This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.
I have a friend who, years ago, was an assistant to a big agent at a big talent agency. Assistants like that do something called "rolling calls," that is, they run through their bosses call sheet -– the people she needs to call back, the people she wants to call her back, and the most crucial set, the people she needs to call right now.
What you do, apparently, if you're an assistant to a big agent, is roll through those lists, calling people -– "Hi, I have Big Talent Agent for Major Studio Executive" –- triaging people who call -– "Yes, I'm sorry, I don't have her, she's in a meeting, can she return?" –- and hustling important calls right through to her earpiece -– "Go ahead, you're on with Important Talent Manager."
At some point during one of his early days working her desk, an important call came through. Business affairs from one of the studios was calling, to close a huge deal for one of her clients. It was, as these things usually are, a fast call. My friend, as is customary for an agent's assistant, was listening in on the call, too, taking notes.
After the call, he looked up at his boss and smiled. She had just closed a multi-million dollar deal –- something she had been working at for weeks –- and he was expecting, he didn't know, maybe a smile, maybe a sigh, maybe that she's get up and stretch a bit and celebrate with a Jamba Juice. Something.
What did she did was this. She fixed him with a confused "why are you looking at me" expression, pointed to the phone, with its blinking calls-on-hold lights, and circled her index finger in the air.
"Continue trading," she said. "Continue trading."
That's what she called "rolling calls" -– "trading," like people do with coffee, or cattle. Keep going, she was saying. This is a volume business. We get to dip our tiny cup into the torrential cascade of money known as the "deal flow," and the more dips, the more money. So roll those calls. Continue trading.
These days, of course, with the strike entering its fifth week, show business is anything but a volume business. These days, trading has trickled to a slow, slow crawl.
So among all of the many different groups that are hurt and suffering during the writers strike, we should probably, just in fairness, add agents.
Agents with no calls to roll. Agents with no trading to continue with. Agents, I'm guessing, rattling around their shiny new offices, going nuts, like rats in a coffee can.
(And I say that with the love.)
What are the agents doing, in this town-wide slowdown? Some, I guess, are in Mexico. Well, I'm not guessing, I know at least one –- mine –- who is. Some are busying themselves with a lot of inter-agency infighting and political strategizing. But some -– the smart ones, I think -– are reading.
Because every client of every agent has one or two or three scripts that, for whatever reason, just didn't go. Didn't quite catch fire. Didn't get bought, or if bought, have now, after the requisite months of inattention, reverted back to the client.
And some of that stuff might be good. What am I saying -– a lot of that stuff might be good. After all, it was passed on by studio and network executives, so that means that most of it is truly excellent.
Look, this strike is going to be over. Eventually. And when it is, they're going to want material. And in my experience, there's no better material than the material you've already written.
So if you're an agent, take off the headset. Stop rolling calls. Start reading. And get ready to trade.
That's it for this week. Next week, the view from below the line. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.