The DVD Player's Not There

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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

Right now, we're deep into something called "Awards Season" here in Hollywood, and if you're not careful, you just might start to think these kinds of things matter. They do in a kind of generalized morale-boosting way, but the truth is, the people who pay for the full-page ads and the mountains of screeners and the Oscar night parties are really just engaging in an elaborate kind of marketing.

I mean, yes, I guess on some deep level the talent agencies really are proud of their clients and really do want to tell the world, via back-page placements in Variety, but it's also just as likely that they're equally driven to remind all of the actors, writers, and directors at other agencies that, hey, come over here and we'll make magic for you.

A few years ago, most agencies only took out ads to congratulate their clients who actually won awards. Now, they have first to take out ads to congratulate their clients who were nominated, and then later take out another ad to congratulate their clients who actually won – and if the agencies are doing it, then the studios have to as well, and not just for the Oscars, either. Now it's the SAG and WGA and Golden Globes, and Independent Spirit get the picture.

Everyone does it because everyone is selling, something, all the time. It's all one big pitch out here in Hollywood – you're always trying to sell two things – yourself, and whatever else it is that you're selling. Which is why agents, if they're any good, are always trying to get people together in meetings.

"Get in a room together," they'll say. Or, "I want you guys to be on each other's radar." Or, "Just go over there and stick your head into the office. Just to put a face with the name." It doesn't really matter if the client has nothing specific to pitch. The idea here is to create a river of momentum, to keep your name out there, to sell yourself, to, to use the hip-hop lingo the kids are so into, represent.

So all over town, at any given moment, clients are sitting down with executives. For no real reason. The writer thinks it's a general face-to-a-name kind of meeting. The executive thinks it's a pitch meeting. The two of them stare awkwardly at each other until they both realize, often at the exact moment, that the only reason they're in the same room is because they've both been agented.

Once, we had a small animated project we were selling. And after putting together a pretty funny – and short – reel, we asked our agent to send it around to some likely buyers.

"I'll do better than that." He said. "I'll set up meetings."

There's nothing an agent likes more than a meeting – the little ceremonies, the Diet Coke offer, the small talk, the opportunity to read what ever's on the executive's desk upside down, the commotion and people in the waiting area, and what that might mean – so for them, it's sort of impossible to imagine a world in which there are people who don't like meetings so much.

But we had already put together a reel, so the only reason to physically have a meeting was to…I don't know, actually. To waste everyone's time.

"So we're going to stand there, as the DVD plays, and look awkwardly at the executives with a wan, desperate smile on our faces?" we asked.

"Yeah!" our agent said. "It'll be great!"

"But what if the DVD player isn't in the room?"

"I'll take care of it myself," our agent said. "The DVD player will be in the room."

Probably about a dozen times today alone, some version of this meeting has been re-enacted. Baffled client. Confused executive. A DVD on the conference room table. No DVD player in sight. But if you're an agent, that's a successful meeting. It's successful representing, in both senses of the word.

That's it for this week. Next week, pledge drive. You know you love it. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.



Rob Long