TEN PERCENT OF NOTHING
This year, I gave myself the best birthday present I could think of. I fired my agent.
Okay, technically, I waited until this morning to do it, just in case she was planning to send me a birthday gift basket with a card that contained some variation on, “This is really going to be your year. Let’s go get ’em!” That would’ve been awkward. But when the birthday came and went without any acknowledgment from her, I knew it was time to make official something that had been painfully clear for far too long.
I think I was pretty classy about it. I didn’t bring up any of her failings as an agent — which were many — or blame her for anything that went wrong — though pretty much everything was her fault — and at the end, I told her that I wish her the best — which, honestly, I do. It was a long relationship, and there were many problems, too many to list.
Oh, who am I kidding? A catty jerk like me? How can I resist? A partial list of grievances:
- The first, and arguably the worst incident, from an agent-client relationship perspective, was when she told me she didn’t like comedies: “I just don’t get them, and I don’t know how to sell them!” Given that this came about two days after she signed me, and that, well, I kind of write comedy, this was probably not a very tactful confession for her to make.
- She has a very limited knowledge of key Hollywood players, especially actors. I remember an early conversation I had with her about “Monsters, Inc.”, where she was expressing fondness for one of the voice actors. “That guy is so funny! I love him! What’s his name? Crystal something… uh, Jimmy Crystal?” It’s obvious what’s wrong with this. I mean, who still thinks Billy Crystal’s funny?
- On multiple occasions when I’d give her something to read, something I had spent months working on, her response was: “Yeah, I realized halfway through that I couldn’t sell it, so I just stopped reading.” At those times, I longed for one of those agents other people have, you know, the kind who care enough to lie.
- She had a very fair-weather friendship with the English language, which she used correctly only on rare occasions. She used the term “agreeance” long before Fred Durst made it lampoonable. As one of my friends observed, “agreement” is the kind of word an agent should probably know.
- She’s a devout Mormon, and whenever I’d give her something R-rated to read, it would inevitably freak her out and she wouldn’t want to send it out. It was small comfort to think that at least I was contributing to the corruption of a Mormon.
- About a year ago, she got fired by the reputable agency where she worked. She then turned down an offer from another reputable agency in order to start her own company, of which she remains the sole employee and which she runs out of her apartment. She has nice letterhead, though.
- Following the launch of her own agency, she never seemed to have copies of my scripts available. It was always, “I don’t know which one’s the latest draft” or “You never gave me that one, I swear!” Eventually, it became obvious that she just didn’t want to pay to make copies. She also didn’t want to pay for messengers, and she’d drive around town to hand-deliver scripts to producers. Somehow, I don’t think Mike Ovitz ever resorted to this.
- In our last correspondence, after months of silence, she emailed me to tell me that she’d noticed the Groundlings theater had shut down and was now a Lisa Kline outlet. I called her right back: “I’m pretty sure the Groundlings are still there.” But she was insistent: No more Groundlings. Upon hanging up, I realized that during the entire call, she never once asked me about my writing. A few days later, while driving down Melrose, I noticed that a new Lisa Kline outlet had indeed opened up. A few doors down, right where it’s always been, was the Groundlings theater.
She ran my career for three years, all because I kept convincing myself that even the world’s worst agent was better than no agent at all. At some point — okay, at exactly the moment she said the name “Jimmy Crystal” — I realized that this wasn’t necessarily true. I’m not sure what I’ll do now, and I know it’ll take me a while to find new representation, but this feels like a big step forward for me, personally if not professionally. Whether or not I end up somewhere better anytime soon, it’s good to at least tell myself that I deserve better.
I really don’t have any hard feelings toward my ex-agent. As much as I enjoy bashing her agenting skills, I truly like her as a person, and she’s really very nice. Ultimately, more than everything else, that may be what makes her least qualified to be an agent.