Screenwriters Network Interview with Rob Gallagher
SSSD: Spec Screenplay Sales Directory
GALLAGHER: Rob Gallagher
SSSD: As head of the literary department,
what are your responsibilities at Cyd LeVin and Associates?
GALLAGHER: I represent writers for features and television,
and I look for projects for our clients to star in. Occasionally
I will also produce projects.
SSSD: If you make a deal for a client,
what is your cut?
GALLAGHER: We commission 10%.
SSSD: Do you always try and get an
agent for a client if they don't have one?
GALLAGHER: It depends on the client and where they are career-wise.
Agents are great at covering the marketplace, but not so great
at concentrating on the client's career. I think anyone starting
out needs both.
SSSD: Once you find material that you
like, what is the next step?
GALLAGHER: In a spec situation, I help get the script in the
best possible shape and then spend about a month pitching
it to my friends in the industry before I release it.
SSSD: Once the production company or
studio options the material from your client, what is the
GALLAGHER: : First of all, I want the material to be purchased
-- not optioned. If the option money is good and the company
is capable of making the film, I may consider it if all other
possibilities are exhausted. An option is a pretty weak commitment
and just ties up the material.
SSSD: Do you try and get writing assignments
for new writers or just try and sell spec scripts?
GALLAGHER: New writers can't get writing assignments -- these
are for seasoned, produced writers who are proven entities
in their genre. I cover the Open Writing Assignment marketplace
for my produced writers.
SSSD: How do you find most of your
GALLAGHER: Referrals and email pitches via writing groups.
SSSD: What are the advantages of having
a manager and an agent as opposed to having just an agent?
GALLAGHER: I used to be an agent so I know that world very
well. Agents don't spend enough time on a client to really
make a difference. Agents will send your script out to a handful
of companies they think may be appropriate. In contrast, I
spend weeks pitching your script to every major buyer in the
industry (about seventy companies) and then release the spec
simultaneously to on average 40 of them. Agents sending specs
out to only a couple at a time kills the property as soon
as one person dislikes it. Production companies all talk to
each other every day -- the executives share information and
are friends. If one exec dislikes your spec he'll tell everyone
and your spec will then be dead because no one else will read
it (even if they say they will). Specs have to go wide to
everyone at the same exact time so that execs actually read
it and form their own opinions and then are racing against
each other to bid. Agents rarely do this -- they have far
too many clients and far too much material to service.
SSSD: You recently sold a script, "Smuggler's
Moon," about ex Navy pilots who are hired as military
aircraft repo men to Witt/Thomas Films, which you found online
at a Compuserve Forum. Can you tell us what prompted you to
ask for the screenplay?
GALLAGHER: That's a great story. The writer actually pitched
another action spec to me which I loved. I met with him at
the agency (I was an agent then) and we discussed a plan for
his spec. I was so impressed with his detail and knowledge
of the military (which I also have a background in) that I
asked him about his past. When he told me about his days repossessing
aircraft in South America, I literally jumped out of my chair
and said "That's a movie -- you need to write that immediately!"
SSSD: Prior to you finding it, the
writer sent out a query to 120 agents. Eighteen wanted to
see it. Two wanted to sign the writer. But the writer didn't
want them. Once you came into the picture, you got interest
from many production companies. If there was so much interest
from these companies, why do you think more agents weren't
interested in reading the script from the beginning?
GALLAGHER: Over seventy companies wanted the spec based on
my pitch, but you have to understand that these are all friends
of mine -- people I have relationships with. A writer sending
a script to an agent blindly is treated horribly and most
of the time just thrown out by the assistant. When an agent
or manager with a good reputation calls his friend at a production
company and recommends a spec, that's an entirely different
SSSD: Why did you approach William
Morris to handle the deal for the writer of Smuggler's Moon?
Once the deal was closed didn't you fear that he would get
lost in the crowd there?
GALLAGHER: That's a great question. I'm a manager and technically
can't negotiate deals. Only agents and attorneys can negotiate.
So once I get an offer I will call my friends at the agencies
and set meetings for the writer. Based on my recommendation
and who the writer feels most comfortable with, I then will
place the client with that agency. When I'm launching a new
writer who just sold a spec, I want a full court press to
be pushing the client for every rewrite opportunity in town
-- I'm always looking ahead to the next deal for my clients.
To that end, it's important to have as many players on the
team as possible, including a good entertainment attorney.
Many people will ask "well what about the extra commission?"
and I explain to them that they should focus on their long
term career and not the money they make off their first deal.
The additional deals you get from your full team will more
than make up for the extra commissions and you will be that
much more of a hot property in town.
SSSD: You're quoted as saying that
you read pitches from writers via email. How is this working
GALLAGHER: I love it! I can quickly determine from the emails
that are pitched in the format I requested whether I would
be interested or not. I have to love the story concept first.
This process gives access to writers who are not otherwise
connected and gives me access to material that Hollywood hasn't
seen yet. I like to work smart, and in a town where they say
it's all about the material, executives sure make it difficult
for writers to get their work to them. If email didn't exist
I would do it through the mail, but email is so much faster
and I can correspond quickly if I need to know more about
SSSD: When you request a screenplay
do you ask the writer to sign a release form?
GALLAGHER: Yes. This protects me from legal problems.
SSSD: Have you found other scripts
that way which you've set up?
GALLAGHER: Definitely! It works, or I wouldn't be doing it.
SSSD: What advice do you have for writers
trying to sell their first screenplay?
GALLAGHER: Find someone who will represent you for the long
term and someone who really believes in your writing enough
to go wide with it. Few agents will do this, and few managers