We all have heard about screenwriter selling a spec script for seven figures but who are the power brokers who are helping that process along? Enter Verve Literary Agent David Boxerbaum.
David is a senior agent at VERVE Talent & Literary Agency, and his impressive client roster includes the likes of David Guggenheim, writer of Safehouse; Ken Marino, writer/producer of Wanderlust and writer of Role Models; Maria Maggenti, writer of MTV’s Finding Carter; and Ransom Riggs, writer/co-executive producer of the upcoming supernatural horror thriller, Black River.
At the age of 26, David was listed as one of the Hollywood Reporter’s “Next Generation 35 Under 35,” making him one of the youngest people ever to make the list. He is known for his impeccable taste and his strong industry relationships which help him garner six- and seven-figure sales for his clients in a shrinking spec marketplace.
What is an agent like David Boxerbaum looking for in a screenwriter? How does an agent work with a client to build a career? How do you approach a Literary Agent? All will be answered in this episode. Enjoy!
This Sundance Series episode will be co-hosted by Sebastian Twardosz.
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Alex Ferrari 0:00
We have today Boxerbaum. He is a superstar, literary agent over at paradigm. And he has been known to sell many, many spec scripts in Hollywood in the millions of dollars, at least six figure to seven figure sales and he's known, known known for doing that for quite some time, he's built a hell of a reputation for himself. And I had an opportunity to sit down with him and my co host Sebastian tortoise, to discuss the spec script market, how to approach an agent of his caliber, how to get representation, what they're looking for, and how to get it out into the world. And how do you work how a screenwriter or filmmaker should work with an agent and what that process is. So it's a lot of knowledge bombs tossed out in this episode, guys, so enjoy my conversation with David Boxerbaum.
Sebastian Twardosz 2:24
All right, well, David is an agent, your talent agent and a literary agent now do you do both more literary
David Boxerbaum 2:29
agent and town agent? Avi I do have clients that are actors and actresses that actually write as well but more literary than talent.
Sebastian Twardosz 2:36
Okay, and did you always want to be an agent?
David Boxerbaum 2:39
Now I don't know if anybody if she ever wants to be an agent know I don't think I actually knew I wanted to be an agent. It all started when I was one of those kids like most kids who love film I saw went to my first movie was like That looks amazing. I want to do that someday. movie that did it. Listen, I was in love with Frank Capra. So my dad showed me It's A Wonderful Life early on. I just became a huge fan Capra fan and as it went on, you know, anything ambling wise etc in that world 80s You know, world I grew up and it was like unbelievable, Back to the Future and all that so I became in love with movies. And I said, I want to go to film school at this point. I had no quota agent does no good agent. What deals are what selling scripts, all that stuff? I went to film school and where did you go to film school? Went to NYU film school.
Sebastian Twardosz 3:34
Did you apply anywhere else or was NYU the place you wanted to go? So
David Boxerbaum 3:37
growing up in California, I grew up in San Francisco. So yeah, I grew up in California. I kind of wanted to go to USC, you would think like USC UCLA. Obviously I was the kid that wanted to leave home and like go far away.
Alex Ferrari 3:50
Right? You didn't even know the Hollywood was here.
David Boxerbaum 3:53
By the way, in hindsight, yeah, you look back and you that's where the hub of it all is. But I wanted to leave home and I wanted to go to the east coast and experience that and see what it's like to be on the East Coast and be a part of that. So I went to NYU film school and truly loved it. I mean, I was it was in love with what all it was all about making movies and screenwriting and all of that
Sebastian Twardosz 4:13
way. I just have to know did you really love it? Because a lot of people who go to film school actually don't like film
David Boxerbaum 4:18
I love I'd love to single out. Yeah, I surely Yeah, Tisch was great. But Tish, Tish was very much more geared towards what like Sundance is a more independent, more artist friendly.
Sebastian Twardosz 4:30
We forgot to say we're actually here at Sundance. Yes.
Alex Ferrari 4:34
I think everybody will know by the end.
David Boxerbaum 4:38
I went a long time ago.
Alex Ferrari 4:40
Just like the filmmakers were around was it this time was it it was
David Boxerbaum 4:43
Spike Lee was teaching there okay.
Sebastian Twardosz 4:47
From Spike Lee did
David Boxerbaum 4:48
not have a class bike lane. In undergrad the only rest was teaching there. So guys like that. But it was no i didn't have classes like that. But we're still cutting movies too. By the way. We're still Cut Yeah, of course yeah so movie Oh yeah, maybe I was so I graduated I graduated film school now I'm gonna come back to California cuz I can't afford to live in New York
Sebastian Twardosz 5:10
did you want to be when you were in so in film school
David Boxerbaum 5:13
I wanted to be a director that was my I want to be a filmmaker. I guess I'm a writer so director so I really wanted to focus my attention to my I felt like I had the creative love and passion for so when did you graduate? So I graduated in 98 got graduate 98 So came out to LA and New nobody I mean, only thing about in my youth didn't really prepare me for what LA was about to play with me about right. Tell you Yeah, because it's very like sets very Sundance in the bay. So you don't really get the UCLA USC which is like, Hey, you just you know, get in your car and drive down to Beverly Hills and get a job at one of the middle rooms, whatever it is, or one of those jobs in the production offices. I had no clue. So I came out here and was just sent out resumes got like some odd end jobs just to make ends meet. And I got a call from Jerry Bruckheimer films and demand dinner. Yeah, good man. Now, I didn't know him personally, but at the time, but give me I get a good call from one of the many assistants there when interviewed. And I always tell the story. This is the only time that I feel NYU helped me. When I was there. I go an interview and listen, there was a laundry list people interviewing for this job. It was to be like Jerry's, I don't know, eighth or ninth assistant. So you know, literally walk the dog fix a script library. Yeah, the guy is time. I mean, it's 40 now, but the time was like eight or nine assistants? And like number nine. Yeah, I was like, come on, come on. Let me walk that dog. And but it was obviously you're working for Jerry. This was a time during when Kanye was in post. No con Connor was coming with coming out. Enemy the state was in pre and the best was Armageddon was in production. So Michael Bay was roaming around the building all day. And I saw I saw I interviewed and I had honestly, no qualifications for the job much of you have to have qualification to walk. Let me tell you.
