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 1, Adam talks about his background and the risky decision he made to embark on his own as a manager.
In college, you were an intern at the William Morris Agency, then immediately went to work as an assistant with WMA after graduation. You were there 3 years, then left to start as a literary manager. Why didn’t you continue down the agent path? Why become a manager?
I wanted to represent who I wanted to represent and believed in no matter what stage of their careers they happened to be at. Meaning, take chances on the voices I recognized even if it meant not earning any money with them for several years. This is not the case at large agencies (just ask around). I did not need to be told what writer needed a job or what director needed a specific piece of material. I wanted to discover for myself and my literary clients. This is EXACTLY how I run my business today. No one tells me who I should believe in, who I should pay attention to, or who needs more focus now because that client of the agency has made the company a lot of money in the years before me. I fundamentally believe the net result of this attitude is the difference between getting movies made and not just selling projects. I know I’m in direct opposition to the large agency mentality today, and frankly, I don’t care.
Didn’t that decision to leave WMA and strike out on your own represent a significant risk? What made you think you had what it took to be a successful manager?
There was a huge risk to leave on my own. I had no clients, no money, no real plan, and no real support from the company I left behind. But I did believe simply in one theory that I still believe in today: If I keep my mouth shut and develop great material with incredible writers, success will come. Patience and perseverance is what it will take. I know my only achievements are based on how hard my clients are willing to work for that success. I don’t have a secret formula for it. I believe great writing wins wars. But working harder than everyone else is the battle to win the war.
You rep an impressive roster of screenwriters including David Guggenheim (Safe House, spec script sales “Narco” and “Black Box”), Aaron Guzikowski [Contraband, spec script sale “Prisoners”], Justin Marks [“20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”], and Justin Rhodes [spec script sales “Second Sun” and “The Join”] and Carter Blanchard (“Glimmer” spec sale to Dreamworks). What are the keys to your sales pitch to potential writer clients?
I appreciate you pinpointing a few selected clients, but I believe every client I represent should always be highlighted. I won’t bore your readers with that list of course. The key to potential writers is: BE A WRITER. Don’t talk about being a writer, don’t tell your parents or your spouse or kids you’re a writer. Don’t talk about it at parties, don’t put it on your email signature. Just write. Write more than everyone else. Try, fail, succeed, lose, but try again. My opinion is this strategy works for writers yet to even be in the WGA as well as those that have had several produced movies. I challenge any working screenwriter today to say they don’t need to write for themselves, they just wait for the phone to ring with someone offering them more money. The motion picture industry is certainly as hard as it has ever been and as hard as it will ever be. But, movies are still getting made. Just make your scripts better than the others, work harder on your craft. Having the most screenplays of any manager or management company on 2012 BLACK LIST shows the value in the original material and unique voice.
Tomorrow in Part 2, Adam discusses the differences between managers and agents, and details his philosophy of being a manager.
For the home page of Madhouse Entertainment’s website, go here.
[Originally posted January 21, 2013]