Does anyone remember The Manager? I’ve been asked about him by a couple of people, why I’m not working for him anymore, what all happened there, so I figure since not much is going on today I’ll dive into that.
A brief recap for those two lazy to re-read all the links: last summer, my friend Mark said he responded to a vague ad on a job list for an unpaid “e-internship” reading scripts. He sent his resume to The Manager and the response was two scripts and coverage templates. He did it for a few weeks, decided the guy wasn’t completely shady, so he let me know about it in case I wanted to participate. I figured, what the hell? I was unemployed and wanted something to do, and at the time we thought maybe this guy would make something of himself and we’d be getting in on the ground floor.
Gradually, a combination of bizarre behavior and general asshole-ishness led Mark and I to believe two things: (1) The Manager had no idea what he was doing, and (2) we were not getting in on the ground floor of anything. For awhile, we had plenty of conspiracy theories that this dude was really smart and playing us for chumps, but evidence kept rolling in and it’s really, sincerely true that the man has all the business sense of a jar of bolts. Mark actually abandoned ship around October or November of last year. He was tired of reading shitty scripts for no pay, tired of The Manager ducking Mark’s requests for feedback on his own scripts (which The Manager asked to read), and tired of the bullshit idea that maybe The Manager would make something of himself and we’d ride the wave.
I kept going with it, mostly because I wanted to maintain some connection (no matter how useless) to The Industry, but also to continue building up an extensive, varied portfolio of coverage. But my heart wasn’t in it; as I complained in September, it didn’t seem like they were listening to my ideas (except for a yea or nay on submissions). They also never started paying me, which was another reason Mark decided to bail. He figured he’d let the paying slide if The Manager wanted to take him on as a client, but that didn’t happen. I bitched to The Manager a couple of times about getting paid, and he came back at me with false reassurances that they were about to break through, and as soon as he made a sale I’d be compensated. I didn’t believe it then, and obviously it never happened.
As a result of my disillusionment and lack of payment (and all the crappy scripts that simply became a chore to get through), I took more time to read them, took more time to write coverage; at one point, The Manager just told me to stop writing detailed coverage on really bad scripts, just give him a paragraph on why it sucks. Unfortunately, I ended up doing this for nearly all of them, but I’d still take the time to write a full report for my portfolio. He just didn’t want to read them.
But the real breaking point came in December. He sent me a script, an adaptation of a stage musical (trailer here, horrible and baffling short film by the author here). Because it’s not entirely evident in either of the YouTube links, here’s a brief synopsis of the plot: a preacher dies during his Sunday sermon and is sent to hell in spite of his service as a man of God. He takes a semi-guided tour through hell, encountering several sinful stereotypes and having an occasional war of words (and song and dance!) with Satan himself. That’s…basically the entire story. It also has the baffling, religious-awakening equivalent of the “it’s all a dream” ending—at the eleventh hour, just as Satan is going to strike the preacher down, God explains that He sent the preacher to see what hell was like so the preacher would make sure his congregation never strayed from the flock. Then he wakes up in the church, alive and well, and they all burst out in song. I know it’s a musical, so I’ll forgive the bursting out into song, but how is that ending not simultaneously obvious and retarded?
But wait—it’s not actually obvious, because of all the baffling “filmic” changes that were made to the script. It is evident that the author did a rushed hack job to turn her stage script into a film screenplay. It’s obvious when “cinematic” scenes are added between the stage-show musical numbers. The “prologue” is basically a long series of non sequiturs that are supposed to make sense later (arbitrary vignettes featuring each stereotyped character pre-death); they either continue to not make sense by presenting plot inconsistencies and continuity errors, or the scenes are re-explained by the characters when they appear later (meaning either the early scene or the dialogue should be cut, but it wasn’t because the script is so poorly changed). More awful problems: certain characters have random name changes, sometimes on the same page, as if she wanted to change the names but did a half-assed job of find-and-replace. The dialogue is just terrible, and somehow the lyrics are worse. The characters, including the preacher, are cardboard cutouts.
I know musicals aren’t known for exceptional storytelling, but look: it’s hard to judge a musical without hearing the music. I can’t do much without it except judge it based on story, character, and lyrical content. It’s awful across the board, walking the fine line between crappiness and incomprehensibility. Usually it stumbles and falls to either side.