Sebastian Twardosz 7:12
So they do background checks on
David Boxerbaum 7:15
a woman who interviewed me went to NYU. And that's that's where that connection helped. And I told that story to the NYU kids a couple months ago. And it was when you got a big laugh at the class because you never know what the NYU connection was, or film school or USC or anything. So did that was there for about seven, eight months, it was an amazing experience to see that but it wasn't really integrated that much.
Sebastian Twardosz 7:40
And you actually do so you're doing more like PN type stuff?
David Boxerbaum 7:43
Yeah, totally pa stuff. We're not getting lunch, whatever. But you know, answering phones occasionally answer the phone a couple times. And Jerry would call and you put it through the number forces and demand three, number two, number one. So I did that kind of stuff. And then, you know, I didn't really know what I wanted to be still in the business. I didn't understand. I knew now. Okay, it was production. It was producers, and there was all executive and all that. But I didn't quite understand what I want to be. I knew coming out of film school, I didn't want to be the kid that ran around town broke with a film scanner on my head, nothing. There's nothing wrong with that. And it's an amazing, creative passion. If you have that you want to do that. And it's a great journey. But for me, I wanted to kind of learn the business, I just still didn't know where to be in the business. So why was there something like if you really want to learn it, you should go to work in an agency that's where the hub of it all is. That's where you learn everything. So I went from there and got a job to way more small room.
Sebastian Twardosz 8:37
How did you end up getting a job when was narrow?
David Boxerbaum 8:40
I applied? I came in I went for an interview you have like the UTA jobless Yes, almost like sounds like here. Here's what you do apply to all of them. And I think honestly, all of them turned me down minus way more. So that places for for at least 1/4 One of the best places, right? So I went there and this was during an old regime that has now obviously since changed many times. But I got a job. They're working for a guy named Lee Rosenberg, who was one of these old school types who had created an entity called triad had merged it with Wim Morris and which is really legendary agent. And the good thing about it good or bad, but anyway, look at it was he was on his way out was his last year in theory, and he was going to retire so he was in. He was in definitely a place of his life that he was ready to mentor somebody. So I was that last person to be mentor clients. Did you have your he had some of the greatest TV? TV creators? Yeah, big TV agent of our time. So I made a lot of money in a course of his career, putting TV packages on there. So that was my first introduction to agents and I was there for a year and unfortunately he did retire. And then that was a kind of an odd place there.
Sebastian Twardosz 9:51
I always think we're going a little bit too fast. Can you tell us what it was like working at William Morris at that time, like for people who get that first assistant job or do you have any Advice
David Boxerbaum 10:00
sure it was in a honestly it was it was a really if I remember it was a really fantastic time it was the place was definitely going through a change there was a there was a regime change and that's kind of also helped push my unfortunate boss out of the building but it was amazing to see such heavyweights in our business and to be around them I was on the first floor there and that's where all the real heavyweights were on the first floor to be around them and see the kind of success that they had built as a young 2223 year old kid I was on that yeah you're working you know all day you're you're doing on to them jobs as assistant that you know normally you think you want to get everyone to do and you're just but you're literally trying to learn as much as you can
Sebastian Twardosz 10:41
you lasted a year I mean cuz I you know I worked at ICM Scherzer for 18 months like most people don't even last a year totally why is it that you Why do you think you lasted that long and did that actually I loved
David Boxerbaum 10:52
it when I once I got in there and I saw literally what everybody said was true the hub of information it was all there I felt like you when you walk into an agency you feel like you've been immersed in the action you're in it right you know there's there's points in the in the business for sometimes for your effect. Sometimes you're on the outside looking in like and you want to be involved in the middle of it. I felt like at William Morris and obviously plays I work now and other agencies you feel like you're in the middle of it you're immersed in and I felt like that was what was so exciting to me. It got my blood going. It was really exciting to come to work every day. I left because my boss retired and I was in an odd place like I was in no man's land. And I got it it was really in shock got a call whether to this day, I still know how why they call me because an odd call. I got a call from two agents that endeavor and said Hey, I hear your boss retired areas every Greenberg and Richard White's airy needed a good assistant during staffing season, that time area was on the rise to become now what he is arguably one of the best TVH in town. And he needed someone to come work for him. So he said, would you come work for me I was like, great i in what's endeavor basic, I didn't really know what they thought was kind of still a startup so to speak. So I went over there. Was that above islands? No, they just move up there. They were in their building above islands. Yeah. Crazy. So I was I spent about two and a half years there working there. And there's an amazing time because that place was growing. So I was at a place that was a monolith to a place that was now starting up and really expanding of buying itself and really becoming a real, you know, factor in the business and these agencies, young agents who are now kind of legendary agents of our time, partners, you know, owners of agencies, were all young coming up in the business was really great to see that and see the rise of that kind of learn and soak it all in.
