Pirates of the Caribbean

ARGH! The Pirate Guy: A Dream Client

As head of the Literary Department at The Gersh Agency and team member of both the Literary and Talent departments at Innovative Artists, I not only had an eye for talent, but also the ability to develop it.

Every so often, a rare individual would come from “nowhere” with a level of raw talent who exuded the promise to become a dream player.

A producer I knew and trusted referred a writer named Stuart Beattie. He was from Australia, and totally unknown – at the time working as a waiter. But, I saw superstar potential, and signed him. I asked Stuart to furnish two ‘spec’ scripts. The first, Lords of The Sea, was an international thriller about contemporary high seas piracy, chockfull of technically detailed action. My marketing strategy for the script attracted the attention of major producers and studios, and resulted in my pitching Stuart to Disney to write a film script based on the theme park ride, Pirates of The Caribbean. At the time, the idea of turning the ride into a film franchise was only a notion, no more than a glimmer in the studio chief’s eye. Stuart’s draft was able to get the project out of the station and onto a fast track. The other spec, Collateral, I sold to Dreamworks. It became the Tom Cruise/Jamie Foxx film directed by Michael Mann. For his role in Collateral, Jamie Foxx was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, while the year before, Johnny Depp received a Best Actor nomination for his role in Pirates, which by that time had become a mega hit.

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.