Interview: Adam Kolbrenner (Madhouse Entertainment) — Part 2

January 22nd, 2013 by

This week, we are fortunate to have as our guest manager-producer Adam Kolbrenner from Madhouse Entertainment, an L.A.-based production and literary management company that works with screenwriters and writer/directors in the areas of film, television and new media.

I will be posting the whole interview over the course of the week. Today in Part 2, Adam discusses the differences between managers and agents, and details his philosophy of being a manager.

We’ve all heard the line about how the difference between an agent and a manager is an agent wears a suit, while a manager wears blue jeans. Could you give us a more substantive take on what you do that is different than an agent?

Each writer has different needs when it comes to an agent.  Each Madhouse client has a different relationship with their agent.  But it comes down to STRATEGY for us as a manager.  That’s an all encompassing term because it means multiple things.  Its having an understanding of who the writer is.  From there, we can strategize for a decade of where we’ll be going.  What relationships to form.  What scripts to write.  Now, I can’t give away all the secret recipes, cause what fun would that be?  To us, each writer is it’s own business, with a plan.

What are some compelling reasons why a writer should have both an agent and a manager on their team?

I can’t speak for other managers, but I know Madhouse will add a significant value to what a writer does everyday.  We just do it differently from all the others.  It’s a longterm approach to building a corporation for each client.  Agents historically have way too many clients, not to mention the corporate life of the large agencies, and their time is often not their own and quite divided.  Work with a client, develop our strategy to take over the world, then we let the agent know how it will be executed together.

One big difference between manager and agent is a manager can act as a producer on a project. Other than a title, what does being a manager-producer on a movie project entail? What do you actually do as a producer?

Simple:  DEVELOP MATERIAL.  If you know how to do that, there’s your value as a producer.  Do I believe that I need to be on the set of films and offer my opinions to actors?  Absolutely not.  But laying the groundwork for what the film will be from its inception accounts for something.  But, on certain days it’s important to wear the 2 hats and keep them at arms length if need be.  As a producer, Madhouse is not obligated to ONLY work with our clients, nor are our clients obligated to ONLY work with Madhouse as their producer.  That’s ridiculous, albeit a practice that other managers insist upon.  Getting movies made now is difficult, but with great material, the directors will be there, the cast, the financing, the screens, and the audiences.  We just wrapped on a pilot for MTV called “HOT MESS” from our client LAUREN IUNGERICH, that my partner Robyn Meisinger from Madhouse produced.  We have “PRISONERS” in production from our client AARON GUZIKOWSKI that Madhouse is producing.  There are plenty of others in preproduction or development as well, some from clients, some not.

In this blog post Justin Marks wrote for JohnAugust.com, he said this about having you as his manager: “I can easily say that while I can credit many people with my early success (first boss, first agent, spouse, etc), I would not be where I am without my manager. It’s not that these strange animals teach you how to write or get you jobs (although you’d be surprised at how many times they do both). It’s that, in this difficult climate, they hold your hand through the near-impossible process of having a career. Without my manager’s guidance, I would have been lost in the woods.” The one word that leaps out to me there is guidance. How much of what you do is about helping to guide a writer through their career? What are some examples of how you do that?

Every single day, every phone call, meeting, email or text is about guidance.  Again, do I believe I know all the answers to every question?  Let’s assume we don’t (but we do), we work through each day, each week, month, year together.  We’re a team.  We have highs and lows.  We see executives come and go, we see movies get made, movies that don’t get made, but we have to stay focused on the long term.  We don’t throw up our hands and leave the business.  There are plenty of those writers out there, quitters.  We believe we can recognize if they have the hunger from Day 1, and if they have the hunger, there’s always tomorrow, always the next job, and the next script.

Tomorrow in Part 3, Adam shares his assessment of the spec script market and the value of a spec script for a writer.

Please stop by comments to thank Adam for taking the time for the interview and post any follow-up questions you may have as he has agreed to answer them.

To learn more about the film and TV projects Madhouse Entertainment is associated with, go here.

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