Not all of it is fun, but I do enjoy the wide breadth of work that I do within a typical workday, from getting clients verified on Instagram (not fun) to selling scripts (fun).
What most attracts you to a project/ writer?
What attracts me is a mastery of the craft of screenwriting, truly unique voices, and the exploration of topical and relatable subjects.
With any artform — screenwriting, acting, painting, sculpting — anything… great work is about a unique vision that is executed masterfully. To me, spectacular screenplays often pose questions and ideas that we are collectively asking ourselves in our broad public conversations. When I pick up a script that is not only effortless and highly engaging to read, but also provokes deep thinking and even challenges my perceptions, that’s when I feel excited. Plus, understanding the difference between “its” and “it’s.”
How do you stay abreast of everything in the industry?
Like most industry professionals, I read Deadline, Variety, THR throughout the day. I like to bookmark the articles that are relevant to my job. I don’t care to read gossipy news about the private lives of celebrities.
I also keep in touch with other folks in the industry to get their perspectives and gain a better understanding of topics that may be new and unfamiliar to me. If you know who to ask and how to ask them, I can learn about new developments in the industry before the news breaks wide, so I try to always have my ear to the ground.
How would you describe your current film and TV tastes?
I have been mostly watching old movies during the pandemic. Films I have always been meaning to watch, and filling in gaps in my film knowledge. I am working my way through the entire Lumet catalogue, even the bad ones. Someone recently gifted me The Criterion Collection, which has been an incredible way to discover international films. In film or in any form of history, it’s important to know where we’ve been in order to better understand where we’re going.
I advise my clients to watch film and television that is in the wheelhouse of what they write. It’s important to understand what’s out there in order to direct your work in a commercial yet unique direction. If you write in the comedy space, you should go and watch the cool comedies as they come out, like The King of Staten Island, which I just watched and really enjoyed.
When awards season rolls around, I do my best to watch all of the Oscar-nominated films.
What is the current state of the industry and how can screenwriters best take advantage of it?
We are clearly at a cultural turning point — not just due to the pandemic, but other social factors, as well. Now more than ever, film and television serve as a mirror to comment on our global society and examine ourselves. There will continue to be a broad spectrum of stories and genres, that will never change. But what audiences are responding to is authenticity. Whether we are talking about a grounded drama or a Marvel film, audiences respond to real characters with real emotions.
Diversity is as important now as ever before. Not just diversity of cast and crew, but diversity of thought and creativity. Gone are the days of whitewashing and rewriting history for the purpose of convenience. Screenwriting, like all art forms, is constantly changing and evolving.
Screenwriters can take advantage of this by writing stories that matter, and that are relevant to contemporary audiences. That’s not to say that period drama or fantasy won’t work, there just needs to be a strong connection to our zeitgeist. I see fewer and fewer paint by numbers genre stories. If we’ve already seen a thousand haunted house horror films, why write another one, unless there is a brilliant approach that subverts the genre expectations and imbues the story with new meaning?
What makes you stop reading a script submission?
I read a lot, particularly these days with tons of time stuck inside at home. I keep a log of every screenplay I’ve ever read so that I can refer back to it in the future.
How I read very much depends on why I am reading the script. If I need to quickly read a script that an actor client is auditioning for, I may skim through it to get the gist and have a basic understanding of the material. If I am developing a script with a client, I may read it 5 times and spend 10 hours doing notes.
If I don’t need to read a script — perhaps a potential client, or a favor to a friend, I will put it down as soon as I lose interest, which may well be within the first 5 pages. I can tell within just a few pages if the writing is well crafted and polished.
How can a screenwriter stay vibrant and relevant in the marketplace?
It’s a cliché, but a big part of writing is living. The type of writing that I enjoy typically offers some form of commentary on the world around us. Is it possible for a screenwriter to write something brilliant and totally accurate about a topic that they have no personal experience with? It is of course, but I think it’s awfully tough to find authenticity without both doing and watching. A screenwriter can stay vibrant and relevant by having an awareness of what is selling and getting made in the marketplace, and finding their own path towards that end, rather than trying to follow a formula to replicate others’ success.
Any closing thoughts for our readers?
Take risks and do not try to replicate others’ styles. If you are an emerging screenwriter looking to break through, you should not try to out-Shonda Rhimes, Shonda Rhimes. The voices that break through feel fresh and unique, so it’s important to take risks within the bounds of reason.
Liz Hannah, the screenwriter who wrote The Post was an assistant in the industry writing something on spec. It was brilliantly written and extremely relevant to contemporary issues and was made fairly quickly. Writing true stories within the public domain is a smart way to leverage “free IP” — widely known stories that do not rely on acquiring the rights.
One thing that the pandemic has proved is how incredibly important storytelling is. Demand is as high as ever, and I am hopeful that production will pick back up before too long. Stay focused, stay positive, and stay productive.
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