Alex Ferrari 12:49
So one question I've always had about agencies, you know, I know there's a lot of politics Sure. How is it? Like, is it basically like what they see an entourage? Was it that kind of like, cuz you were saying, like, I was in a weird place? Sure. Like, because you're your boss is gone. So now you're like, what's the power for I
David Boxerbaum 13:07
mean, there's always politics and I think in any off in any surrounding business or any, especially an agency because me it's interesting, you know, it's only the only the few survived right to get an agent, right? And you put so many years into it, you could put three, four or five years consistent and then realize one day that you're not going to make it like now and you spent all that time making little note little or no money, you know, busting ass every day for 14 1314 hours sometimes a day to make no money to literally not make it so is there politics? Yeah, because you're trying to become the guy that gets noticed guy gets noticed the one that best the other and the one that gets the bump to the next level deal. So
Sebastian Twardosz 13:48
the secret sauce to that are just
David Boxerbaum 13:50
honestly, what I always tell in this not jumping to heaven, I tell my students now is that blinders on and focus, like everything else is great, there's gonna be a lot of things that can be distractions, but the blinders on and focus these, this is the time if you want this, you have to focus and just go for it. And literally, you can't let any distraction get in your way. So is there a secret sauce? It's the distractions of the outside world, the social scenes, the the things that will take you away from part of it. I
Sebastian Twardosz 14:17
mean, it's Sure, sure, but like,
David Boxerbaum 14:19
I mean, are you in there in the morning, the last one to leave while you're reading another person? Are you on the weekend doing more than you have to do to to impress your boss? Are you at night going out for a drink? But are you back, you know, at one o'clock at night to read a script before you go to the app at seven o'clock in the morning? Like I'm warning you now. So it's just are you going the extra effort to do it? You know, and we'll actually think
Sebastian Twardosz 14:41
burnout is I should ask you about this because we're at this point. Sure. Because burnout is a big thing in the business. Do you have any excuses I should ever be part of the business. What do you have to do you have any notes or comments on that?
Alex Ferrari 14:52
Cuz that I mean, that's hell, but
Sebastian Twardosz 14:55
actually, at one point,
David Boxerbaum 14:57
I think I think you hit a wall and like everybody's career You know, there's points where you hit a wall and you say, wow, you know what is what's next? And can I? Can I get over that wall just professionally and mentally and physically right? But if your passion action for me speaking for myself only here, if you're passionate and love what you do in Asia and to me, it's different every day because there are so many noes in our business, right? All we hear 99% No, right. Not good enough. Didn't like it didn't do well at the box office. No, no, no, no. That one yes. When you get it, it makes everything else feel like it never had never happened never existed. And that one, yes. Is what gets you to the next day. And I think, for me, the passion of that, yes, a passion of success of seeing your clients grow, as Why wake up in the morning come to work, you know, and I think, you know, obviously, my family, you know, trying to build a career all that is so much part of it as well. But in purely about agent team that get that yes, is such a gratifying part of of the business and part of the job that you live for.
Sebastian Twardosz 16:03
So a lot of people don't, because people just look at it from their point of view, you know, so if you're a writer or director, and you you're used to getting no all the time, what's what's interesting as agents get more nose probably than anybody because I know, from like, it's hard. But think
David Boxerbaum 16:18
about think about also, as an agent, what you deal with the negativity, the know, the all the things that you shield the client from, you know, people always say, Oh, you're like a therapist, you know, deal with clients issues, their own issues, personal issues, as long as a career issues. There's some truth to that, of course, but you think about if you add all that up and and on daily basis, it's this No, no, no. And you're you're taking all that in to answer questions or burnout. Sure, because you're dealing with so much negativity on daily basis. But the positive things that confirmation to the wonderful experience of getting a yes, and building careers, and breaking careers, and seeing clients grow and movies open and do well. And being on sets. It's so much offsets the other stuff. That's all worth it to me.
Alex Ferrari 17:04
So when so let's say you obviously were more literary now, right? Sure. And you're known for selling a lot of high end spec scripts. I had some success. You've had some success on spec scripts. So what would you suggest? Well, first of all, what do you do with a with a client when they first come? You've just signed a new guy sure. And or new guy or girl and they've got a spec script that you like, what's the next step?
David Boxerbaum 17:25
So I'll just say five ways I'll tell you where to start. You know where I got to where I actually said yes, yes. So your endeavor I'm endeavor I worked for Eric Greenberg richer whites and already many well
Sebastian Twardosz 17:40
for argument Yeah. I was working for because we're gonna leave we're definitely gonna get to to just ask but I want to hear like when he gets made agent to because it's gonna be cool.
David Boxerbaum 17:51
Man, you're in a part of society? Yes. Yes. I'll show you a secret handshake.
Sebastian Twardosz 17:57
David Boxerbaum 17:59
awesome. I mean,
Sebastian Twardosz 18:01
this is where he's like self censoring.
David Boxerbaum 18:07
I am as
Sebastian Twardosz 18:10
you know, he doesn't know Yeah.
