Interview: Bob Holman - Screenwriters' Agent
Kathryn Knowlton, Literary Manager and President of Creative Script Services talks with Bob Holman of Holman, Maybank and Live, a 'boutique' agency that represents screenwriters.
Kathryn Knowlton: Bob, I know you've worked at both large agencies as well as so-called 'boutique' agencies. You are now a founding partner of a boutique agency. Can you tell our readers the difference between the two and why you chose to start a boutique agency?
Bob Holman: The difference between a big agency and a boutique agency is that the big agencies represent all forms of talent: actors, directors, musicians, writers, technical people, among others. A boutique agency will specialize and concentrate solely on one or two types of talent. My company represents writers, primarily writers who write screenplays. Because we don't represent actors or directors, the big agencies are not threatened by our existence. In actuality, they are thrilled to speak with us regularly because many of these agents need to find material for their actors or directors, and they don't really care who it comes from.
KK: Can you tell us a little bit about how you get your clients, and what process you go through before deciding to take someone on?
BH: Clients come to us through referral; it's pretty simple, actually. All we ask is that someone WE KNOW recommends you to us. That means that they've already read the material and like it. If they like it, then it's probably worth a read. One hundred percent of our business is through referrals.
Deciding whom to take on is based on chemistry. First, the three of us have one client list, so we all have to like the script. Second, we'd like to know that you are serious about your career, and that you have more than one idea in your head. Third, how you comport yourself in the room with us tells us lots about how you will be with development people. We are looking for capable and articulate people.
But it's mostly about being excited about the script.
KK: What advice could you give to our readers most of whom are aspiring writers and just starting out?
BH: Put on your track shoes, because a screenwriting career is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. A writer has to love to write, whether or not they're getting paid to do it.
It is incumbent upon any writer who is not satisfied with his or her lot in life to write speculatively (i.e., FOR FREE); careers are made from writing original material; on occasion writers get lucky with a paid writing assignment (writing someone else's idea for them), but, by and large, it is original material that establishes a writer's voice in the eyes of the community.
When we sign a writer who is in the beginning stages of his career, we remind, or warn, them that it may take four or five years of participating in the process (writing scripts, meeting producers, working up pitches) before that writer will begin to make money. It's about working, not making money.