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Garfield
02-14-2014, 08:42 AM
Long time lurker first time poster.

Hoping I could get some thoughts from other repped writers. Or reps that float about on these boards.

About me:

I've got an agent and managers.

My managers are a recent addition to the team. I parted ways with my last set of managers as we just weren't swimming in the same direction. Got on great just wasn't meant to be. Plus my agent wasn't keen on the direction either.

So...

A little more about my situation:

Agent didn't want me getting any more managers. Telling me to concentrate on developing relationships with the execs I've been meeting these last few years. Then I hear through the grapevine that said agent isn't happy with the type of material I've been working on. I write mainly action thrillers and crime dramas and I'd been dabbling in sci-fi.

Here's the thing:

I wanted a manager. I like the role of a manager. So (without agent's help) i went off in search of a new manager. Luckily generated some interest, took a few meetings until I'd found the reps I liked.

Turns out my new managers are super cosy with my agent. Bonus. Figured as much anyway given that they're all partners in their respective firms and it's a small industry.

Now, the new managers want a new spec. I should add I've not sold anything yet but have had scripts go out and been well received. Lots of meet and greets. The water bottle tour etc etc.

Anyways back to the story.

Agent steps back lets myself and the new managers settle on a project.

I logline a ton of ideas. They choose a few. I outline the first one. They think it's cool. I write it. Beat for beat. Now I've been doing this long enough to know that the execution's pretty tight. I mean sure there'll be changes. There's always changes. That's part of the process but...

I finish the spec. It goes to the whole team. Agent reads within two days. Takes the new managers almost two weeks. Hmm that's a little off for me. Red flag? Maybe. But hey ho they're busy. I'll sit on my self-involved ego and see what everybody thinks. Notes etc.

So we set a conference call with all parties. Conference call happens. Turns out they've already spoken without me re the spec and...

They're really nice. No criticism. No revisions, just lots of pleasantries. Compelling stuff, great world you've built. Lots of inner conflict they say.

So I get off the phone. My girlfriend asks "how'd it go?"

"Well sweetie, they want a page one rewrite..."

"They said that?".

"No, no they were way too smart to allow such confrontational words to roll off their tongues..."

"So they killed your script with kindness then?"

"It would appear so"

"Oh"

Barely any notes. Barely any explanation. Just lots of niceties. I check the outline that my new managers signed off on and yup it's the EXACT same, beat for beat as the script I handed in.

Now I'm really pissed. I mean I could have done an outline for any number of execs that wanna work with me. From companies with discretionary funds to two oscar nominated producers I've already developed other stuff with. Sigh.

So yeah I'm feeling rather... Disgruntled. To the point where i wanna drop them. But they're buddies with my agent. The agent who didn't want me to sign with them in the first place. I go and do that and I look flippant. Almost petulant. Nope, I'd look ridiculous.

So now I'm sat at my desk writing a frickin' outline for a script that I have no clue about. Theme? What theme? Tone? Huh? Story? There's a story in this? Thought you just wanted **** blown up. Screw inner conflict. We like external conflict!

So folks I gotta ask, is this normal?

Ronaldinho
02-14-2014, 09:30 AM
So now I'm sat at my desk writing a frickin' outline for a script that I have no clue about. Theme? What theme? Tone? Huh? Story? There's a story in this? Thought you just wanted **** blown up. Screw inner conflict. We like external conflict!


I'm having a little bit of a hard time understanding what they want you to do with your script - what sort of rewrite they want. (Are they saying there's an absence of theme and story, or are you?) But maybe you are, too.

Here's what I would do. Get on the phone with one of the managers. Or both, I don't know. But not everybody. Whichever one you feel the most comfortable with, even if that's your agent.

And say, "Okay, look, you guys were all really nice, and I appreciate that. But I'm also sensing a certain lack of enthusiasm. So I want you to give it to me straight, because I have no idea what I should be doing now but I feel like it's something. Stop pulling punches."

The larger problem, "They agreed on X, I gave them X, and now they don't like it," is, I think, common. What they're telling you is that they don't love it. And one thing you need to understand is that most agents and managers won't know why they don't love something - they'll just know that they don't love it.