David Boxerbaum 18:11
Honestly, I'm as confident my career has ever been. I'm confident who I am. And I'd be the first one to admit if I thought anybody did think. Not a short time Sure.
Sebastian Twardosz 18:23
No, would you really endeavor
David Boxerbaum 18:26
to have a truly unbelievable to watch the way he he does is he goes about his business, the way he conducts his business, and his business in general, you know, and the man is, is truly the best of the best at what he does. So it's very high. It's very
Sebastian Twardosz 18:41
just the time the effort the calling, effort, the
David Boxerbaum 18:43
effort, the passion, the drive, I mean, that's that talk about burnout. I mean, I everything he does is burnout but the drive to want more and succeed and all the hurdles that one may face along the way to get over them. Back to me, so So then I took a little detour so that endeavor was a good question. So
Sebastian Twardosz 19:09
at the top you're working for orient Ori, like you
David Boxerbaum 19:12
know, didn't know where my place was and the company didn't really under have an understanding of it.
Sebastian Twardosz 19:16
Yes. And down realize how good
David Boxerbaum 19:20
you had an ammo Did you did you
Sebastian Twardosz 19:23
have a decent Do you did you realize how good you had it? Or did or did you have a good I don't did you not have I think I
David Boxerbaum 19:28
had a good I don't think I you know, it's like if I had the Christmas Carol and I can look at you know that my life right? Yes, sure. I would tell my tell young boxer balm that I had a really good and that just to focus and stay and think the different things have worked out unbelievably amazing career and I always think the path I took let me meet my wife and kids, family all that right. So all that path was made was great for all that. Having said that, I think there was an element of naivete in the way I just happened. So
Sebastian Twardosz 20:01
I it's important to have mentors or people that right and sure can absolutely, absolutely than you that can say to you, you know,
Alex Ferrari 20:10
we'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
David Boxerbaum 20:21
Absolutely. But I actually don't regret that what I did is in what I did was I took a small detour from agent teen and went into the production executive ranks, yes, and then worked for a company called Archeo pictures, which has been around for years, many, many years, and had this great library of titles, some of the ohms and they didn't, that you know, the hurdles you face that every day but, and I spent a year trying to put title remakes together and all of that. And, you know, it was exciting experience was also I quickly learned that what I missed from the ancient world was that every day excitement, the you know, the rush that things are moving, things are shaking, and I felt like in the working world, it's a slow down to a halt, right. It's a big,
Alex Ferrari 21:07
it's a different development.
David Boxerbaum 21:11
Just, and I lived in, I lived in looking back, it's amazing, because we had this really wonderful library of great titles that now is probably even more enticing to many, many filmmakers. But then at a time, when you had a lot of great filmmakers who want to be a part of Archeo, because they grew up and love these old titles. So we had some fantastic opportunities to meet people and, and kind of become, you know, contacts and friends and work with people. But again, I quickly learned after a year that I wasn't familiar, I went back into at&t, but kind of had to start kind of take a step back. But I had to kind of start a different size agency and went to a place called metropolitan where I worked for four years there. And it was a great four years agent was it metro was metropolitan. So I went right from assistant there me so I went right from executive to agent major, me back and facing me from you know, whatever, they do a background to be an assistant other places. And they need a young covering agent they could pay no money to and just come in and hustle. And
Sebastian Twardosz 22:15
guys, let you first I remember your office they're like, guys,
David Boxerbaum 22:19
let me tell you what I had when I tell you I had to come in and I had nothing in my corner, you know, nothing in my corner but pure drive and, and a little naivete, which was good, by the way. It was good. Yeah. Because it was it was all an uphill battle. And it was a really amazing experience because at that point, nothing was given. We were small agency, not a huge literary department. And we face hurdles trying to compete with the big boys right I'd come to Sundance this got 1617 years ago and try to sign directors and all then writers and I mean no one ever heard of Metropolitan we were a small little place and sure it was so many great things that came out of there and have blossomed to really fantastic careers but it was a small little place and so after four years spec sale first spec So do you remember it? I don't I don't shell Yeah, guy should have probably prepared flash don't read otherwise. There's been so many I'll just play my old age
Alex Ferrari 23:27
Yeah, no, we have four scripts on the other side of the room.
David Boxerbaum 23:31
So by Monday, you kidding. But I
Sebastian Twardosz 23:35
what you're selling scripts there and stuff. I mean, it was mostly
David Boxerbaum 23:39
online. I was doing TV and feature. So it was I was mostly trained in TV at that point. So I went in there as a real as a TV agent. But I quickly kind of started to also learn the feature business I was doing both. And by the way to this day, that has been a huge asset in my careers. I knew both fields. I do much more feature film now on TV, but I've had success putting recently Queen TV shows on the air and all that but that having both those assets in my repertoire has done so many great things for my career because it gives clients kind of the comfortability that they can come to me and know that I have the knowledge and wherewithal I mean I hope I do well I believe I do to understand both mediums. It's a rarity. I
Alex Ferrari 24:19
think so what's the actual because I know a lot of people listening would love to know what's the inside look at like selling a spec. Like you've got a client
Sebastian Twardosz 24:27
sure you've got a script that you believe in, well, how did they find the first place
Alex Ferrari 24:30
but sure we I mean, we could go back to like, Okay, how do you how do you even get how does that script get to you?
