Book Review: The Real, Low Down Dirty Truth About Hollywood Agenting

The Real, Low Down Dirty Truth About Hollywood Agenting

The Day-to-Day Inner Workings of Hollywood from a Seasoned Talent Agent’s Point of View

by Rima Greer

In a nutshell: Packed with honest and thorough information about anything and everything you should know about the inner workings of the ‘biz, Rima’s book is a must-read for anyone trying to break in to Hollywood.

Recommended for: Beginners who want to see the kind of industry they’re getting into and prepare for the road ahead. Working screenwriters who have sold a script most likely know a good amount of the information this book, but it is still a good refresher.

If you’re trying to break into the industry, you need to understand the mechanics of the business in order to avoid the pitfalls waiting for you. This book mixes hard and fast rules for being a writer in Hollywood with behind-the-scenes mechanics of how deals are made and what your agent will do for you. It clarifies the distinction between agent and manager and explains how people in Hollywood operate.

I thought I knew pretty much everything there was about how the film industry works, but after reading this book I found out that there were all these intricacies and crucial tips that I wasn’t aware of. For example, Rima stressed the importance of keeping track of each meeting you attend, and keeping notes about what was discussed, who you met with and where you went. When making plans with your agent to sell your next project, you will need this information. Movie people change jobs every fifteen months, and remembering the meeting you had with the creative-exec-turned-studio-head can help you if that certain exec mentioned that they are looking for a great time travel found footage spec, and you’re now looking to sell one.

Here’s another one of the many gems I found inside this book detailing the criteria Rima thinks every sellable script must follow:

“I’ve never sold that didn’t have at least the following criteria:

  • follows the conventions of movie structure

  • has a clear concept that can be marketed to a specific audience

  • has castable roles

  • is “in style”

  • is well written

  • is unencumbered

  • is new

  • does not compete with existing projects

  • inspires excitement among potential buyers.”

The book goes in-depth on each of these points. It’s so important that writers (and agents, and producers) understand what makes a script sellable, and this book is a perfect place to start. Screenwriters write scripts in hopes of getting one sold, but if they can’t understand what a buyer is looking for, they won’t be able to deliver.

Rima also talks more about what’s expected of a professional writer if they want to continue working in the industry and selling the material. She explains what happens after the sale of a script, how you get paid, what not to say in a query letter or a pitch when describing your script, and the unspoken rules of Hollywood. She also includes an extensive reading and viewing list she recommends all writers to read.

Takeaway: Being a professional screenwriter isn’t just writing. It’s about being a business person. Writers have to know how to position themselves and their work in the industry, and they can learn how to do that by reading and learning everything about Hollywood through books like these.

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