I think it's usually more important to give people something awesome than it is to give them exactly what you told them you were going to give them. If you don't want to call them and get into it more, you might consider a rewrite where you say, "eff the outline, how to I make this as awesome as possible?"

grumpywriter
02-14-2014, 10:02 AM
NOTHING in this industry seems normal to me, and yet, at this point, none of it surprises me either. It's an industry that basically runs on insincerity and disingenuousness. Ronaldinho gives good advice: call your reps and diplomatically extract the truth.

madworld
02-14-2014, 10:05 AM
I think it's usually more important to give people something awesome than it is to give them exactly what you told them you were going to give them.

1000% agree. It's just reality that sometimes things in the outline don't pan out, adjustments must be made, but awesome is requisite. If you get taken in a direction where something is awesome, they'll respond.

Garfield, I've been there too and it's more normal than you think. Plenty here on this forum have written specs that their agents weren't feeling, and the whole thing gets squashed. It happens. More than people care to admit.

Here's the good news. You can write your way out of it.

You need to get back into that headspace, remember what got you that agent in the first place. Follow your gut. It's the only thing that matters. Because to be honest, even if you were to ask your agent and your managers, they probably couldn't pin down exactly why they didn't respond to it. If they can, great - but a lot of people seem to know how to tell you something isn't working, but don't know how to fix it themselves. Follow your gut. Make it awesome.

And check your PM, sending something your way.

Bunker
02-14-2014, 11:45 AM
Nail down where the script stands. Ask them what the plan moving forward is.

Then, if they want rewrites, ask yourself, "Is this idea worth pursuing?" If you've lost the love for writing it and they have no love for selling it, you may end up throwing good time after bad performing endless blind rewrites. Some ideas just have something wrong at their core and are more trouble than they're worth to fix.

Most importantly: Don't let your reps get inside your head. I've had trouble with this myself. Instead of just writing and trusting my instinct, I started thinking too much. Every scene became "Will my manager and agent like this?"

I know a lot of managers do the "Send me 10 log lines a day and we'll find one that's good." Resist this strategy. Concepts are hard enough to create. Vomitting out several at a time just guarantees that none are receiving the thought (and excitement) that they deserve. It leads to the manager making his decision based on a hook or a world instead of story and character. More often than not, it leads to flat, generic scripts.

emily blake
02-14-2014, 12:13 PM
I know a lot of managers do the "Send me 10 log lines a day and we'll find one that's good." Resist this strategy. Concepts are hard enough to create. Vomitting out several at a time just guarantees that none are receiving the thought (and excitement) that they deserve. It leads to the manager making his decision based on a hook or a world instead of story and character. More often than not, it leads to flat, generic scripts.

Totally agree with this. I HATE this strategy.

madworld
02-14-2014, 12:44 PM
Nail down where the script stands. Ask them what the plan moving forward is.

Then, if they want rewrites, ask yourself, "Is this idea worth pursuing?" If you've lost the love for writing it and they have no love for selling it, you may end up throwing good time after bad performing endless blind rewrites. Some ideas just have something wrong at their core and are more trouble than they're worth to fix.

Most importantly: Don't let your reps get inside your head. I've had trouble with this myself. Instead of just writing and trusting my instinct, I started thinking too much. Every scene became "Will my manager and agent like this?"

I know a lot of managers do the "Send me 10 log lines a day and we'll find one that's good." Resist this strategy. Concepts are hard enough to create. Vomitting out several at a time just guarantees that none are receiving the thought (and excitement) that they deserve. It leads to the manager making his decision based on a hook or a world instead of story and character. More often than not, it leads to flat, generic scripts.


Great post.

IGetsBuckets
02-14-2014, 02:23 PM
I know a lot of managers do the "Send me 10 log lines a day and we'll find one that's good." Resist this strategy. Concepts are hard enough to create. Vomitting out several at a time just guarantees that none are receiving the thought (and excitement) that they deserve. It leads to the manager making his decision based on a hook or a world instead of story and character. More often than not, it leads to flat, generic scripts.
this?"


Completely agree with this.

Before signing with any rep, make sure to thoroughly ask them what their process is, and explain to them what your process is. Make sure both sides understand what the ideal environment is for you to create your best work.

I'd never go for the 10 logline-daily-weekly-shotgun approach. I know there are some reps that work like this, and some writers that are okay with it, but it just wouldn't work for me.

Nail down where the script stands. Ask them what the plan moving forward is.

