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In Other News

It's late, I'm tired, these creaky old bones can do no more today, so it's down to the kitchen for a nice glass of Milk of Magnesia, and then Pops is toddling off to bed.

Wednesday - March 3, 1999

I've not been very happy with my agent lately. There's a laundry list of complaints I have that I won't get into here, but the bottom line is that he's not getting me work -- in fact, I'm not sure he's even getting me read -- and so I'm not happy. After feeling this way for, oh, about a year now, I'd decided that it was time to stop talking about it and start doing it: look for a new agent. That's what I had in mind as I was writing the Raymond spec, that I'd use it as bait to go agent shopping.

Now, getting an agent is reputed to be a daunting task. You have to write a killer spec or three, then you have to cajole prospective agents to read your work, and then they have to like it enough to want to represent you. Many try, few succeed. At least that's what I've heard. I say "reputed" because I didn't experience that. When I first put myself out there two years ago I sent out something like 50 query letters, which got me five or six reads, which got me one offer of representation, all in the course of about three weeks. Piece of cake.

Uh huh.

I figured it would be just as easy, if not easier, this time around. I've had a feature produced and I'm already represented, which I assumed would lift me from the ranks of the great unwashed when I started calling the agencies around town. I had had good reads at several agencies that hadn't signed me and had been invited to submit my work again in the future, so I figured it would be easy to get over the transom there. Basically, I assumed I could get my script in the door just by picking up the phone.

Then I picked up the phone. My best assistant contact wasn't at that agency anymore and the person who was there invited me to send a query letter. My best agent contact interrupted me halfway through my spiel and invited me to send a letter. My best management prospect isn't reading for new clients, period, end of story. Nobody wanted my script off a phone call; everyone wanted a query letter. Welcome back to the great unwashed.

The clock is running while all this is happening. TV staffing season typically starts in May, but really starts in April, but most of the returning shows do their staffing right about now, except for those that did it last month. I'm behind the game already as I write this, and going the query letter route puts me at least two more weeks behind, assuming that I can even get my script in that way and someone likes it enough to represent me. Meanwhile, my contract with my current agent expires next month, so I'm not going to have an agent at all this season if I can't get picked up elsewhere or don't convince him to re-sign me. No agent, no Chuckie in the running.

I blinked. I called my agent.

He's going to renew my contract, so at least I'll still have an agent as I go into what will be the most important staffing season ever for me. It's so important because I've decided it's my last one. I'm 30-something years old (I'm afraid to even list that last digit -- thank you Riley Weston and Hollywood's Youth Culture) and I figure if I don't catch on this year I never will. My agent said it himself, in these exact words: "You're too fucking old." Never mind that I can write rings around half the kids out there, who cares if I can fire jokes at a machine gun pace, so what if my cultural frame of reference reaches back past Three's Company? I'm past the need for zit cream, so I obviously can't do the job.

If I don't catch on somewhere this year I'm hanging it up. I'm tired of spinning my wheels. I'm tired of writing sitcom specs that nobody reads and would dismiss if they did because I was born pre-lunar landing. I'm tired of wondering which I should do if I get a meeting: shave or dye my graying beard. I'm tired of worrying that I'm too old. So I'm hanging it up after my SportsNight spec. My agent wants it, thinks it will help, but that's it for me. If they want me they can have me, but I'm not writing any more sitcoms to try to convince them. I know of one guy who wrote 13 specs before he broke in, but he's ten years behind me and doesn't have gray in his beard. Seven is enough for this old man.

I'll be moving on to concentrate on writing features, where you're judged first by the script and then by your age, where you're not dead in the water if you're in your third decade. I figure I've got at least half a chance in that arena.

At least until I hit 40.


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Copyright © 1999
Chuck Atkins