SPECIAL SUNDANCE EDITION of the Indie Film Hustle Podcast
We all have heard about screenwriter selling a spec script for seven figures (see Max Landis) but who is the power brokers who are helping that process along? Enter Paradigm Literary Agent David Boxerbaum.
David is a senior agent at Paradigm, 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!
Alex Ferrari 3:12
Now today, this is another Sundance Special Edition episode we have today David Boxerbaum. He is a superstar, literary agent over at paradigm and he is 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 tornados 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 4:18
All right, well, David is an agent, your talent agent and a literary agent now both?
David Boxerbaum 4:23
More literary agent and town agent and I do have clients that are actors and actresses that actually write as well but more literary than talent.
Sebastian Twardosz 4:30
Okay, got it and did you always want to be an agent?
David Boxerbaum 4:33
Man, I don't know if anybody actually ever wants to be an agent. No, 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. A movie that did it. Well listen, I was in love with Frank Capra. So my dad Tell me It's a Wonderful Life early on I just became a huge fan Capra fan and as it went on you know that anything amblin wise etc in that world you know world I grew up in 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 quit agent does no quit agent when a weapon deals are what someone scripts all that stuff went to film school and
Sebastian Twardosz 5:26
Where did you go to film school?
David Boxerbaum 5:27
Went to NYU film school
Sebastian Twardosz 5:28
Did you apply anywhere else or was NYU the place you wanted to go?
David Boxerbaum 5:31
So 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 yeah you would think like USC I was a kid that wanted to leave home and like go far away right?
Alex Ferrari 5:44
Even though Hollywood was here
David Boxerbaum 5:46
I know. By the way in hindsight you look back you know that's where the hub of it all 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 I was in love with what all it was all about making movies and screenwriting and all of that.
Sebastian Twardosz 6:08
I just have to know did you really love it because a lot of people who go to film school actually don't like for my loved ones go there
David Boxerbaum 6:13
I'd love to Yeah, I surely Yeah, tissue is great. But Tish Tish was very much more geared towards what like Sundance is more independent more artist friendly
Sebastian Twardosz 6:24
You forgot to say we're actually here at Sundance yes
Alex Ferrari 6:28
I think everybody will know by the end
David Boxerbaum 6:32
I went a long time ago
Alex Ferrari 6:34
Just like the filmmakers that were around was it this time was it
David Boxerbaum 6:37
It was Spike Lee was teaching there okay. So Spike Lee did not have a class Spike Lee
Sebastian Twardosz 6:43
Now in undergrad The only
David Boxerbaum 6:46
Was teaching there so guys like that, but it was no I didn't have classes like that but um we're still cutting movies. Oh by the way we're still cutting off of course yeah so movie Oh yeah. Movie always Yeah, all of that. So I graduate I graduate film school now I'm going to come back to California because I can't afford to live in New York
Sebastian Twardosz 7:04
Did you want to be when you were in
David Boxerbaum 7:05
So in film school 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 graduate 98 so came out to LA and new newborn I mean only thing about NYU is it didn't really prepare me for what la was about to be about right yeah because it's very like it's 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 mailrooms 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 to know yeah good man to now I didn't know him personally but at that time, but give me a good a good call from one of the many assistants there went in interviewed and I always tell I love the story. This is the only time that I feel NYU helped me when I was there. I go and interview and listen there was a laundry list of people interviewing for this job used to be like Sherry's I don't know eighth or ninth assistant so you know literally walk the dog fix a script library Yeah, the guy is nice at night time I man I mean, 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. Overnight let me walk that dog and but it was obviously you're working for Jerry and this was a time during when he's Hania wasn't post no Connie Connor was gun was coming out enemy the state was in pre and the best was Armageddon was in production. So Michael Bay was rolling around the building all day. And I say so I interviewed and I had honestly no qualifications for the job as much as you have to have qualifications. Let me tell you
Sebastian Twardosz 9:06
So they do background checks on
David Boxerbaum 9:09
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 funny I 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 I wasn't really integrated that much.
Sebastian Twardosz 9:34
And what did you actually do so you're doing more like pm types stuff for
David Boxerbaum 9:37
Yeah totally pa stuff we're not getting lunch whatever but you know answering phones occasionally and it answer the phone a couple times enjoy recall and you put it through the number four Senhor number 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 executives and all that but it 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 in 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 the way Morris mailroom
Sebastian Twardosz 10:31
How did you end up getting a job?
