"Always be writing." (Wise advice from agent Jewerl Ross)

Scipt Magazine recently ran an excellent interview with agent Jewerl Ross, founder of Silent R Management, great advice that translates directly or indirectly to the crafting (and selling) of a novel. Here's a bit:

What are some good ways for a pitching writer to make a good first impression?
I’m the kind of manager who’s less focused on ideas and more focused on writing. There are thousands of good ideas out there, but there are far, far fewer people who can execute great ideas, who can make an idea come alive on the page, who can write a comedy that’s laugh-out-loud funny, who can write a horror movie that scares you, who can write a thriller that has enough surprises that it will keep you guessing. I have relationships with a few people in town who spend a lot of time peddling ideas, and I feel like their ideas are worthless unless the person can write them. Although I want to hear good ideas, I’m really more of a writing person.

There are a lot of people who will only go out and try to sell scripts with big ideas; scripts that are high-concept, that are commercial, where people can wrap their heads around them in one sentence. I, on the other hand, will often try to sell scripts that are bad ideas, scripts that are low-concept, scripts that are uncommercial, but if the writing’s good, that’s more important to me. I can send a great piece of writing to a hundred people, set 50 meetings, and have people call me and tell me I have great taste, just because the writing’s good; they don’t care if the idea’s bad. There’s this underlying prejudice among high-minded development people in Hollywood that a great idea is not going to be well-executed. It’s a fine line between trying to have something that’s commercial but also trying to have a screenplay on the page that’s going to get people excited about you as a screenwriter.

How important is screenplay format?
A screenplay that is in a great format can often be written with incomplete sentences: things you would never find in a classically written novel, but it’s clean and crisp and clear. If I open a screenplay where it’s in a font or point-size that’s unfamiliar to me, and I feel the writer’s trying to cram too many or not enough words on a page, I don’t even read it, I’m onto the next thing.

Do you have any pet-peeves with regard to writing and to writers?
I’m a guy with a lot of pet peeves. (laughing) In terms of writing on the page: too much stage directions, writing like you’re a director, giving me too much information. If a person goes to read The Sixth Sense, one of the best screenplays ever written, [M. Night Shyamalan] does a great job of conveying every single emotion in that movie, every single beat, but you look at the page and it is almost white. That is what real screenwriting is all about.

Pet peeves in terms of screenwriter personalities: lack of trust…people who are lazy…and people who are overly aggressive. I have often not pursued a client because he or she was too aggressive with me; that’s regardless of the quality of the material. If a person’s going to be needy and he or she is not even a client yet, I’m not going to want to sign him or her as a client. My best clients, my most talented clients, my clients who make me the most money, are the ones who are not the neediest.

What do you expect from your clients?
Always be writing. If you’re not writing on assignment, I want you putting out at least two scripts a year - hopefully three. The biggest rule for me is to always be writing.

Comments

Steve said…
Jewerl is hot!