Every year since 2010, we’ve tracked a new record of agents and managers who have hit the market with specs. The ebb and flow of the rise of the new players has led to some intriguing trends year after year. In 2015, we tracked over 370 individual reps from over 100 different agencies and management companies, some of the most storied institutions in the industry, the hungry young upstarts looking to stake their claim in Hollywood – and everyone in between.
One of the biggest questions for any aspiring writer is, “How do I get representation?” It’s a classic Catch-22 in Hollywood: it’s hard to sell a script if you don’t have an agent, but it’s hard to get an agent if you haven’t sold a script. While it’s true that landing an agent or a manager can be a significant challenge for any writer, there’s a few things you can do to improve your odds. The first is to write a great spec. The second is to write an even better spec. And the third? Know as much as you can about the agents and mangers who influence the spec market and where you could fit in the midst of all of it.
That’s why we’ve done the work of breaking down some of the numbers related to agents and managers from the 2015 spec market. Let’s dig deeper…
Agents and managers, the proverbial grease that keeps the industry’s wheels spinning, are often meant to be working together as a team, satisfying different roles for their clients – but what, exactly, are those roles? You can think of a manager as a “pitcher,” sending their clients and their work out to the town to get their names out there, while an agent is the “catcher,” picking things up on the receiving end after the client has taken all of those meetings.
On the agency side, the game has always been quantity, and in 2015, the biggest agencies – APA, CAA, Gersh, ICM, Original Artists, Paradigm, UTA and WME – repped 190 of the specs that hit the market in 2015. Most companies averaged around 25 to 30 specs taken out and most came up just shy of setting up half of what they put out.
UTA topped the list, though, taking out a whopping 43 spec scripts and setting up 19 of them, or 44%. But ICM had the highest sales rate, setting up 9 out of the 13 scripts they sent out. Verve, meanwhile, was out with the most specs in five years, taking out 24 and setting up 8, or exactly one-third. But it was Gersh, setting up 15 of the 22 specs they took out in 2015, landing them with the highest overall sales percentage at an impressive 68% set up.
When it came to power couples in 2015, ICM most often teamed up with Madhouse Entertainment, proving a strong working relationship between the two companies. But when it comes to getting all the glory, WME’s Solco Schuit stood out as the only agent in his field to take out 7 specs and see each of them set up – an unmatched 100% success rate.
With the spec market beginning to level out a bit following a spike in 2013, agencies are leaning on tried and true performers. Writers who have appeared on the Hit List and Young & Hungry List are prevalent at all of the major agencies, with UTA repping the most: 15 Hit List writers are currently accounted for on the agency’s roster.
The slightly more noteworthy analysis on this subject is management. In 2008, the writers’ strike and eventual recession killed what was left of the declining market that had boomed with in the 90s. The manager’s role has always been to find and develop talent, but after the strike, the town took such a huge hit that this side of representation had to change their strategy to make up for it. Fewer spec sales means less money, so many reps have since taken on a somewhat agent-like attitude in terms of how they approach their client list. Some still keep the client count low and work with clients on their writing before taking them out to the town, but many have ratcheted up their client list numbers, putting the emphasis on the number and creating a “quantity over quality” effect.
How has this change affected their results? When we look at the top twenty management companies in 2015, those that went out with ten or more scripts ultimately set up just under one-third, whereas companies that held their cards closer to the vest set up over half. In 2010, only two companies in the current top twenty went out with over ten scripts and set up, on average, just under half of those, while the dozen companies who sent out less than ten scripts had similar results. In 2013 – a peak year within the last five – we saw 182 scripts set up, with fewer companies sending out over ten scripts, and those companies that sent out less than ten set up approximately a fifth of what they put out.
One of the big differences in the last five years is the emergence of companies like Writ Large and Grandview. These smaller companies are making sure the quality of what they are sending out is strong and building solid reputations for themselves in the process.
For the past five years, Kaplan/Perrone and Circle of Confusion have continuously sent out the most specs among the major management companies. Kaplan/Perrone hit the market with 18 specs and set up 5 (27%). Circle of Confusion, meanwhile, hit the market with 22 specs last year, setting up 8 of those (36%) – the most spec sales of any management company in 2015. That’s good news for the company, who, after two years of coming in behind Kaplan/Perrone, returned to the top spot.
As discussed in our breakdown of the genres, the type of spec you write is just as important as how you brand it and to whom you pitch it. Comedies, for example, are typically a hard sell, as ‘funny’ is hard to translate internationally. Thrillers, on the other hand, are often less expensive to produce and can draw significant audiences. How does that affect representation? Let’s look at one example: Typically a management company with a genre-focus is a smaller operation, but one standout year after year is 3 Arts Entertainment – a company synonymous with comedy, representing more Saturday Night Live players than anyone else. Yet their number one genre sold in 2015 was the thriller, proving once again the strength of the genre on the market, but also reinforcing the idea that a great spec is a great spec.
The point is that regardless of what genre you write, or what genre a company is known for representing, an individual agent or manager really only cares about how good the writing is, and who the person is behind it. The rep sells the spec, but the spec sells the writer.
Read our Introduction to the 2015 Spec Book
Read our Breakdown of the 10 Most Popular Spec Script Genres
Read about The 2015 Spec Book All-Stars
Read about The State of the Spec Market
Emily J | Staff Writer