Blog | Nancy Nigrosh
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The Mercurial Marriage of Fiction and Film

Friday, April 1, 2016
3:00 pm to 4:15 pm
Room 515 A, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

What kinds of narrative fiction and nonfiction publications best lend themselves to filmed adaptation?
Billy Mernit (moderator) screenwriter, author and story analyst for Universal Pictures.
Chris Balis, screenwriter whose credits include Asylum, the film adaption from the Patrick McGrath novel.
Nancy Nigrosh has represented many award winning writers, directors and actors, including Academy Award–winner Kathryn Bigelow, as well as brokering film and television rights for authors; among them, Amanda Brown (“Legally Blonde”) and Jodi Picoult.
Michael Weiss is a screenwriter, and former VP of production for Miramax Films whose screenplays include Journey to the Center of the Earth, Around the World in 80 Days, and The Scorpion King.

More info: https://www.awpwriter.org/awp_conference/event_detail/6036

How to Have a Professional Writing Career for Authors & Screenwriters

February 11-14, 2016
UCLA Extension Writers’ Program
Westwood campus

This Writers Studio workshop offers rare insight into any aspiring writer’s most burning question: “How do I get an agent?” The answer to this question involves acquiring a strong grasp of what a professional partnership with a literary agent entails and the realization that without representation, creative writers and screenwriters lack the most meaningful access they’ll need, to have to a professional writing career.
More Info
For enrollment information please contact Chae Ko, Writers’ Program Representative (310) 206-2612

For inquires about future courses please contact writers@uclaextension.edu

Neutralizing the Mathilda Effect: How Women Writers Can Forge Successful Writing Careers

October 3 – December 12, 2015
Saturdays 10am – 1pm
UCLA Extension Writers’ Program
Downtown Los Angeles, 101B Figueroa Courtyard

Designed for women creative writers and screenwriters with serious professional aspirations, this course unpacks strategies and solutions to counter the prevailing bias in favor of men’s innate ability to self-generate prominence, known as The Matthew Effect. The course goal is for you to learn how to level the playing field by preparing yourself for the realities of the writing career game and engage in it actively, decisively, and successfully.

 
More Info
 

For enrollment information please contact Katy Flaherty, Program Representative, Creative Writing (310) 206-0951

A Dream Client: She Yearned To Go Pro And She Did!

Hollywood code is universally understandable, but not everybody can adapt to it. Fluency is relative to aptitude. Cinderella could go to the ball because not only did she look the part, she played it, because that’s who she truly was – a heroine not a victim. In other words, Cinderella went “pro”.

Did she bring her childhood trauma with her to the ballroom? Did she mention all her prior hardships and lack of opportunities? Was she intimidated or distracted or critical when her stepfamily showed up at the ball? Think about the way she expresses herself – in a situation she’s never been in before, in a privileged world where she has no place. Yet, telepathically, she knows the appropriate, coded behavior.

Hollywood code is very often non-verbal on the one hand, then ultra verbal on the other. A typical discourse isn’t just about expressing literary knowledge that is skills and rules based, but laden with opportunity to openly validate any experience-driven understanding of the meaning inside that knowledge. In Hollywood, ‘meaning’ is a technical and industrial term that refers to the meaning of life…regardless of genre… even in silliest comedic terms. Subsequently, patterns of interactive role-playing are deeply institutionalized in those still standing corridors of Hollywood power master scribe William Goldman talked about. Those corridors may be more accessible than you might think…entre is all about your focused ability to adapt while staying authentically yourself…like Cinderella.

Ask A Literary Agent

If You Want Screenwriting Career Tips, Ask A Literary Agent

I ask every class I teach: “What does an agent do?” And wait. There’s silence until someone finally volunteers. Typically it goes like this:

“They make calls.”

“They make deals.”

“They’re gatekeepers.

Many people seem to think of agents and writers as being in some form of doctor/patient relationship — a dreaded necessity due to an illness or injury that requires professional intervention. It seems to be a lot easier to trust a clinician’s skills than your average literary agents. Not so with managers, who generally receive a hearty thumbs-up. “They really care about you” is the comfort meme, while the conventional sentiment “agents only care about the deal” won’t go away.  

