“Be A Little Weird To Stand Out” Says Mitchell Bendersky
“Be A Little Weird To Stand Out” Says Mitchell Bendersky Of Gramercy Park Entertainment:
Gramercy Park Entertainment is a Los Angeles based management company striving for creative fulfillment for its writing and directing clients. Mitchell Bendersky, one of its managers, spoke with Creative Screenwriting Magazine about how Gramercy Park fits into the current state of the industry.
“When I was looking to get into literary management, I wanted a place with various mandates,” said Bendersky. He met with owner Scott Halle and they discussed what set Gramercy Park apart from other management companies. “Seventy percent of our writers roster is women and thirty percent is women of color.” This client profile piqued Bendersky’s interest in the company. Gramercy Park prides itself on “representing voices and stories that are more reflective of the world we live in.”
Since they believe there are enough viable stories from these under-represented perspectives, they want to be the platform to elevate them. There are so many perspectives that haven’t made it to the screen.
- Gramercy Park Entertainment prioritizes a writer’s voice above all
A writer’s voice is the unique aspect that defines a writer’s personality on the page. “We look at voice as a writer with a clear specificity to their writing. This proves to the audience, not only why are they the perfect writer for a project, but the only writer.” Producers are also increasingly interested in cultural specificity.
Getting clarity on a writer’s voice is essential for Bendersky to get a clear vision of a writer as an individual – their emotions, desires, objectives, and fears. “I get clear viewpoint into their lives.” He advises that writers focus projects that are the most enjoyable and show the world the parts of their personality they want them to see when building their body of work.
Being a boutique company doesn’t preclude Gramercy Park from interacting with the bigger companies. “We are resourceful enough and have enough relationships with the bigger agencies to access writing assignments and other opportunities for our clients.” They are certainly on the pulse of the industry and ensure they’re kept informed of who’s hiring and what they’re looking for. As a smaller company, they are also more interested in quantity over quantity. As such, Mitchell Bendersky restricts his client roster to no more than fifteen. “That way I don’t need to constantly prioritize the breadwinners from the emerging writers I need to develop.”
Gramercy Park has the capacity to go over an entire script with a screenwriter for several hours which many of the bigger companies don’t have the time to do. Unlike some larger companies, Mitchell has the time and desire to spend time developing scripts and screenwriters.
Mitchell Bendersky has sourced clients and stories from anywhere he can. Social Media is a great place to start. “Tik Tok is really a performance platform where an artist connects with an audience.” He believes there’s a trove of undiscovered talent on Tik Tok who use their phones to tell a story and film relatively high quality clips, or those who post witty one-liners on Twitter. “Social Media levels the playing field and allows more access.” The various Social Media platforms allow artists to lean into their strengths such as visual, public-speaking, or text. “Find the platform that elevates your brand.” All screenwriters should be on Social Media and use it to their advantage to connect with other writers. Suddenly, any writer can message a showrunner or other writer.
Bendersky doesn’t believe there is any difference between writer’s voice and their brand.
In an industry dominated by relationships it’s important for writers to form and foster links with those that can move their scripts along. “Be as respectful to of them and their time as possible, especially when you cold call or email. Be specific and personable.” Demonstrate that you have a knowledge of their work or personal life rather than making them feel they are part of a long list. Keep your communications short, to the point, and amicable.
Mitchell Bendersky also warns against reaching out the to industry unless you are positive your material is ready for circulation. “You only get one shot at a first impression. People are less likely to read a revised version of a script.”
Writers should be mindful of comparable films and TV shows (comps). Comps don’t always refer to similar storylines. They might relate to genre, tone, character or theme. Curiously, a lack of comps sparks Bendersky’s intrigue in a project. “I like reading something that I can’t compare to anything else. Don’t be afraid to take a swing. Take that risk.”
An outlandish idea might not be for everyone, but it may cater to a select few to make it viable. Be memorable and don’t be afraid to not blend in.
- Be a little risky. Be a little weird. Be a little left of center
A screenwriter is ready for representation when they have something that is undeniable and distinctly shows where they want their career to go. “Representation should be the last step to perfect your writing.” Newly-repped writers should be ready to hit the ground running to either get their material sold or staffed on a television show.
Needless to say, representation operates on a case by case basis. The success of a screenplay depends on how ambitious the idea is, the world, or the requirement for supplemental materials like a show bible or a pitch deck.
Writers must have a clear vision of the purpose of their project – why they are writing it. They must also have passion and a clear vision of where they want their story and characters to go. “A manager can help a writer, but they can’t define the point of their story.”
Even if a writer’s project doesn’t move forward, a manager can offer them alternative materials such as books or podcasts to get their take on.
Writers should treat their representatives as creative and strategic partners rather than their boss. “A rep is neither a boss nor an assistant.” Managers routinely give notes. Their job is to hone the writer’s vision rather than discover it. “A manager wants to make your voice clearer and make it stand out in the industry.”
Many writers fall into the trap of waiting for their managers to secure meetings and other opportunities for them. “Both parties need to hustle.”
As you may imagine, Mitchell Bendersky reads an abundance of material. One of the more common criticisms he encounters refers to a lack of uniqueness of story and voice. “I’ll finish a script and not know who the writer is as a person.” This should a primary goal for all writers so executives have a clear idea of who might purchase your script or the types of writing assignments you might be suitable for. In terms of TV pilots, some writers “don’t know what happens beyond the page.” The story ends, but it’s not clear where subsequent episodes might go. “Writers should think long term about the story engine of the TV series.” Writers should ensure their opening and closing pages are also memorable as that is where the reader’s attention is most focused.
Writers should also consider the timeliness and relevance of their scripts. Why does this need to be made now?
Feature films are currently having a particularly tough time given the proliferation of the TV world. “There are more opportunities on the television side, so having a TV pilot with your feature might boost your career chances.” Bendersky believes there is a lot less rigidity in the industry these days so writers have more flexibility in writer for both media. Writers can branch out, but they shouldn’t spread themselves too thin.
In light of the pandemic, Bendersky believes that many producers are currently looking for hopeful, higher, and happier fare. He also concedes he doesn’t know how long this trend will last. “Anything can sell if it’s good enough.“