Welcome. This week I’d like to introduce you to a talented and charming TV literary manager, Zadoc Angell. This is a big week for Zadoc because TONIGHT he starts teaching his SOLD OUT UCLA Extension class, TV pilot writing with a TV lit manager.
Zadoc rose through the ranks at Paradigm, an LA-based literary agency. In addition to signing and staffing several up-and-coming TV writers, he packaged the Nick Wauters’ NBC pilot, “The Event,” which was put to series. Then the seven-year agency veteran made an unexpected decision: He chose to leave the agent track and become a TV literary manager with Artist International.
“Certainly I was having my greatest successes as an agent, but I still knew it wasn’t the right fit,” Zadoc said in a recent interview. “I began to want a different career track. Luckily it was one of those things when the universe came together. Dave Brown had just launched the management division in April 2010.” Dave is president of the motion picture & television literary department of Artist International.
Zadoc and Dave had been colleagues and friends for quite some time. Years before, Zadoc and Dave had worked together at a boutique agency. More recently, they shared clients – Zadoc as the agent and Dave as the manager. When Dave offered Zadoc a position tailor-made for his knowledge and skills in the TV industry, Zadoc decided to jump.
“I was willing to make a big, big change in my life,” Zadoc said. “I’m very happy I did. It was absolutely the right choice.”
So what is the difference between an agent and a manager? Agents and managers often have similar goals. Both want their clients to be working. They get paid when their clients get paid. The main difference between agents and managers is how they are seen by the state of California. Agencies are licensed by the state to procure employment for their clients for a fee. They can negotiate contracts on their client’s behalf.
Management companies are not licensed by the state. They can’t negotiate contracts, so they often work with entertainment attorneys and agents, who negotiate a mutual client’s contract. Managers might help writers land an agent or entertainment attorney, then work with those reps to catapult the writer’s career forward.
Generally, literary managers help clients develop material and guide the writer’s overall career. They will help clients make connections and set meetings. Management companies may also produce projects.
I asked Zadoc what a typical day looked like for him, so he shared his schedule for the day of our interview.
7:00 AM Workout at gym (cardio) while reading a client’s pilot
9:00 AM Breakfast with an NBC drama executive
11:30 AM Meeting with a potential client from the Warner Bros. writing program
1:00 PM Lunch with a FOX drama executive
3:00 PM Interview with Kam Miller
4:30 PM Meeting to get to know a fellow manager’s client
7:00 PM Drinks with a talent manager [talent managers rep actors]
9:00 PM Come home, read a client’s pilot before going to bed
Between meetings, Zadoc puts in or returns calls, sends out scripts, answers emails, reads scripts, reads the trades, and catches up with existing clients. Of course, he also has to drive to and from breakfasts, lunches, meetings, drinks, dinners, etc. Being a representative is a full throttle kind of gig!
Managers and agents deal with high volume. There are a lot of clients to serve. Plus, they’re trying to get lots of people – executives, producers, and showrunners – on the phone so they can pitch their clients to them.
“Volume gets easier the longer you’ve been a representative,” Zadoc said. “With experience comes institutional memory. You know the network and studio executives. You might have relationships that extend over years. Your relationships are deeper, so people take you seriously when you call. They will read your clients and engage with you.”
Even with strong relationships – here’s that theme again – the answer is more often “no” than “yes.”
“When you’re the writer, actor, or director, a rejection can be more personal or cutting,” Zadoc said. “One reason creative people have representatives is to have that buffer. Executives don’t want to pass to the artist’s face, so they pass to their reps.”
It’s not always easy hearing ‘no’ even when you’re the buffer. Reps are in it to win it as much as their clients. They’re betting on their clients to succeed. “It hurts when you think it’s going to be a ‘yes.’ You’ve convinced yourself, ‘This one is going to sell. This one is going to go the distance.’ It may be you’ve just read the tea leaves wrong. Or you’ve packaged the project so heavily that you think people can’t say ‘no’ to it. You might have a writer up for a staffing job, and you believe he is perfect for the show. He has all the right people calling on his behalf. It should come together.”
However, sometimes things just don’t work out. “When you really feel a client is perfect for a job or that a pitch is perfect for a buyer, that’s when it hurts,” Zadoc said. “The studio or network can say ‘no’ to anything. It’s quite impressive their ability to say ‘no.’ And it’s really not fun to call the client and say, ‘Sorry, they’re passing.’ Usually the feedback or the criticism or the excuse is usually just that – it’s just an excuse. It’s not really helpful to anybody.”
Zadoc makes an excellent point. When studios, networks, or shows pass, they may offer a reason for the pass. Many times, though, the stated reason isn’t going to help you sell the project to a different network or land on a different show. More often than not, the real reason the studio or network is passing is the project just doesn’t work for them. That’s it.
Expect a similar reaction if a show is passing on a writer. The client may be a great writer, but for some reason he just doesn’t work for this show at this particular time.
So, writers, directors, producers, actors, artists – it’s important to believe in yourself and your projects. Your project isn’t going to be right for every network or studio. But remember, it only takes one ‘yes’ to start the momentum. And that first and most steadfast vote of confidence just might come from your representative.
Here’s a great example. Zadoc told me about a long-standing client. As an agent, Zadoc helped her land her first writing gig on a Disney Channel show. He then got her a job on a ABC sitcom. When the show was canceled, the writer was out of a job. At this crucial point in her career, she decided to make the switch from comedy to drama.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the TV system, there is a distinct division between comedy and drama shows. The executives I meet on the drama side are not the same executives my sitcom writer friends meet. The showrunners are completely different, as is the atmosphere of the workplace. This writer’s decision to make the comedy-to-drama switch required her to essentially start all over again. She needed to write new samples and meet new executives and showrunners. This also meant the agency would have to relaunch this writer’s career.
At the same time, Zadoc himself was making his transition from agenting to managing. When Zadoc went to Artist International, his former agency decided to stop representing the writer.
“She was really down and out,” Zadoc said. “She didn’t staff that season. We tried to take her spec drama pilot out to cable to develop it into a series, but everyone was hesitant to take on the show because of the subject matter. So we were beating our heads against the wall. And then a cable show was looking for writers. I sent the showrunner her script and he loved it. He hired her last year and made her a story editor. Now she’s going back this season as an executive story editor. And she says she feels more comfortable in this writers’ room than any in her career.”
Finding the most supportive representatives, ones who believe in you and your work, can help you through the darkest times and get you to the next stage in your career.
“Certain writers are going to love me and think I’m a perfect fit for them. Other writers, I’m not the perfect fit for them. I’m not the right sensibility and that’s okay,” Zadoc said.
Zadoc stresses the importance of knowing who you are and what you want out of your career. “You have to figure out a way to be authentic to yourself while still being savvy to the business,” he said. “Especially in a people business, it’s so much about relationships that if you’re inauthentic, you won’t get too far.
“A lot of this business is blind dating” Zadoc said. ”If you don’t know who you are and you’re not leading with who you are, you’re going to get pulled in the wrong direction.”
It’s easy to get pulled in the wrong direction. There is a lot truth in the saying, “Hollywood is high school but with better cars.” Folks can feel pressure to conform, to be cool, to not be themselves. However, veering off your true course can derail your career, perhaps irreparably.
So whether you’re just starting out or are well into your career, always follow your internal compass. Believe in yourself and your work. If you’re authentic, you’ll draw the most supportive folks to you, including great representatives like Zadoc.