David Boxerbaum 24:35
Sure. I mean, listen, I always say and there's so many different ways a great script and gets in my hands but we say great material rises to the top it's like cream to somehow find its way to the top and it can be in so many various ways from you know, relationships to you know, friends who give it to you to you contest you read to other agencies they leave from and you try to be that guy that poses Don't cheese. But sometimes circumstances arise that something like that does happen. And so it's different different ways it comes Tickity. But you know, selling selling a spec, which, you know, I'm very proud to say it has some success in is, there's no secret science to it. Having said that, I think I've, to my own end have kind of found a formula that works, and found a formula that has has allowed me to have the accessibility to people that necessarily I wouldn't have had before. But most importantly, it comes down to the material itself. And I just feel like, for me, personally, I trust my tastes and trust my, my, what I'm reading, if I love the project itself, and I feel like take it out, I feel like my track record taken out usually leads to nothing what so you've been you've built
Alex Ferrari 25:52
already a reputation ledger, I mean, Dave is bringing in must be at a certain level.
David Boxerbaum 25:57
Sure. I mean, I have always told this anybody I speak to whether it be film schools or conferences, whatever that you know, all agents have in this town, I think his taste and their respect, right. And, and I think respect integrity. Once you lose one of them, you're in trouble. Once you there's both you're done. And for me, I've always prided myself on on on keeping those intact, the best way possible. And I pride myself on just having great taste. And there's no magic to that. It's the old saying, you know, when you see it, no, when you read it is so true. I just know what I respond to and I love and what I respond to and I love and take out the marketplace has just had a lot of success, do you?
Sebastian Twardosz 26:41
What's your process of actually doing this? But
Alex Ferrari 26:44
let's set it up. Like with your client, like you have a new client, you have a spec Do you believe in? What's the next step?
David Boxerbaum 26:49
Sure. So let's use a recent example. So as recent as last weekend, so clients had given me a spec, that was a in theory, a small drama, but not really when you looked at what the story was about historical drama. And it was about auto Frank who And Frank's father, who in his journey to after his daughter, obviously is perished. And he's now escaped the camps or left the camps in the war is over to get his diary published in the same kind of timeframe, or your different timeframe, but they do meet up at the end was this amazing editor named Barbara Zimmerman with a double day and she had found the diary in like a pass then down at the at her office. And it was her journey to get that that diary published as well. So the story of these two people's journeys to get this what now is obviously arguably one of the you know, most well known Diary books of our time published the way it works. So trip was phenomenal. So I read this, you did take yourself in an era where transformers DC Marvel movies, how was that movie going to find its place in the marketplace? But I knew a not only was a writing superb, like, this is a universal story of hope of the will to succeed the perseverance. Everybody knows the book. I felt like this definitely, definitely what specially what's going on in the world today. This would find its place might not be that big studio might not be it, but it's gonna find its place somewhere. So I tested it out there and why test it out. When I do my test things out in the marketplace. I'll give it to a few tastemakers that I love if I get any when of interest. And I'll be very honest with them upfront and say listen, this is the plan just so you know, I'm very upfront about it. And once I caught interest from the few teachers and like I gave it to I knew I had something so
Sebastian Twardosz 28:49
you're slipping into them. Do you? Do you slip it like a day in advance a couple days?
David Boxerbaum 28:53
Depends if I if I'm focused on maybe that tastemaker works for a director that's of high caliber that needs more than a day. I'll give him more than a day but there usually is a 24 to 48 hour window in my process that I give somebody to read the tastemakers are these other agents? No, these are these are producers executives in town. Okay, so that's an also an error now where I think specs have gone from they go out one day takes like a few days people to read it and you find out really where you are in a place of selling or not selling it within like a week or two. I've been thankfully blessed that still my specs go out and I'll know within 24 to 48 hours on my cell phone, you know, I'll know pretty fast, based on again my reputation of selling them and having a taste whatever. So this thing went out on a Friday. By Friday night, there was heads of studios all over us. Because because the producers had given to we had allowed them to go to their certain territories, their studios, and we had heads of states and it went so fast that night that I didn't even have time this happened to me numerous times. but this one really took one optical zone. I didn't even have time to get certain signals involved, the big tbid Because it was going so fast. And in hindsight, I probably should just gave it to them. But it just it was moving at lightspeed a Friday night. And, you know, the scripted comfort zone, these had the studios. By Saturday morning, we started the offer started coming in. And by Saturday evening, we had six or seven offers, they had offered up to where they were and Fox Searchlight one a day, and it sold within 24 hours. But
Sebastian Twardosz 30:33
I want to draw down this a little bit if I can, because this is Evan script, who is a friend of mine. The difference with this one is they're not they weren't totally new writers that you had sold a spec of theirs last year, too, wasn't it? Actually, I
David Boxerbaum 30:45
did not sell that spec at all the other agency that they had been at it sold it ah, they had unfortunately, felt like the agency they were right there. Funny story, they came in they met with me and my colleagues and they didn't end up signing with me Shame on them, they came back so myself and myself, my colleagues and I kept in contact with them over the course of a year here let allow the other entity to do their thing didn't like wasn't like time to really make them make them uncomfortable or or not happy. But unfortunately, their agency just didn't do what their guest was promised them. They came to us cut to
Sebastian Twardosz 31:28
that's what their defense, one of them worked on agencies, one
David Boxerbaum 31:32
of them worked there to escape it, you know,
Sebastian Twardosz 31:40
okay, cuz I was gonna ask like, how did that first one happened because that was also the first one.