Then, if they want rewrites, ask yourself, "Is this idea worth pursuing?"

I'd do this. Tell them to be blunt.

Even though you gave them exactly what was outlined, they probably just didn't love the execution. They might not be able to pinpoint exactly why, but if you ask them to be blunt, they should be able to be straight with you about whether or not they're ever willing to send it out (in its current form or with rewrites).

ProfessorChomp
02-14-2014, 04:46 PM
I'm still confused why a pleasant conversation left you thinking they all hate the script, but maybe I just missed something. My team ain't shy about telling me when they're not into something.

I also don't understand why the agents didn't want you to find a manager. I've never run into that. It means less work for them, and that your stuff will be vetted before it reaches them. Agents like that, and it's no $ out of their pocket.

As far as advice, listen to Bunker.

ducky1288
02-14-2014, 05:27 PM
Before you scrap it or start a page one rewrite I think you've got to find out how they really feel. Did they say the liked it but didn't love it enough to send it out? I get the whole sugar coating rep things. I told my guys from day one I don't want that. If it doesn't work or isn't good -- tell me. End of story.

Just call them up and straight up ask them, do you think this is something we can send out? If not, why? I think if you're open that the truth will not hurt your feelings then they are more willing to tell you.

I told my agent a while back I wanted all feedback on my meetings, good, bad or indifferent because if I don't know what I'm doing wrong, how will I know what to change? So one day I had a blah meeting and he called me and was like, "Okay so I don't normally do this with all my clients but I feel like you and I have a different relationship and you can handle this but they said..."

Had I not told him how I wanted to be handle up front I don't think he would have ever told me what they said in that way. He probably would have came up with a nice version or just shrugged it off as it wasn't meant to be because there is a certain rapport to keep between rep and client most of the time. You don't want to beat your client down with negative thoughts or feedback but I wonder sometimes if it's needed more than it's given for a reality check...

Anyways, don't be afraid to ask questions. If you're afraid to ask either side of your reps, that says something about the relationship, new or not.

Good luck.

mge457
02-14-2014, 05:43 PM
So folks I gotta ask, is this normal?

Welcome to DDP. Now that's out of the way, no -- that is not normal. I would have a 1-on-1 call with your agent and see where he really stands. If you don't want to have the tough conversation, take his temperature on the market for the material (you're offering him a way out if he waffles here).

I know a lot of managers do the "Send me 10 log lines a day and we'll find one that's good." Resist this strategy. Concepts are hard enough to create. Vomitting out several at a time just guarantees that none are receiving the thought (and excitement) that they deserve. It leads to the manager making his decision based on a hook or a world instead of story and character. More often than not, it leads to flat, generic scripts.

This is absolutely 100% correct. It sounds like you won't do this, but I can't see how it's conducive to good writing. Before I was a writer, we had to pitch ideas (different field altogether) and we always pitched three at a time. It was so we were still invested to all 3 ideas, but not married to them. If they want you to pitch ideas, I think 3 at a time is the way to go. I know a prominent studio that does something similar in house (it might be 4 or 5 though).

Craig Mazin
02-16-2014, 01:58 PM
I see a version of this question a lot, and my answer is consistent.

Some context. I know a lot of writers. I talk to a lot of writers. We all have agents, many have managers.

With very, very rare exception, none of us give two squirrel balls what our agents or managers think about our screenplays.

What we WANT is for these people to:

1. Sell our work
2. Get us in rooms with buyers, directors and actors
3. Package our work with filmmakers and performers
4. Negotiate the best deals possible for us

So Garfield, rather than stare at the tea leaves of the conversation you had with your representatives, ask yourself this question: "What do I think about the screenplay I just wrote?"

If you feel it's a great foot forward and you're ready for them to go out and kill for you, tell them that.

If you feel there are important improvements you must make-- not want to make, but MUST make... you feel them in your bones-- then make those improvements.

Agents and managers motivate their clients to create work they can then sell.

Agents and managers are not known for their taste in screenplays, their insightful notes, their grasp of character or dramatic structure.

They are known for their ability to know what sold yesterday. Not today, not tomorrow. Yesterday.

They are known for their ability to connect a seller with a buyer.

They are known for their ability to group like-minded artists together in a team that becomes more than the sum of its parts.

That's it.

