Introducing Ask a Mentor
Established screen and TV writers answer your questions in this advice column.
We can all use a little advice sometimes. Connect asked members to send in their questions about the profession for knowledgeable WGAW members to answer. Cathryn Humphris (NCIS: New Orleans, Mad Men) answers our first question regarding managers.
Question: “I was looking for some advice regarding manager/client relationships and the general management of your representation when you feel as though you have no street cred and/or are in the weaker position.”
Cathryn Humphris: It can be really difficult to figure out the dynamics of a relationship with a manager or a [franchised] agent when you're new to it. Honestly, it can be difficult even for seasoned writers. It’s easy to say "remember that they work for you," but it often doesn't feel that way, especially when you’re desperately waiting for them to call you back, or give you notes, or if you lost out on a job they worked hard to help you land. So I try to be a little more pragmatic about how I view things. I remind myself that they signed me for a reason. From thinking "my reps believe in me creatively" to "they believe they can make money off me," all these reasons translate into your rep having motivation for working hard on your behalf, which can make you feel more confident.
I also encourage writers to get used to communicating with their reps, and not just by email. Call your rep. Have a reason for the call. I often write down a short list of topics I want to address. And be patient if it takes a day or so for a return call. But the simple act of talking to your rep regularly will help you to get comfortable with the process. Also, while it's important to do what they're asking of you—write that spec script, send them lists of relationships you have with showrunners, etc.—it's also important to hold them accountable for the work you've asked them to do. Clearly communicate what you're asking or following up on—did they submit you to that show you're interested in? If not, why? Is there another show they think you're a better fit for? As with all communication, it's totally fine to take in whatever they're telling you without responding, and call or email later with questions. And if they're encouraging you to do something you aren't sure about, don't ignore your gut. Take a beat, think it through, then clearly lay out your concerns.
There are great reps out there, and some shitty ones. If you feel like your relationship really isn't working, do some research. Talk to your friends and fellow writers. What is this person's reputation like? Sometimes writers put up with bad reps because they feel they have nowhere else to go. If that's the choice you make, make the relationship work for you however it can. Be realistic about what you can get from the rep, and get that, and then, as soon as you can, find a better one. Again, utilize your friends and coworkers—ask if their reps are open to meeting with you or reading you.
Like any relationship, you'll have ups and downs with your rep. Be honest, be communicative, be realistic, be professional, and expect that in return. Also, if you find someone you really love...let me know, will ya? 😂
Send your questions about the craft, job hunting, your career, or Guild service to Connect (under 100 words, please) with the subject “Mentor,” and we’ll send them to an established screen or TV writer to answer. Questions might be edited for space or clarity and will be published anonymously. WGAW mentors provide informal career advice and are not expected to read scripts, give notes, hear pitches, or help find representation or work.