David Boxerbaum 31:44
It was also the first one. The first one went out that first one I mean, I know the story, the first one out and went to a bunch of places and it probably should have gotten a better reception. It didn't in the sense of selling to a bigger place. It sold to an amazing producer basil wanted it just to get the financial sell that they wanted a thoroughly this one. This one did very, very, very well for so one question has this one, but this one was, so just summon up. So that cells that night. One of them had just came to see me and I don't think I'm outing him by telling the story. It's just I think a wonderful story about you know why we do what we do want them to just come in and see myself. They a couple days before that would be Wednesday, and had had said basically listen, I need to I need to figure out what I'm doing here. We need to like just get going financially for my family. For everything, I just, there's a little bit of anxiety, there's a little bit of concern, you know, and so when you hear those things, you kind of read through the lines, you know what's going on. And you know, you feel like you're sitting there man to male somebody who has children, whenever you're like, you know, you want to do what you can do. So that actually because I was by no means usually you go with a spec before, there's a whole thing before Sundance theory, whatever, because Sundance is the kind of afternoon start kind of a kickoff of the new Spanish spec season, whatever it is. But hearing that I just was like, man, the man, I have a family of my own. I just felt a real like, you know, responsibility to myself and to him to really see what I could do quickly. To then call him and tell him that we had accomplished this money with money, his life changing for sure. was an amazing experience. But then to hear later on, when he told his wife and his wife was in tears, he told his mom and his mom, it validated for his mom, he could be a writer and you can have success. This is not his first script was for script. Other one again sold for this
Sebastian Twardosz 33:38
one was significantly bigger than his versus high six figures.
David Boxerbaum 33:41
Yeah, this is the first one was not even the same stratosphere Oh, six, maybe not even the same sheet. Right? Is fear? Yes. That you know, yeah. No, not life changing money. Jobs? No, no. Right. So and once again, it's not always about the money. It's about what this did about it. His career as a writers, all of that, again, was was on a Saturday afternoon, which doesn't really usually happen on Saturdays was really a very defining, again, moment of why we do what we do. And if it was ever a moot point, up to that point, if I had felt burnt out, or was having a tough time, that gets you revitalized again.
Alex Ferrari 34:21
So how often and no, this is a story that I hear all the time. When you sell a spec strip, let's say they sell for a million or high six figures or whatever. How many get produced? Because there's so many that being are bought constantly. Yeah, but they just sit on a shelf. I never understand that. So do you have any insight on
David Boxerbaum 34:38
that? Yeah, I mean, it's just so hard to get movies made these days with, you know, original content, which doesn't necessarily make it to the screen these days, as much as we want it to be. Since you know, since the years like, like years past, I would say I'd have 10 One or two who make it to the big screen, which is really, really sad and scary. A big there. Thanks. I mean, the the transaction is they have to have that opportunity to at least have it on their shelf and the property undershelf just but if it comes down to a numbers game, it's that or make the next Batman Marvel or Batman whenever you go for the sure bet, right? Because how many Yeah, how many of the, in his business? How many of these new original content kind of projects? Have we seen that come out and didn't do? Well? How many? I mean, I look at the list every year. These are acquisitions at a Sundance of all the movies a Carson's and then what they do at the box office, and you look and you go, you just get headshaking Yeah, and the year before wasn't very good. I mean, it's just really head shaking. And so it's good
Sebastian Twardosz 35:39
agents, selling movies. A lot of money here. Yeah, that's what you do.
Alex Ferrari 35:43
It was so impressive to even see something like Avatar, that is such a huge risk. Yeah. On a brand new property with nothing. And they spent what 400 $500 million on that? Yeah,
David Boxerbaum 35:54
I mean, that by that point, you're betting on a filmmaker and saying, well, obviously they'll go down with the ship on with him. Yeah, yeah, exactly. You know, I think at that point, but yes, you're right. I mean, it's just I mean, I mean filmmaker, not an avatar. There's no IP built in there and nothing you know, no major major stock to start nothing you know, rolled it it rolled it but but but to be able to say from the guy who brought you Titanic brings you answer avatar, yeah, of course brings you I mean, that's that right there. You know, so sadly, not as many as you'd like to see but I still hold hope that studios realize that this is a business of original content and an original creativity real voices, and that there still is a want in need and a passion for Deadpool. But they it's still based on a marvel. It was erotic but a very obscure my
Alex Ferrari 36:48
right and it was done for a think 35 or 40 minutes. Very shoot and in theory a shoestring for them and they change and they change the genre. Yeah, for sure. Because it took a risk.
Sebastian Twardosz 36:57
Totally. I want to switch it up a little bit. talk a lot about writers How do you break a director? Yes, please or a writer to director or just a straight director? You know, what do you look
David Boxerbaum 37:08
for a director purely going to be about the vision of what you see the product for me? Again it's similar to writing is that when you see something it's very visionary when you see a movie that you say that that to me there's there's a point of view there's a vision the way they deal with their shot selection the actor's all that. To me that's what has to stand out these days. How do you break a director? Do you they're going to be from a film they've already done that Garner that gets you know rave reviews in town you kind of obviously have to get him in front of everybody could possibly can that movie
Sebastian Twardosz 37:39
genre matter? No, not at all. Because I've seen some great dramas like I always go back to Spider was great. Yeah, really good show from you can find it on Vimeo I think Yeah. Which is that's just the way they they directed the actors.
