First of all I have ideas for projects that are Disney related. How can I present them to Disney and other filmmakers and writers who have worked with Disney? Mind you I have experience in filmmaking. I ask because I would like to know if you do know of any agents that will represent me? Especially if I would like to work with Disney.
Answer by Brandon Blake, Entertainment Lawyer:
First off thanks to all the contributors last week. With so many responses it is hard to know where to start but I am trying to answer the most representative questions first.
I have had the good fortune of working with Disney on a number of recent projects, and actually represented the estate responsible for such classics as “Dumbo” and “101 Dalmatians”. In answer to your question, let’s first talk about the way agencies and studios work with each other to get feature film and television projects produced.
Major agencies supply a constant stream of scripts and stories to studios, production companies and networks, and often package those projects first before presenting the scripts. Packaging means getting an A-list performer, director, or other celebrity with broad name recognition and an existing fan base interested in a script or story. Agencies typically shop the project internally first, in order to find current clients who would be interested in attaching to the project.
Once the agency feels that it has enough interest from talent attached to the script, the agency will then present the project to studios, focusing on producers at the studios who are known to be looking for particular stories for production. If there is interest at the studio in the script, a similar kind of internal shopping process begins, where a producer or acquisitions executive will approach others at the studio and try to build up interest in the project at the studio. Eventually the President and CEO of the studio will get involved, deciding to green light projects that have been internally developed.
So the question is how to become a part of this process, when so much of the development and shopping work is being done internally at major agencies and studios, and television networks. There are a couple of solutions for independent producers who want to bring scripts into the Hollywood system.
The first way is to work on packaging the project during development, and make attaching cast, director, or other celebrities the first step in getting the project made. In one project I represented that later was picked up by a major agency, my client and I worked to create substantial publicity around the story during the development phase, which attracted Keanu Reeves and David Ayer to the project.
At that point a major agency got involved, which began shopping the project to studios. Basically we saved the agency a lot of time, because not only was there a story with an existing audience, but talent already attached. Agencies can find out about projects indirectly, based on clients who are cast members, writers, or directors on the project, or the filmmakers might plan a promotional strategy that indirectly lets the agencies know about the project.
The second approach for agency representation is the more traditional way. Clients with an established track record of commercial projects can be shopped directly to the agencies. In this situation the agency is looking for a client, not a script or package, because the agency is looking to represent a writer or director’s whole career. The agency, in this case, will try to find the client work on existing projects at studios and production companies.
Regarding advice for how to get projects seen by agencies, I would offer the following specific ideas:
1) Produce great promotional materials. The look book/ pitch book, website, poster and one-sheet should be the highest possible quality. After 16 years in the entertainment business, I can spot projects that will get agency and studio attention from the poster alone. It really is that important. I get a lot of questions about trailers, demo reels, sizzle reels, and pilots, and my answer is always the same; if the material is broadcast quality and exactly reproduces your intention for the series or movie, then yes, the more material the better. But anything where you are asking the agent or studio executive to “imagine” what you can do with a bigger budget, do not include it. For various reasons, television and studio executives do not have very good imaginations. Show them what you can do right now or do not include it.
2) Consider hiring a publicist. Never underestimate the power of some well-placed news articles about the project. There are a myriad of ways to build a story around a prospective film or television project. If your story rights are not strong enough to get a publicist interested, then chances are the story will not impress the agents or studios either. Work on ways to make the story newsworthy.
3) Package the project. Most producers, after spending a few years in the entertainment business, will have at least one or two celebrity contacts to approach about the project. Do not save those for “the next project.” Put everything you have into the project that is ready to develop.
I have helped numerous clients package and develop projects for film and television. Please feel free to contact me about your project and I would be happy to discuss ideas.
As with any entertainment matter, please do not make a decision about complex matters without consulting an experienced entertainment lawyer first. I have been representing feature film projects and television series for more than 16 years. Please feel free to contact my office about a quote.
- By Brandon Blake, Entertainment Lawyer