All the managers I know personally or professionally care just as much as the agent and the client about the deal. Managers also care about the essential role agents play. Yet, unless that manager was once an agent, even the manager often considers (along with the client) the literary agent’s playbook to be as mysterious as a magician’s hat. Everybody knows for certain that lit agents zero in on high-profile media buyers in order to broker high-end intellectual properties. While they’re hanging out in the media-marketplace, they can also secure gainful literary employment for their clients. But no one is exactly sure how they do it. It would take several hundred pages to explain how and why literary agents do what they do. 

So, agents are clinicians to clients, and magicians to buyers. Nevertheless, their skills, though obviously invaluable, can also create doubt and instability inside an intimate alliance between writer and a agent. This alliance demands that literary agents be experts in negotiating changing realities in an evolving marketplace, while staying in touch with a writer’s expectations. The majority of literary agents, like their clients, work alone, organizing meaningful information from multiple sources in a committed effort to convert that information into calculated opportunities. Then something unexpected happens. It’s hard to evaluate, calculate or measure what an agent does. It’s too subjective, which makes the job hard to appreciate. There’s a general suspicion about what agents do, both inside and outside the industry. Everyone likes to size up and denigrate the agent’s profession.

Whether they’re understood or appreciated, lionized or devalued, literary agents, often in tandem with managers and entertainment attorneys, professionally orchestrate more than 99% of all screenwriting careers. Yet the web contains no end of screenwriting career recipes snapped from the lens of one person’s single literary or literary-related career (in declarative “listicles” of career must-haves and must-do’s). Doesn’t insight from the lens of only one career seem a little… narrow-minded? Those who know most about the professional screenwriting trade are literary agents, whose seasoned expertise encompasses thousands of careers.

I was often told I didn’t “seem like an agent,” as though this were a compliment. I was proud of the job, handed down to me by my mentors, Phil Gersh and Scott Harris, who created his own fiercely independent agency that consistently books high scores in the daily talent hunger games. Scott was trained at the William Morris Agency by  TV maven, Jerry Katzman. Also, Scott’s dad had been among the well-armed ranks of Lew Wasserman’s MCA, once upon a time the largest talent agency in the world. Wasserman invented the 16-hour workday and broke the long-term studio contract system. Jack Valenti likened Wasserman to a God, rather than a mere Hollywood “Godfather.”

Phil represented a dazzling array of talent — among them, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Wise and Don Siegel. He didn’t dwell on his own past, but preferred to tell me Golden Age nuggets about the career-steering feats of Charles Feldman and Ray Stark. Feldman invented packaging and profit participation. His clients included Cary Grant and John Wayne, while Stark started out as a literary agent representing Raymond Chandler, then branched out into talent and shepherded the careers of Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Kirk Douglas, Richard Burton and Ronald Reagan. Phil also enjoyed reminiscing about lesser-known participants, like the raspy, chain-smoking studio business affairs attorney, who invented rolling “breakeven” — which may have been inspired by his tobacco habit, since it was as inexhaustible as a studio’s overhead expenses.

Conversations with Phil made it clear to me that agents had the best access to information by virtue of their incentivized maneuverability, especially when it came to the guarded inner-workings of the entertainment machine. He taught me about very specific insider-business behaviors, gauging predictability and unpredictability as part of the art (and science) of the deal. I learned that in Hollywood, a negotiation could be as grubby as a wrestling match over the cash drawer, yet at the same time, as cerebral as chess.

He explained many other important concepts, while warning me about routinely camouflaged snares. He was also quick to give tough love. While I was still a baby agent, I made the mistake of insisting that a production start date for a script I’d sold was poured in stone, though no star was set. The director’s pay-or-play date passed, so to update the agency’s talent and below-the-line departments, I announced the film’s production start at the staff meeting, to which Phil retorted, “She’s right. They’re starting on that date… with or without actors!”

A key difference between a missile and a rocket is that one is guided while the other isn’t. Agents strategically calibrate career trajectory for maximum impact using their unique tactical training in service of creative storytellers. If you want to know all about what it takes to have a screenwriting career you want, ask a literary agent.