CMU School of Drama

Thursday, September 22, 2016

What Do Agents Do for Playwrights?

AMERICAN THEATRE: The business of agents is often a mystery to the artists they represent. Every young writer scrambles to find representation, but once they’ve landed it, what the agent actually does can be hard to figure out.

For Charles Kopelman and Sarah Douglas, who head up the literary arm of Abrams Artists Agency in New York, the job is “very relationship-oriented,” as Kopelman puts it. “You really do function in a lot of ways as an agent: You play mother, father, and shrink.”

3 comments:

Xinyi Wang said...

It is interesting to see how intuitive and creative the job of an agent is. I used to think an agent is pretty much a business person who works in art, and focuses all his or her energy on networking. However, as I have learned, agents act as the middleman between writers and producers, between "talent" and "money," maintaing a "round of communication." Three summers ago, I took an entertainment business class at USC, and the professor, who used to be a creative executive for film, introduced a lot of writer-turned-agents in class. I learned that as an agent, one needs to know how to appreciate good content as much as how to find connections. Therefore, a background on the creative side is often very helpful. As the article points out, multiple agents can read the same play and have completely different reactions, and that difference comes from intuitions, from a background in literature and storytelling. I think being an agent is a very versatile type of work. It is business, but it is also immensely creative.

Liz He said...

Before reading this article, I've never thought about the need for playwrights to have agents. Now it all makes sense and I can see how beneficial it could be for both parties if they manage to maintain a healthy and trusting relationship. Playwrights will be able to focus on their work, to fully explore their inner world, to roam around the free land, without having to distracted too much by questions like who they should contact, where they should send their work, how payment works, how benefit works, etc. It's all taken good care of. They work on their craft, and the agents will do all they can to get the spotlight it deserves.
However, I can also see, as Douglas mentioned at the end of the article, that it is not easy to build trust because of the understandable vulnerability especially on playwrights' side when they entrust their work to someone whose role is not plain to them. That said, communication and mutual understanding are vital to the working dynamic here. Agents who used to write themselves will probably stand out because they can really empathize with what their clients are going through, and thus it's easier for playwrights to have trust in them and communicate more openly with them.

John Yoerger said...

I thought playwrights needed agents just as much as managers and designers do. This article was an interesting read as it brought to light a new perspective on why agents can be important for other careers in the theatre besides actors. I believe that getting an agent can be an important stepping stone for any artist to help establish a "name" for themselves. After reviewing this article, I certainly believe it is actually something that could help jumpstart a playwright's career as well. Something interesting from the article that I enjoyed was Douglas saying "We don’t cross the line in terms of being artistic. I would like all the clients to have a little more trust in the process." I think this highlights another important element of working with third parties (i.e. producers, agents, etc.). You have to trust the process and that the non-artisan positions are doing their jobs to make things happen.

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