David Boxerbaum 10:32
Well, I applied and I came in I went for an interview Did you have like the UTA job list yeah someone's like sounds like here here's what you do apply to all of them i think i think honestly often turn me down minus William Morris. So that place one for for this one for one of the biggest Best Places right so I went there and this was during an old regime that has now obviously since changed many times but uh and i got job they're working for a guy named Lee Rosenberg was one of these old school types who had created an agency called triad had merged it with William 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 last year in theory and he was gonna retire so he was in he was in definitely in a place of his life that he was ready to mentor somebody. So I was at last person to be mentor. He had some of the Greatest TV TV creators Yeah, big deviation 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 at&t and I was there for a year and unfortunately he did retire and I was a kind of an odd place there.
Sebastian Twardosz 11:46
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 literally like for people who will get that first assistant job or deserve any advice?
David Boxerbaum 11:54
Sure. It was you know, 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 it was it was a regime change and that's kind of also helped to 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 in the first floor there and that's where all the real heavyweights were on the first floor they'd be around them and see the kind of success that they had built as a young 2223 year old kid I was nuts yeah you're working you know all day you're you're doing odd jobs as assistant that you know normally you think you have to get everyone to do and you're just but you're literally trying to learn as much as you can
Sebastian Twardosz 12:35
But you lasted a year I mean because 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
David Boxerbaum 12:46
I loved it when at 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 you you flex sometimes you're on the outside looking in like and you want to be involved in the middle of it and I felt like at William Morris and obviously places I work now and other agencies you feel like you're in the middle of it you're immersed in it 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 an odd place like I was in no man's land and I got it it was really inside got a call whether to this day I still know how why they call me goes an odd call. I got a call from two agents that endeavor and said hey I hear your boss are tired areas Eric Greenberg and Richard Weitz 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 TV agent 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 are. It's kind of still a startup, so to speak a shirt. So I went over there was that when they went above islands? No, they had just moved 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 as 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 and finding 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 and coming up in the business and was really great to see that and see the rise of that kind of learn and soak it all in.
Alex Ferrari 14:43
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 on entourage? Was it that kind of like, because you were saying like I was in a weird place? Sure, likely because you're your boss is gone. So now you're home. Like what's the power for
David Boxerbaum 15:01
I mean there's always politics and I think in any off in any surroundings in business or any especially an agent team because I mean it's interesting you know it's only have only the few survive right to get an agent right you put so many years into it you could put three four or five years my assistant and then realize one day that you're not going to make it like now and you spend all that time making little note little and 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 though
Sebastian Twardosz 15:41
Is there a secret sauce to that or just?
David Boxerbaum 15:44
Honestly what I always tell in this not jumping ahead of him I always tell my students now is that blinders on and focus like everything else is great and it can be a lot of things that are gonna be distractions put the blinders on focus these this is a time if you want this you have to focus and just go for it and literally you cannot eat attraction get no way so is there a secret sauce It's the distraction of the outside world the social scenes the things that will take you away from them part of it I mean sure, sure but like an I mean are you in there in the morning the last one to leave are you 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 112 o'clock at night still read the script before you go to the app at seven o'clock in the morning like a morning you know so it's just are you going the extra effort to do it you know and well actually you think
Sebastian Twardosz 16:35
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 I mean every part of the business what do you have to do you have any notes or comments on that? Because that could be I mean that's a hell of a library I'm actually one
David Boxerbaum 16:50
Yeah i think i think you hit a wall and everybody's career you 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 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 aging To me it's different every day because there are so many knows in our business
Alex Ferrari 17:15
David Boxerbaum 17:15
Right not good enough didn't like it didn't do well at the box office no no no that one yes when you get it it makes everything else feel like it never 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 is 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 of 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 the business and part of the job that you live for.
Sebastian Twardosz 17:57
A lot of people don't because people just look at it from their own point of view you know so if you're a writer or director and you're used to getting no all the time what's what's interesting is agents get more nose probably than anybody because in my mind all the time in front right
David Boxerbaum 18:11
It's hard but think about think about also as an agent what you deal with the negativity the know the all of the things that you shield the client from you know, people always say oh you're like a therapist you 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 in an on daily basis, it's 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 a daily basis. But the positive things that confirmation in 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 set. It's so much offsets the other stuff, it's all worth it to me.
Alex Ferrari 18:58
So when so let's say you obviously read more literary now right? Sure. And you're known for selling a lot of high end spec scripts. I've 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 19:19
So I'll just say By the way, so I'll tell you where to start you know where I got to where Patrick says yes yeah so your endeavor I'm endeavor I worked for Eric Greenberg Richard White's and already many well for our for our
Sebastian Twardosz 19:35
I was working for because I we're gonna leave we're definitely gonna get to to just ask but I want to hear like when he gets made agent, too, because it's gonna be cool.