Stop caring what they have to say about your script. It doesn't matter.

Make a choice about what you want to do, and then tell them what your choice is and why, and then when you're ready, tell them to promote you and your script. Tell them who you think should be reading it and why.

None of this will matter a damn if the script is less than very, very good.

But if it's very, very good, then hopefully your representatives will get a chance to do the jobs they're actually qualified to do, as enumerated above.

DangoForth
02-16-2014, 02:44 PM
Craig,
Can I have your permission to quote this in its entirety - anywhere & anytime? :congrats:

Craig Mazin
02-16-2014, 10:18 PM
Granted.

celticbeauty
02-16-2014, 10:57 PM
Incredibly helpful and insightful post, Craig. Thank you!

Deion22
02-17-2014, 08:27 AM
I see a version of this question a lot, and my answer is consistent.

Some context. I know a lot of writers. I talk to a lot of writers. We all have agents, many have managers.

With very, very rare exception, none of us give two squirrel balls what our agents or managers think about our screenplays.

What we WANT is for these people to:

1. Sell our work
2. Get us in rooms with buyers, directors and actors
3. Package our work with filmmakers and performers
4. Negotiate the best deals possible for us

So Garfield, rather than stare at the tea leaves of the conversation you had with your representatives, ask yourself this question: "What do I think about the screenplay I just wrote?"

If you feel it's a great foot forward and you're ready for them to go out and kill for you, tell them that.

If you feel there are important improvements you must make-- not want to make, but MUST make... you feel them in your bones-- then make those improvements.

Agents and managers motivate their clients to create work they can then sell.

Agents and managers are not known for their taste in screenplays, their insightful notes, their grasp of character or dramatic structure.

They are known for their ability to know what sold yesterday. Not today, not tomorrow. Yesterday.

They are known for their ability to connect a seller with a buyer.

They are known for their ability to group like-minded artists together in a team that becomes more than the sum of its parts.

That's it.

Stop caring what they have to say about your script. It doesn't matter.

Make a choice about what you want to do, and then tell them what your choice is and why, and then when you're ready, tell them to promote you and your script. Tell them who you think should be reading it and why.

None of this will matter a damn if the script is less than very, very good.

But if it's very, very good, then hopefully your representatives will get a chance to do the jobs they're actually qualified to do, as enumerated above.


I'm saving this post. So much truth in it. Listen to this man.

BillG
02-17-2014, 11:39 AM
But Craig, if a writer thinks his script is great, but his manager/agent thinks it's only okay (or even bad) yet agrees to send it out and the response is lukewarm at best, don't those reps risk their reputation?

I'm all for a writer sticking to his guns if he thinks he's right about something, but I can completely understand the reps standing theirs too -- both sides have stakes in this.

It'd be great if you could get matched with someone who absolutely loves every single thing you write, but unless your body of work consists of the one screenplay that got you signed, that seems fairly unbelievable - like the oft-quoted "fact" that most agents don't even read their clients' scripts before sending them out

Ronaldinho
02-17-2014, 12:54 PM
Here's one of those places where Craig's experience is going to differ from people who have been around less (like, um, me). I agree with him 100% in theory.

In practice, as somebody who hasn't yet made your agent a lot of money, if your rep doesn't love something, and you think it needs to go out, that might end your relationship with your rep.

(This is, ultimately, where Craig's caveat that "none of this will matter a damn if the script is less than very, very good" is important not to overlook.)

My experience was writing something that my agent didn't love, and the result was me and my agent parting ways. Now, the honest truth is that script was fine, but not "very, very good" I just didn't see that yet. (I'm a little boggled by how much I've learned since then, which, for those keeping track, is since being a working pro. I'm a way better writer now).

And so you do run a risk of losing your rep. And it can take you longer than you'd like to find new rep.

But ...

Despite the fact that I can't put a storybook ending on that part of my journey yet, I still feel like it was the right thing. Going from "working and repped" to "not even repped" sucks donkey balls, and while there are a couple of other twists and turns in there for me (the end of a writing partnership, for example) creatively, to figure out what I needed to be writing, to produce the best material I've yet produced (by far), that is what had to happen. You can't discover your voice while writing to somebody else's specifications.

So yes, when you write something that you love but your rep doesn't, you might lose your rep.

But having rep who you aren't creatively sympatico with might actually be worse than having no rep at all.