David Boxerbaum 37:53
Yeah, not at all. I mean, no donors genre as a matter of genre matters. Only in short films. I believe. That's where genre does stand out. And you look at a short film like we were involved with, like lights out for example, right? I mean, it's simple little shorts. That you know, wasn't unbelievably a visionary but it had a really great hook to it. That's now led David Sandberg to have a very illustrious career and Bill and growing so in short to me, I feel tend to feel comedy and horror are the ones that really stand out unless you do some very visual visual visual effects. Stimulating you know,
Sebastian Twardosz 38:27
like Tron or one of those guys there's a film called ruin right? Yeah really. But yes runner yeah Tron Guy too. Yeah,
David Boxerbaum 38:35
but yeah, West bar did ruin ruin West bossman years you know just hustle and trying to get things made and everything and find us ruin and ruin the Reds Maze Runner but I mean I think baking director is even that much harder because in your asking studio to give a new in theory filmmaker X amount of millions of dollars to make a movie you know put it in their hands extremely hard but it's Jessica board of directors,
Sebastian Twardosz 38:58
directors audition now to write they have to go
David Boxerbaum 39:02
to get a ribbon reel at the particular rip reels have to put together
Sebastian Twardosz 39:06
what does that mean? Every director have to do this now.
David Boxerbaum 39:08
You wouldn't say I went to every director I would say people
Sebastian Twardosz 39:11
not the well known
David Boxerbaum 39:12
newer directors. I would say that most new directors are breaking into the scene unless they were pinpointed by the executives or by the studio by the producers that this is the person they saw they saw something they already seen they already seen something that that told them that they knew understood the vision of the movie would have to at least put something on on film on screen that will show their vision of what they can do look look something that shows somebody and by the way, I tell all my directors to do any of that no matter what when they go into a room to audition for it
Alex Ferrari 39:41
but like a lot I've noticed that Marvel specifically has been using a lot of new directors lately, especially one that is a cheap one that I did this
David Boxerbaum 39:50
Alex Ferrari 39:54
Did I did Spider Man spider web. Yeah, yeah. But it's like how to go from 500 days of scupper.
Sebastian Twardosz 40:00
Yeah, all the time. Like the olden days, I would never have like, because if you, this is what the system is set up to do,
David Boxerbaum 40:09
because you if you look at what Marvel's what Marvel wants to be known for is, is giving your characters depth and giving your character something that layered much more than just blowing up buildings and all of that, right. And you look at what those movies at those kids people have broken out in those movies. So all those movies are present is is just real actors type pieces. And I think that's what Marvel looks for.
Sebastian Twardosz 40:32
What's not just marvel, everyone's I mean, everybody call in trouble. Get your Sundance movie, and then what they'll do is they'll just surround you by, you know, excellent DPS. Excellent. Yeah. Other filmmakers that are tastic. And they want your point of view.
David Boxerbaum 40:44
Yeah, it's honestly a breath of fresh air to see these, you know, these young filmmakers breaking out I think it's great. Yeah, it's a new a new vision for all these movies is wonderful, you know? So I'm all for you know, I mean, sometimes it's risky, but close.
Alex Ferrari 41:00
Close. So what would be advice you would give someone just starting out as a screenwriter, try and break it
David Boxerbaum 41:06
well, so for StreamWriter I mean, simple, same, but great writers, right, which is first and foremost. So if you were scream louder, continue to hone your craft. I always say, you know, I'm a I'm a film school kid that came out here and became an agent, right? I don't think I had the fortitude. I guess I maybe did or didn't to, like put in the time effort to be a director or do all that. But so I commend anybody that puts in the effort to be a writer and sit down and put pen to paper and all that. I think it's an amazing, amazing job and I think it's amazing passion and unbelievable, unbelievable creative outlet. Having said that, so many writers think they're writers and say they're writers yet don't write don't actually put do the work right, they toss a talk a lot. Now she do it. So first thing first is to write. Secondly, is just to get immersed in this world as much as possible, doesn't mean you have to live out in LA Sure, it helps to be around the business and be not. I hate to say bubble of Hollywood, but just be immersed and understand it. Enter contest, read as much as you can about the world of screenwriting and your craft and just understand and know your craft know what it's all about, you know, understand the business that we work in. I think it only makes you that much more. I would just say ready when the success hopefully comes you
Alex Ferrari 42:29
know, now is that a prerequisite to write your first script in a Starbucks in LA. Every time I go to Starbucks
David Boxerbaum 42:38
laptop, it's shifting. Now you can do coffee bean repeat. So it's one of those three half of you,
Alex Ferrari 42:44
anybody who's not in LA get that when I first moved here, I was like everyone's writing a script.
Sebastian Twardosz 42:52
So I was a writer I don't like to do that because I'd want like noise which noise I way too easily distracted like it's just me it's like the Jewish thing in me I don't know I'm just like right away I'm like, wait, what's going on over here? You know, like a dog and up in me went away so
Alex Ferrari 43:10
So breaking the director,
David Boxerbaum 43:13
director is I would say just go out and shoot some shoot every whenever you can. There's so many more opportunities now to be to have your I talked about this when I was talking to the kids man, my you students in my you have your stuff now uploaded on YouTube. I mean, formerly fine, obviously, all these places where people can see your stuff, Emil, I think he's had to go out and shoot, get a camera, you know, invest in something, whatever it is on iPhone, I don't care what it is to shoot something, do it and just start to build and again hone your craft and build your resume when I do suggest features or shorts. Well, I mean listen either or is fine, but it's not me it's hard. I mean, it's hard to go out and shoot a whole feature you know, I mean, you know I'm not saying max out your credit cards and go severely I mean that but like if that's what your passion and love is.
