Kevin Fukunaga (Scripts & Scribes): How did you get your start in entertainment and what made you want to work in the industry?
David Baggelaar: After college, I moved back to LA where I had no real connection to entertainment, but a friend’s dad, who is a commercial director, hired me as a production assistant. From there, I just networked and jumped from job to job for about a year and a half. My first traditional job was at Benderspink. I started as an intern and got promoted to be an assistant when a desk opened up in 2012. I went over to Good Fear when that company formed in 2016, working my way up to manager. I just always loved movies and TV. I had no idea what a producer or manager or agent did, but I knew studios existed, so that’s where I started my research.
Kevin S&S: In addition to managing a myriad of lit clients, Good Fear (and formerly Benderspink) has a long history of producing hit films such as the HANGOVER trilogy, WE’RE THE MILLERS, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, THE RING, the new upcoming live action MULAN and many others. Are there any specific genres or subgenres that you prefer at Good Fear or that you are especially in the market for?
David: As a company, we’re pretty genre agnostic. It comes down to the question: is this a movie (or TV show)? Is there a message, a universally relatable theme, down to is it castable? Since Good Fear started, the movies we’ve produced include the neo-noir UNDER THE SILVERLAKE, the action comedy MY SPY with Dave Bautista, and Disney’s live action MULAN. Next up, we’re doing an ensemble dramedy SINGLES DAY inspired by the massive Chinese holiday, and SABRINA, inspired by the life of DeAndre Hopkins’ mother, Sabrina. All different genres, but exciting concepts.
Kevin S&S: What is the most common misconception, by aspiring screenwriters, about what managers do and don’t do?
David: Personally, and as a company, we do it all. From development (run loglines, read drafts, give notes) to seeking out opportunities (taking out a spec, staffing jobs). We have to. More often than not, if a new writer is signing with a manager, the biggest misconception is that the meetings will stack up and a job will come quickly. It’s all about laying the groundwork, introducing the town to your voice/sample.
Kevin S&S: 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?
David: When I sign someone new, I’ve usually read 1 or 2 samples. When we start discussing a new idea, I like to run loglines and pick a handful. 1-2 to actually write next (feature and pilot ideally) and a brief overview of a few more to have in the back pocket. It’s helpful to have those done and put aside when generals pop up and they’re asked “what else are you working on?” When starting out, at least 1 new thing a year if they are working. At a certain level, you don’t really need to spec, but there should always be something the writer controls: a pitch, a piece of IP they have the rights to.
Kevin S&S: Obviously, first and foremost, a writer should write a script they’re passionate about, but are there certain genres or topics that are especially difficult to sell for baby writers?
David: I’ll never stunt creativity, all I can do is lay out the pros and cons; the obstacles of certain genres. If it’s an original idea (not based on public domain or some IP they control) I suggest new writers write something that can sell. A big 4 quadrant studio movie, or something genre that is contained and can be made for 5 million and under. At best, it sells. At worst, it’s a great showcase of your voice and style.
Kevin S&S: We get asked a lot when it’s too late for an aspiring screenwriter to start their career. Is there an age where it becomes substantially more difficult for you to break a newer writer? How does age (younger or older) play into how you sell them as a client to buyers?
David: Good material is good material, and it’s ageless. Like any business, you have to figure out how to sell yourself and what your brand is.
Kevin S&S: What should a writer be looking for in a good manager? What makes a good writer/manager relationship? Other than writing of course, what kind of expectations do managers have of their clients?
David: Writer’s should look for managers who they want to talk to on a (at times) daily basis. Someone who will get excited for all the good news, and is there for the bad news. And they should look for someone who will be honest with them, but so much of the relationship is development– a manager has to be able to communicate when something isn’t working and why. Clients should voice these concerns if they feel they aren’t be represented adequately. It’s easy to fall into a routine. I want to be excited all the time by the people I represent.
Kevin S&S: Can you explain a little of the state of the spec market and how you, as a manager and producer, fit into the development process?
David: I wasn’t around for the booming spec market, but have heard plenty of stories from my former boss. For me, the spec market today is what it is. Original ideas are tough, but I truly believe it’s what the consumer wants. But original material gets lost in the shadow of a studio system that is releasing fewer movies a year and has their library to mine. It’s about hitting the uniquely familiar bullseye. GET OUT: Meet the Parents with a genre twist, KNIVES OUT: a whodunit. Again, good material finds a way. So as a manager, and Good Fear as a producer, it’s recognizing that, and also our willingness to take chances on bold concepts.
Kevin S&S: When you’re not being all manager-y, taking meetings and selling specs, how do you spend your free time – assuming you have any?
David: You’re catching me at an interesting time because 1) I got married March 14 and 2) we went into quarantine the following Monday! So right now, I’ve been cooking a lot more. Breakfast burritos on the weekend, a new recipe for dinner during the week. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but now I have the time to actually prep things the right way. This is also a good time to catch up on the 50 shows and movies I’ve had backlogged. Next up, I’ve probably seen 5 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so my goal is to watch them in chronological order.
Kevin S&S: What is the best screenplay, produced or not, that you’ve ever read and why?
David: Clients aside, there’s a pilot called KALEIDOSCOPE by UK-based writer Julian Simpson that I read a few years ago and loved, and it’s stayed with me. It was one that had flare.
Kevin S&S: Lastly, what kind of advice would you give to aspiring screenwriters or is there anything else you’d like to share?
David: Keep writing! And find interesting ways to create your own IP that you control. Make a short film (horror shorts do really well). Create a fictional podcast (keep the episodes short), write a comic book. There are resources out there without having to spend your savings to accomplish this.
MORE bonus Q&A w/ David Baggelaar is on our Patreon for all donors.
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