Because let me tell you, yes, sure, rep is often a step on the road to making money. And making money is a hell of a lot more fun than not making money. But what's worse is not making money and feeling like you have to do work that's not making you happy in order to make somebody else happy, because then not only are you not making money, but you're slowly destroying your soul.

Which is to say that I agree with Craig, but realistically you have to understand that the road may be rockier than you would like. A lot rockier.

And that's okay.

BillG
02-17-2014, 02:36 PM
Agree 100% - it's harder for us smaller fish to not care about what reps think, as the repercussions might be bigger (harder to find new reps, etc.)


Where did this idea come from that agents automatically send out whatever their A-list clients tell them to? Does this actually ever happen? I can imagine the whole blinded-by-hype notion of "he once wrote something great so this new one must be great (but if I read this same script by a nobody, it wouldn't have been that great) coming into play at times.

Ronaldinho
02-17-2014, 04:07 PM
Where did this idea come from that agents automatically send out whatever their A-list clients tell them to? Does this actually ever happen? I can imagine the whole blinded-by-hype notion of "he once wrote something great so this new one must be great (but if I read this same script by a nobody, it wouldn't have been that great) coming into play at times.

Uh, there's a lot more to being an A-lister than "he once wrote something great." Being an A-lister means you're continually making your rep a lot of money.

And remember that your agent works for you. We forget this, but you can bet that every A-lister's agent knows it. Because if you're an agent, and you part ways with an a-list client over a spec, you're forfeiting 10% of all the stuff that's in the works coming down the pipe, all the work your a-list client is going to get based on his proven track record of work and his established relationships with people in the development community who are eager to hire him.

Even if you thought your A-list client wrote a total clunker (and most a-listers have written a clunker once or twice) you send it out, because the phone call that says, "I don't know, we just weren't any get any traction with this one," probably doesn't lose you your client whereas the phone call that says, "You missed the mark on this one, I can't send it out," might. A-listers also don't need their agent's reputation to get them reads.

BillG
02-17-2014, 05:14 PM
ah, so they do send it out even if they don't like it - makes sense with the money down the road angle

I should have been clear - by "once wrote something great," I was thinking of the overnight A-list success stories a la Diablo Cody

wrytnow
02-17-2014, 08:27 PM
In practice, as somebody who hasn't yet made your agent a lot of money, if your rep doesn't love something, and you think it needs to go out, that might end your relationship with your rep..

There's a saying: "I was looking for a job when I found this one."

Craig Mazin
02-17-2014, 09:28 PM
But Craig, if a writer thinks his script is great, but his manager/agent thinks it's only okay (or even bad) yet agrees to send it out and the response is lukewarm at best, don't those reps risk their reputation?

I'm all for a writer sticking to his guns if he thinks he's right about something, but I can completely understand the reps standing theirs too -- both sides have stakes in this.

It'd be great if you could get matched with someone who absolutely loves every single thing you write, but unless your body of work consists of the one screenplay that got you signed, that seems fairly unbelievable - like the oft-quoted "fact" that most agents don't even read their clients' scripts before sending them out

The agents and managers get surprised all the time by their successes and failures. That said, of course they want to like what they're pushing. But they also know a very important fact: it only takes ONE buyer.

You can get 99 passes and 1 yes, and that's a sale and a win.

So part of their job is thinking "Who has been asking for something like this? Who likes stuff like this? Who's making stuff like this?" And then they send it to them.

Most stuff is passed on. Even the stuff that ends up in bidding wars... trust me, not EVERYONE is bidding. At least a few people pass.

Getting passed on doesn't ding an agent's rep. Repeatedly sending out pure **** does. If your agent says "Look, I can't go out with this because it's so bad, it will damage my rep," then at that point, I think it's okay to consider that maybe it's really that bad.

Craig Mazin
02-17-2014, 09:31 PM
Which is to say that I agree with Craig, but realistically you have to understand that the road may be rockier than you would like. A lot rockier.

And that's okay.

No question. Every day, this business conspires to make you cry. Every damn day.

And I wish I could say things are as easy as "fortune favors the bold."

As it turns out, fortune also kicks the bold in the nards repeatedly.

All I really know is that you don't need to accept an agent's "we're not sure" or "it seems okay" as creative gospel.

