One Produced Script Does Not Guarantee A Career

By Deborah Del Prete • January 12, 2022

“One Produced Script Does Not Guarantee A Career.” Deborah Del Prete Tells Screenwriters:

Veteran film producer and literary manager Deborah Del Prete sat down with us to share her thoughts on the state of the film business and how budding screenwriters can break in. Deborah has worked with some of the highest profile actors in the industry including Jennifer Lopez, Matthew McConaughey, and Viola Davis. After leaving OddLot Entertainment, she created her own management and production company, Coronet Entertainment.

How does a screenwriter become someone you want to work with? 

Of course, it’s all about the material. Are their screenplays great? Once I start reading do I not want to put it down? Is their voice specific and unique? Do they handle storytelling in a way that is fresh?  These are questions every screenwriter should ask before sending out their work.
 
As far as the qualities that make them a good potential client – first and foremost, are they hard workers? If somebody has one script that has taken them 10 years to write, no matter how good the script is, it is unlikely I want them as a client. I’m looking for somebody who can put out a solid body of work in a reasonable period of time. I also want writers who are willing to listen to notes and dig deeper and work harder on the work they’ve done.
 
Also personality matters. They need to be good in a room since many times their getting work will depend on it. 

How do you decide which screenwriters to read or sign? Do you have a preference for film or TV writers?
 
There’s a big difference between reading and signing, For the most part, I will only read people that are recommended to me by someone I know from the industry, a personal friend, or a bonafide agent or attorney. I very rarely take unsolicited submissions, but in the rare case I do it’s because somebody has written a unique or interesting query letter or the synopsis of their screenplay sounds so extremely commercial or uniquely dramatic.
 
I prefer film writers mostly because that’s where I spent the bulk of my career. However since today so much great drama is being written for television, I am definitely open to TV writers as well. And many of my current writers who have done films are currently developing TV series.  

What does a healthy agent/manager client relationship look like?
 
To me, it’s a partnership. Neither one of us thinks we are an employee of the other, but equal partners in their career.  Also, complete honesty with each other about every aspect of the work makes for a healthy and productive working relationship. 

What should writers be doing outside taking meetings with you?
 
I think they should be developing their screenwriting skills. I highly recommend they participate in a writer’s lab of some kind. It gives them a good opportunity to work on their screenplays and get an audience perspective on how they play. They should make themselves familiar with all the latest films and TV so that they understand what is currently working in the marketplace. Other than that – WRITE. There are no shortcuts to success.

What most attracts you to a project? 
 
This really varies from film to film. I’ve had films I chose for either the strength of the idea, quality of writing, or marketability of a project. Often it’s a combination of all of them. Most of all, I just have to believe in the project, feel it’s worth making, and that I have an idea as to how to get it made. 
 
How much time do you spend developing a writer vs trying to sell them quickly?
 
I actually spend a great deal of time developing screenwriters. I’m much more interested in long-term, well-built relationships with fewer people than a “see what sticks up against the wall” approach. 
 
What is the typical lifespan of an agent/manager client relationship?
 
I can’t really answer that question in general since I haven’t studied the statistics. But since I call myself the long-term relationship girl, mine tend to be many years.  However, there is a period of under a year in which you’re figuring out if a relationship works and there are people I’ve parted with in that time period.  

How would you describe your current film and TV tastes? 
 
I have pretty varied taste. Love the dramas like Handmaid’s Tale, Man in the High Castle, Homecoming, The OA, etc. But also love comedies like The Marvelous Ms. Maisel, The Kominsky Method, Kidding, and even some teen dramas like Riverdale or American Vandal. There are probably 20 other shows I watch on a regular basis since now there is so much great TV. 
 
As far as my writers, it depends on what genre they are writing in. But I do have a pretty encyclopedic knowledge of what’s succeeding and I make sure I see at least a couple of episodes of anything that has gotten noticed so I can advise them correctly. 
 
As for features, I watch as many films as I can possibly consume – recently Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star Is Born top my list.  

What is the current state of the industry and how can screenwriters best position themselves to be part of it?
 
I feel the industry is still in a transition stage going from the old network and cable model to the new on-demand/online model. There are a lot of growing pains and it’s fairly unsettled. I think all screenwriters can ever do is keep writing and do their best work and give it their all. If the work is good enough, it will rise up.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions aspiring screenwriters have about having a viable screenwriting career?
 
That one produced script will mean they’ll have a career or even be able to guarantee that they’ll get a reputable agent to sign them. 
 
What makes you stop reading a script submission? 

If by 20 pages in, I am not engaged, or care about what happens next.

How can a screenwriter stay vibrant and relevant in the marketplace?
 
Keep themselves educated about what the marketplace is. Make sure they’ve seen all the recent well-received shows and movies.  

Any closing thoughts for our readers?  
 
Don’t be delusional. Just because you think your script is great doesn’t make it so. Find someone who you trust to read your work, empower them to tell you the truth and LISTEN to what they tell you.

Deborah Del Prete

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