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  • Writer's pictureJake Thornton

How Ben and I got our first manager OR Why it’s good to be friends with Vikings

One of the questions many emerging screenwriters ask is “How do I get a manager?”

Well, the answer is there is no ONE WAY to get a manager. It is absolutely different for everyone. Ask ten screenwriters how they got theirs, and you’ll get ten different answers.

The answer for me is “I went to dinner with a Viking…”

This year marks 14 years that Ben and I have been in a screenwriting partnership.

We often joke that we stumbled into success in Hollywood because other than writing, we didn’t really know what the hell we were doing.

Ben had worked in a partnership before and had actually sold his first EVER screenplay AND it also got made. But things had gone a little south with the partnership, and he had reached out to Hollywood acquaintances in search of a new partner. I got that message, (and ignored it, ha!) but, after my new girlfriend, Siri, encouraged me to reply, Ben and I discovered we shared a love of the same movies and began writing together. (I also ended up getting married to Siri)

Our initial idea was that we were going to make a movie. We had rewritten a script that Ben had written called SilverFox. And our goal was that we were going to make a short, and then make the movie and it was all going to be so glamorous. That didn’t happen, although we did pitch it to a bunch of places.

We wrote another screenplay called Blood Soldiers, and again had the idea that this was something we were going to make. It was about vampire soldiers in the military. You can watch the short we made here.

We weren’t trying to be repped, career screenwriters. We were trying to make movies.

There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but we weren’t querying agents or managers. We weren’t career-minded necessarily. I was still writing “on the side” as I was still pursuing a career in acting in Hollywood.

But I began to feel that screenwriting was fulfilling me more than acting, and so I shifted my focus and my intention toward that. I wanted to be a professional screenwriter. I wanted to work on big Marvel movies, or write big epic sci-fi. I had a small card on my Buddhist altar which read “I am paid well to act and write”. My intention was set. I was trusting the universe that it would happen. I didn’t know HOW it would happen.

My intention set upon my Buddhist altar in 2011

My wife, Siri, was an actress and had been in a film with an up-and-coming actress called Katheryn Winnick. Kathryn was married to a producer at the time, and one night, all agreed to go out for dinner together.

This producer had been responsible for a very successful horror franchise and was a total film buff. He was super into the history of filmmaking and loved reading and studying screenplays. It was a nice casual dinner. As the meal progressed, I told him what Ben and I were up to, and asked if he would consider reading a screenplay of ours to see if we were even on the right track.

He kindly agreed. I sent him Blood Soldiers.

(Kathryn went on to have great success in the show Vikings where she played Shield Maiden, Lagertha.)

Katheryn Winnick as Lagartha in Vikings

A week later I got an email from his creative executive at his company. He said he wanted to meet me and just chat.

The meeting was on the Paramount lot and was super exciting. I sat down and chatted to his exec who had read it. He said it wasn’t right for them. That was fine, I hadn’t given it to them with the hopes they would make it, only to get some professional feedback on the script. But he said that it was good and we could write, and that he’d passed it along to a manager friend of his, who was interested in meeting Ben and I.

The manager represented a client who had just sold a spec screenplay for $3.25M.

And so Ben and I met with him.

And he signed us.

And that was how we got our first manager.

But the takeaway, and I always say this, is that while I did end up using my connections to help with my career, I didn’t go into it trying to forward my career. I went to dinner. I made a friend. I asked for feedback on a script, not for help getting repped. I didn’t go in with “needy” energy, or thinking “how can I use this person to advance my career.” Because people can feel that. And it’s uncomfortable. I’ve had several acquaintances reach out to me specifically asking for referrals to my agent or manager, and it makes me feel icky every time. Someone a few years ago offered me money to do this. No. Just no.

The best way is to make connections organically through being you. Be kind, Be open. Be friendly.

That said, when the opportunity did present itself, Ben and I were ready with a good script that landed us a rep.

I always like the saying “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.”

We were prepared. And we had an opportunity. And that was how we got “lucky”.

I’ll also say, the intention was set. I was going to be paid well to write. I didn’t know HOW it was going to happen. But I knew it would, and practised faith that somehow the universe would make it happen.

And it did.

Thanks, Universe!

As an addendum, a few years ago we went to Kathryn Winnick’s birthday party at her lovely home and I got to thank her personally for the connection all those years ago. I also got to meet one of my screenwriting idols, John Spaihts, (Dr. Strange, Dune) and we became friends.

Here’s a picture of us all together.

Me, Siri, Katheryn Winnick, and John Spaihts

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my newsletter here, where I write about writing, both for screenplays and about my first novel which (if my intention goes to plan) will be out sometime next year. You can subscribe here.

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