If you're inspired by your work, share that passion with them. Inspire THEM. They're your salesforce.

Craig Mazin
02-17-2014, 09:33 PM
Agents don't need to fret over sending out material from A-list writers. They get in more trouble for *not* sending it to various people.

A-listers swing and whiff all the time with original material. Not the end of the world. No one blames an agent for sending them a script by a blue chip writer, even if the script doesn't float their boat.

madworld
02-17-2014, 10:33 PM
What a great thread. Threads like this make me love this forum.

Howie428
02-18-2014, 11:44 AM
Iím not qualified to comment here, but Iím wondering if the OP needs to get some alternate feedback. As has been mentioned, reps may not be qualified to give solid notes. More than that though, reps have an agenda that includes not poisoning the well. If they're ducking around giving straight notes they could be avoiding being the bad guy.

Before getting too annoyed with the reps, get some trusted opinions. They might tell you whatever it is that the reps are reluctant to say.

Ulysses
02-23-2014, 07:48 PM
Long time lurker first time poster.

Hoping I could get some thoughts from other repped writers. Or reps that float about on these boards.

About me:

I've got an agent and managers.

My managers are a recent addition to the team. I parted ways with my last set of managers as we just weren't swimming in the same direction. Got on great just wasn't meant to be. Plus my agent wasn't keen on the direction either.

So...

A little more about my situation:

Agent didn't want me getting any more managers. Telling me to concentrate on developing relationships with the execs I've been meeting these last few years. Then I hear through the grapevine that said agent isn't happy with the type of material I've been working on. I write mainly action thrillers and crime dramas and I'd been dabbling in sci-fi.

Here's the thing:

I wanted a manager. I like the role of a manager. So (without agent's help) i went off in search of a new manager. Luckily generated some interest, took a few meetings until I'd found the reps I liked.

Turns out my new managers are super cosy with my agent. Bonus. Figured as much anyway given that they're all partners in their respective firms and it's a small industry.

Now, the new managers want a new spec. I should add I've not sold anything yet but have had scripts go out and been well received. Lots of meet and greets. The water bottle tour etc etc.

Anyways back to the story.

Agent steps back lets myself and the new managers settle on a project.

I logline a ton of ideas. They choose a few. I outline the first one. They think it's cool. I write it. Beat for beat. Now I've been doing this long enough to know that the execution's pretty tight. I mean sure there'll be changes. There's always changes. That's part of the process but...

I finish the spec. It goes to the whole team. Agent reads within two days. Takes the new managers almost two weeks. Hmm that's a little off for me. Red flag? Maybe. But hey ho they're busy. I'll sit on my self-involved ego and see what everybody thinks. Notes etc.

So we set a conference call with all parties. Conference call happens. Turns out they've already spoken without me re the spec and...

They're really nice. No criticism. No revisions, just lots of pleasantries. Compelling stuff, great world you've built. Lots of inner conflict they say.

So I get off the phone. My girlfriend asks "how'd it go?"

"Well sweetie, they want a page one rewrite..."

"They said that?".

"No, no they were way too smart to allow such confrontational words to roll off their tongues..."

"So they killed your script with kindness then?"

"It would appear so"

"Oh"

Barely any notes. Barely any explanation. Just lots of niceties. I check the outline that my new managers signed off on and yup it's the EXACT same, beat for beat as the script I handed in.

Now I'm really pissed. I mean I could have done an outline for any number of execs that wanna work with me. From companies with discretionary funds to two oscar nominated producers I've already developed other stuff with. Sigh.

So yeah I'm feeling rather... Disgruntled. To the point where i wanna drop them. But they're buddies with my agent. The agent who didn't want me to sign with them in the first place. I go and do that and I look flippant. Almost petulant. Nope, I'd look ridiculous.

So now I'm sat at my desk writing a frickin' outline for a script that I have no clue about. Theme? What theme? Tone? Huh? Story? There's a story in this? Thought you just wanted **** blown up. Screw inner conflict. We like external conflict!

So folks I gotta ask, is this normal?

What really wonders me: why do you write what others give a nod to? Why don't you write what you want to write? I think here's the whole crux of your experience buried: if a writer doesn't know what he wants to write, he has a problem, and will forever get bounced around by the daily tastes of executives, agents, and managers.

You are the artist. You do your thing, and let the business people do theirs.