There is one interesting moment in the script. Early on, the preacher sings that he doesn’t know what he did wrong—can’t somebody show him why he’s in hell? There’s an arbitrary flashback, one of many (because it’s cinematic!!), that shows this preacher, this man of God, swearing on a Bible before getting on a witness stand and lying his ass off. It’s never explained who he’s lying for, what he said, or why—just that the preacher lied, and he knows it. Now, you might say, one act of perjury is justifiable if it’s for the greater good, but the script portrays God as an Old Testament hardass, sending people to hell for minor infractions like getting into a car accident because the driver was on a cell phone (this is strictly forbidden in the Book of Numbers).
You might also say, “Wow, what an interesting road this script is taking, 22 pages in: you have a preacher who’s sent to hell, basically because he’s one of those corrupt douchebags who uses the ‘man of God’ thing to excuse all sorts of sinning.” You would be wrong; the flashback, like so many others, has no bearing or impact on anything that happens afterward. It simply exists as yet another non sequitur and continuity error, because afterward the preacher keeps complaining that he doesn’t know why he was sent to hell, and then at the end God basically says, “You shouldn’t be here—hope you enjoyed the tour!”
Needless to say, I savaged this script. It might have been my longest coverage ever, chronicling every logical inconsistency, plot hole, and continuity error in detail in the synopsis so I could rip it apart in the analysis. I was proud of this handiwork, and I sent it to The Manager…
…and never heard from him again. By that time I was disillusioned and irritated; I’d had long stretches where he simply stopped responding to e-mails, but then enough “begging” on my part would get him to “remember” me and e-mail another script. This time, I had had it. This was one of the worst scripts I’d ever read, after a long string of other crappy scripts, and I felt like what he was handing me came from the bottom of the pile. When I first started reading for him, he did send a lot of bad scripts but there were also plenty of scripts that had potential and even several that were legitimately good; while I think it’s probably more valuable to read bad screenplays than good ones (both are important, but I’d rather look at where people are going wrong and avoid the traps than look at what people are doing write and trying to imitate their success). Now, he wasn’t sending any of the good ones* to me and I had to wade through a sea of shit. I figured if he kept me in the loop and sent more, I’d still read it, but I was tired of begging for scraps.
Is it surprising that I never heard from him again? I’ve googled him and some of his clients on occasion, especially in the weeks immediately following. I wasn’t sure if he had dropped me or if he got busy actually doing something. I’ve only learned a couple of tidbits about him, none of them particularly good:
- One of his worst writers has a novel coming out next month. I won’t deny that this is part of the reason I believe I can get my novel published. No screenplays, but if the “audiobook” version of his first chapter is any indication, the dude’s novels aren’t any more coherent than his screenplays. Seriously, it’s a tiny press that’s publishing it but they have a good reputation. I don’t know how they misfired so seriously.
- From The Manager’s “LinkedIn” profile, I gleaned that he has “expanded” his management/production company buy creating a holding company. I swear to you that in January or February when I first found this, he suggesed that the holding company would be there to “hold” film financing for his productions. I didn’t really know what a holding company did at the time (I just know that I rarely hear the term outside of a corruption/scandal context), but when I eventually discovered that this isn’t what a holding company does at all, I re-googled the LinkedIn profile and found that he had changed it to say that the holding company exists that owns his various assets, many of which exist in the form of theoretical business ventures.
- He has not, to date, sold any screenplays or produced anything.
- His one big project, based on a Saturday-morning cartoon property that I don’t think there’s much of a current market for, was rejected. Apparently a big studio was looking at a bunch of different takes on the property; he had one that I thought was awful, an attempt to clone Star Wars using all of the worst aspects of the new trilogy (to sum up: politics politics politics bland love story politics politics). At any rate, it was announced earlier this year that the property would return as an updated Saturday-morning cartoon that re-imagines the characters as rock star superheroes drawn in an anime style. I honestly believe that is a better concept than the treatments I read from The Manager; I do think his take could have worked, but he chose to ignore my feedback and just kept sending more of the same.
- Saving the best for last: I found a quote from The Manager dated September 2004, in a press release for the stage version of the horrible musical, where he is listed as “producer/co-promoter.” Obviously this little project meant more to him than he let on. I don’t have any confirmation, but I do think this is why I never received a response from him.
So that’s that: The Manager and I have parted ways, and I’m probably better for it. I have a coverage portfolio that is largely useless in the Midwest, but at least I was able to spend the time honing my skills. That, and a miniscule amount of money to cover one script, are pretty much all I have to make me better off than I was before I knew The Manager.
*I attribute this to my criticism getting a little harsher, even on the stuff I liked—because it could all be better, but often I lobbed softballs because I thought he was going to pay me and didn’t want to piss off his “clients.” [Back]