Sebastian Twardosz 43:57
Do what Yeah, but you can break somebody in just a short. Sure. Absolutely. So it's good enough and sure enough, absolutely.
David Boxerbaum 44:01
It's it's harder, but you can of course I think studios are a little bit more resistance to giving somebody isn't given somebody a shot just off a short film, but it's done for sure. But just you know, to break to get your start in directing. I always think film school is great, but most importantly just go out and shoot do it. She won't do it again. I commend anybody that does it just go out and do it. Yeah.
Sebastian Twardosz 44:28
A couple what you mentioned contest so like nickel fellowship Austin's yes that comes to mind you actually I mean attention to them. Absolutely. I
David Boxerbaum 44:35
mean obviously the film school want to be pay attention all of that Sam a golden we pay attention to that. Anything in the blacklist I think Franklin lettered site is such a is is very connected to the Hollywood scene and very in touch the Hollywood scene and we've had great success with the blacklists say. But you know, again, I mean, it's it's so there's not one way or right way. It's just continue to right now,
Sebastian Twardosz 44:59
and do most of your classes usually have a manager before they get to you or does it matter?
David Boxerbaum 45:03
And that's a matter. I mean, I'd say now. Now I'd say a good, I'd say a high percentage of my clients have managers. But at some but not it changes sometimes they come to me, you know, manage some of them to do with a manager. And when it comes to lawyer, so chain, it's different every time and you work together with them as a team. Yeah, the client Yeah, the best thing can happen to a client is that everybody's unified in the approach to the career right? We're all in sync, whenever if there's a if there's a crack in that system, then something's not working, right?
Alex Ferrari 45:31
Do you normally do you sit down and strategize like absolutely career path? Like yeah, I you know, get the script then from here, we're going to do this.
David Boxerbaum 45:39
I mean, I'm much more hands on the approach of agency than most I'd say. Most agents are much more transactional and like in this not knocking other agents is a lot of them are transactional, it's like just getting the job done and so on onto the next I'm very, I get very immersed into note process and making sure again, that everything has my stamp of approval when it leaves the office because again, it's my taste and my integrity and respect out there. So
Sebastian Twardosz 46:04
and by the way, it's not the be all and end all for script to actually sell I mean, as long as the script is really good even if a spec doesn't sell an assignment absolutely assignment but you also did the rounds you get to your
David Boxerbaum 46:15
horse but you know, a great piece of writing even if doesn't sell still a great piece of writing that's gonna get garnered a lot of interest in different areas for you of course, you know, whether it be film or TV wherever it is, so it's doesn't always have to sell and someone to spec isn't necessarily a high percentage these days. Again, I've had some good success but the percentages aren't necessarily they're not the 90s 90s Let me tell you
Alex Ferrari 46:41
what like someone like Max Landis who's been doing sure insane specs lately he's also writes like incredibly few rights ridiculous out there just completely puts up but he's kind of like, like from what I've read he's starting to bring back a little bit of this this shame black days you know, when he sold the weapon and long has been
David Boxerbaum 46:59
doing really well for himself. I mean, to see that but you see a turn
Alex Ferrari 47:02
Do you see studio starting to go down? Like hey, let's pay big money.
David Boxerbaum 47:06
I can only speak for myself, I can't speak for you know, Max or anybody else I can pick for me and Mike, my clients. I have seen a great boom in a spec mark. Okay. Most people would say you're out of your fucking mind for saying that. You have me a spec market. You know, it's all about perspective. Perspective. I mean, keeping the blinders on. I don't care what all the noise is. To keep the noise out, you know, but now I just have seen a great a great success in that world. Great.
Alex Ferrari 47:38
Very cool, man. Thank you so much.
David Boxerbaum 47:39
Thank you guys. Great fun thank you. I have a lot of fun. Thank you for having me here. Of course I'm now have to go out and brave the crazy blizzard. It's gonna be outside. Yeah, they're nothing like a little Blizzard Sundance. But thank you guys. And obviously continued success to the everything you guys are doing to thank you. Thank you for being here. Thanks, everyone
Sebastian Twardosz 47:55
Alex Ferrari 47:57
It was amazing talking to David. He was a wealth of information. And it's it's an avenue that I really have never gone down. I've never talked to anybody of his caliber, and really getting inside information on what it's like to sell spec scripts, how it changes people's lives, his clients lives. And also looking at it from an agent's perspective, not only from the screenwriters perspective, and what they're looking for, and what he's looking for, and how he works with his clients, and that whole mentality, so I was really excited to have him on the show. And David, if you're listening, thank you, my friend so much for being on the show, and helping drop some knowledge bombs. And of course, thank you to my co host, Sebastian Tordoff, from circus Road Films and Adam Bowman, from media circus, who are our CO hosts and CO production on these special Sundance episodes. And if you want links to anything we talked about in this episode, just head over to indie film hustle.com, forward slash BPS 011. And there have put David's contact information so if you want to reach out to him, you can and if you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. It really helps us out a lot and gets helps get the word out on what we're trying to do at the bulletproof screenplay. Just head over to screenwriting podcast.com And as always, Keep writing no matter what doctor said.
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