It’s an enormous challenge finding an agent or manager to read your script when you’re first starting out. Hell, even when you’ve been at it awhile, there’s nothing easy about it. And it’s for a good reason: There are gazillions of talented people competing for a small number of jobs. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.
But Hollywood is also a business in perpetual search of new talent and Daniel Vang is in the hunt. You see, Daniel is a manager at Benderspink, one of the top production and management companies in the industry, and he’s agreed to read your script or pilot for a modest donation to the American Heart Association:
- With a $25 donation, Daniel will read the first ten pages of your script or pilot
- With a $50 donation, Daniel will read the first 50 pages
- With a $100 donation, Daniel will read your entire script or pilot
- The deadline to make a donation is Friday, October 4th, 2013.
Interview with Screenwriter Joe Nienalt
The guy who put all this together is a screenwriter named Joe Nienalt. Last year, Joe and Daniel raised over $40,000 to help fight heart disease and stroke, not to mention, give aspiring screenwriters around the globe a shot at representation. After reading about the Heart Walk, I reached out to Joe for a short interview, which he graciously accepted.
Can you talk a little about the decision to bring this all together? More specifically, how the hell did you talk Daniel into it? I heard a rumor you once saved him from a burning building.
Well I have to talk about my day job (yes, I still have one) if I’m gonna talk about how this all came together. I work for the City of Tacoma in employee benefits and wellness. The City has gotten behind the Heart Walk and the American Heart Association for a number of years now so I was first introduced to the event through my day job. When I was a teenager, I lost my grandfather to heart disease so getting behind the American Heart Association’s cause was pretty easy and natural for me. As far as Daniel Vang goes, when I signed with my manager Alan Gasmer in 2009, Daniel was his assistant and we became friends just through a mutual passion for film and TV and a shared interest in climbing the ladder in the film and television world. We’ve been doing this for a few years now, and Dan agreed to continue to do it when he moved on to a position at Benderspink, first as an assistant to Chris Bender and now as a full fledged lit manager. He’s a great guy and a hustler in the best sense of the word. He’s committed to turning over every rock to find great scripts and writers. He recognizes this endeavor allows him to do that while also raising a ton of money for a great cause. John August and Craig Mazin starting promoting what we do via their Script Notes podcast last year and since that happened, we’ve really grown by leaps and bounds. Dan has hung in there the whole way, reading every page he’s obligated to read and he was raring to go again this year. Hopefully we can keep it going.
How many writers have found representation since you guys began? Have you kept up with any of their careers? How are they doing?
Ugh, I hate to say this but I’m not really sure how many writers have gained representation since we started doing this? A handful? I mean just because you’ve donated — be it $25 or $2500 — it doesn’t make it any easier to hook a rep like Dan. He needs to see the talent and he needs to see the potential. If he does then you’ll get a call from him. Keep in mind, too, that many writers have also earned an open door to submit future scripts to Dan whenever they want which is big. Maybe it’s not the script you send to Dan now that winds up selling? Maybe it’s the next one?
As far as the writers who’ve gained representation, I know a couple names and have traded some emails but I haven’t really kept up with their careers. I have my own career I’m trying to keep up with. I have a day job. I have my kids half the time. I mean I’m sure they’re doing the same thing I’m doing. Writing scripts and working with their reps to launch their careers in the hopes of getting to do this full-time. It’s a long hard road.
When you first started, how hard was it getting someone to read your material? What advice can you give others for getting their scripts in the right hands?
Well I was pretty relentless. Right out of the gate I was basically obsessed with getting people to read my work. It became almost like a game to me. I would send fifty query emails a day to anybody even loosely associated with the film industry asking if they would read my work. I got a lot of doors slammed in my face but I got a lot of reads, too, and I wound up forging some legit entertainment industry contacts in those early days that I still have today. My advice to writers seeking to get reads would be to focus on the logline. Nine times out of ten the logline is what’s gonna generate the read. A good logline will also entice a rep to to conveniently ignore any unsolicited submission policy they might normally adhere to. No matter what they say, all these guys wanna find that diamond in the rough and polish it up.
What are the roles your agents and manager serve? How have they helped you grow in your career?
I don’t feel like I have the typical rep relationship at least based on what I’ve read about other writers’ experience with their reps. I’m pretty close with both my point agent at UTA Jon Huddle and my manager Alan Gasmer. They’ve both been with me for years at this point and they’ve been very patient and attentive. We’ve had a lot of near misses that I learned a lot from and my writing is improving each step of the way so I feel like I’m finally, legitimately knocking on the door of real success, ya know? We’ll see. I’ll tell you a story about my agent, though, that kind of sums things up in terms of my reps. I went through a pretty soul-crushing divorce a few years ago and I was kind of on the shelf for awhile writing wise. I was still working on stuff and my reps would always get back to me the same day if I emailed them or called or whatever but the divorce really took the wind outta my sails for awhile. It was hard. There’s a common belief amongst repped writers that good news from your rep usually gets delivered with a phone call and bad news gets delivered with an email. Well I remember one day when I was in the thick of the divorce bullshit, I saw I had a call coming in on my cell from United Talent Agency and immediately my hopes shot up that I’d be getting some sort of good news but it was just Huddle calling to check on me and see how I was holding up with the divorce stuff and to let me know that he was excited to read whatever I wrote next and that it was just a matter of time before I broke through. I remember he said in terms of my ex-wife, “she got off the train at the wrong stop, pal!” At the time I was dissapointed with that call because I was naively hoping for a magical “hey, your script sold!” call but in hindsight discovering I had an agent that had that sort of personal touch and belief in me was probably the best news I could have gotten that day. A lot of reps would have dropped me during that dry spell but my agent and my manager didn’t. They dug in deeper and believe me when I tell you that their patience and support will be rewarded. Soon.
In closing, do you have any general advice for all the aspiring screenwriters out there?