Interview with Zero Gravity Management Partner/Lit Manager, Eric Williams
Kevin Fukunaga (Scripts & Scribes): How does someone with a degree in molecular biology end up working in the entertainment industry?
Eric Williams: The summer between my junior and senior year at Colgate I came to intern in LA at a production company. The energy of the business was something I’d never seen before. Within days I realized this is what I wanted to do. A career in the movie business, or in a lab…the decision wasn’t hard.
Kevin: You were previously an agent at Writer’s & Artists Agency (since folded into Paradigm) before becoming a manager. How is your working relationship different with clients as a manager than it was as an agent?
Eric: You’re able to be much more creative as a manager…spend significantly more time developing scripts, talking through ideas, etc. As an agent, it’s more of a volume business, and you’re more of a salesman. I love the creative aspect of being a manager.
Kevin: What is your typical work week like?
Eric: Reading a never-ending pile of scripts, giving notes, searching for new clients, talking to producers/studios about what they’re looking for. And trying to network and meet as many people as possible. Did I mention reading scripts?
Kevin: What are your expectations when you sign a new client? How much material is ideal to have in their arsenal at the beginning? How often should they be writing and developing new material?
Eric: All I need is one script I love to sign a client. And after that, it’s about finding the next idea and starting development on it. I tell my clients to send any and every new idea they have, even if it’s half-baked…and hopefully we can build it out from there. The key is constantly generating new material…the more opportunities the better.
Kevin: Zero Gravity is one of the few prominent management companies that still accept unsolicited screenplays via your website. How many submission requests do you get per week from the website and of the submission queries, how many screenplays would you say ZG actually requests to read the full script?
Eric: Anywhere between 50-100 queries per week. And believe it or not, as long as the query letter is professional, we’ll request it and get eyes on the script. We built our business on breaking new writers, and will always keep the query pipeline open.
Kevin: Is it inappropriate for a writer to query multiple managers or agents at the same company? How long should a writer wait to hear back regarding a query before contacting another rep at the same firm?
Eric: Most companies have specific email addresses set up to query. For example, our query submission info is posted on our website. For legal reasons, we have to send a Release Form to the writers, so all queries have to be submitted to one particular address.
Kevin: What is your take on aspiring screenwriters that are not local to Los Angeles? Is that a concern for you? Have you had clients like that, and if so, how did you work with them and what kind of special challenges did it bring?
Eric: I find no problem with it. I have clients from around the world. As long as they are willing to come to LA from time to time to take meetings, I don’t need them to live in LA.
Kevin: If you were interested in a new client, but they had a very strict day job, would that be a deal breaker for you? If not, how would you attempt to work with them in terms of potential meetings and things?
Eric: Not at all. One of my passions is breaking new clients into the industry so they can quit their day job. If they have a day job but can still generate quality work, I’ll get that work into the hands of the right people.
Kevin: How many screenplays would you say you read in the average week? What’s one thing you see frequently in newer writers’ screenplays that you wish you didn’t?
Eric: 10-12. Too many words on the page. To me, the best writers are able to paint a vivid picture using few words. A lot of newer writers overwrite their scripts and put in so much detail, I stop using my imagination.
Kevin: When you’re not being all manager-y, taking meetings and selling specs, how do you spend your free time – assuming you have any?
Eric: I try to spend as much time outdoors as possible…basketball, beach volleyball, golf and walking my dogs.
Kevin: I read somewhere that you spent part of your childhood, growing up in Nebraska. That being said, how close did Alexander Payne get to the real feel of Nebraska?
Eric: As he’s also a native Nebraskan, he always nails the feel of the great people from the Cornhusker State!
Kevin: Lastly, what kind of advice would you give to aspiring screenwriters or is there anything else you’d like to share?
Eric: Do your research on representation. Query the management and production companies who have had successes with the type of material you want to write. If you are target-specific, you’re more likely to land the representative that’s right for you. And always be writing…it’s all about the number of opportunities you give yourself.
Kevin: Which film did you enjoy more: Zero Dark Thirty or Gravity?
Eric: Zero Dark Thirty
Kevin: Cooler fellow Colgate alum: Andy Rooney, hockey player Kyle Wilson or the Broken Lizard guys?
Eric: I’ll go with my fellow Beta Theta Pi brothers…Broken Lizard.
Kevin: Who would win in a snowball fight: You, Christine Holder or Damon Lane?
Eric: Ha. I’ve got a pretty good arm…I’m thinking I’d pummel Damon, but wouldn’t want to throw one at Christine!
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