David Boxerbaum 19:46
You're in a part of society. Yes. Yes. I'll show you a secret handshake.
Sebastian Twardosz 19:48
David Boxerbaum 19:53
Awesome. I mean,
Sebastian Twardosz 19:55
This is where he's like self censoring.
David Boxerbaum 20:01
I am as confident
Sebastian Twardosz 20:04
You know, he doesn't know Yeah,
David Boxerbaum 20:05
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 20:17
Sure, no, would you really endeavor
David Boxerbaum 20:20
A truly unbelievable to watch the way he he does his he goes about his business, the way he conducts his business, and his business in general, you know, the man is, is truly the best of the best at what he does. So it's very, it's very
Sebastian Twardosz 20:35
Just the time the effort the calling everyone back,
David Boxerbaum 20:37
The effort, the passion, the drive, I mean, that's that talk about burnout. I mean, you think everything he does is bring up the drive to to want more and succeed. And all the hurdles that one may face along the way to get over them.
Sebastian Twardosz 20:52
Enough about R.E
David Boxerbaum 20:56
So So then I took a little detour. So that endeavor was a good question.
Sebastian Twardosz 21:02
So at the top, you're working for R E, like, you
David Boxerbaum 21:07
Didn't know where my place was. And the company didn't really under have an understanding of it.
Sebastian Twardosz 21:10
Yes. Young and down. realize how good you had an ammo Did you? Did you? Was that part of it? Do you think do you did you realize how good you had it? Or did or
Alex Ferrari 21:20
Did you have a good?
David Boxerbaum 21:22
I think I 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's 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 anything different things have worked out unbelievably amazing career. And I always think the path I took led me to me might meet my wife and family, all of that. Right. So all that path was made was great for all that having said that, I think there was a element of naivete in the way I just happened.
Sebastian Twardosz 21:54
So I it's important to have mentors or people that right, Sure. Absolutely better than you that can say to you,
David Boxerbaum 22:02
You know, absolutely. But I actually don't regret that what I did is and what I did was I took a small detour from agent teen and went into the production executive ranks. Yes, and I worked for a company called archeo pictures, which has been around for years, many many years, and had this great library of titles Sure, some they own some 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 a exciting experience was off. So I quickly learned that what I missed from the ancient world was that every day excitement, the you know, the the rush, the things are moving, things are shaking NFL, like in the past, keep any broken perseroan world it's a slow down to a halt, right? It's a big,
Alex Ferrari 22:49
It's such a slow development.
David Boxerbaum 22:54
And I lived it, I lived it. And there's no 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 the time, when you had a lot of great filmmakers who wanted to be a part of archeo, because they like 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 wasn't for me, I went back into at&t, but kind of had to start kind of 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 at Metro it was Metropolitan Yeah, I went right from assistant there me Sorry, I went right from executive to agent me back in Beijing to be from you know, whatever. And I knew I had a background to be an assistant other places and they needed a young covering agent they could pay no money to and just come in and hustle. And
Sebastian Twardosz 23:57
When I let you first I remember your office they're like
David Boxerbaum 24:00
Guys, guys, let me tell you when I 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 not a little naivete, which was good, by the way. 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 that writers and I mean no one ever heard of Metropolitan we were a small little place and sure and there's so many greats that came out of there and have blossomed into really fantastic careers but it was a smaller place and so I after four years I SPECT sail for first spec sale. Do you remember it? I don't, I don't know. Yeah, guy should have probably prepared for those. Don't read In so many play my old age
Alex Ferrari 25:09
yeah no we have four scripts and the other side of the room
David Boxerbaum 25:13
so by Monday I'm kidding
Sebastian Twardosz 25:17
but I what you're selling scripts and stuff I mean it was
David Boxerbaum 25:21
I was doing I was doing TV and feature so it was I was mostly trained in TV at that point I went in there as a real as a TV agent but I quickly kind of started to also learn the feature business so 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 doing TV shows on the air and all of 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 that's a rarity I think so
Alex Ferrari 26:02
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 sure you've got a script that you believe in well how
Sebastian Twardosz 26:11
do they find the first place but
Alex Ferrari 26:13
surely I mean we could go back to like okay, how do you how do you even get how does that script get
David Boxerbaum 26:17
to you? Sure. I mean listen, I always say and there's so many different ways a great script gets in my hands but I always say great material rises to the top it's like cream to somehow find its way at 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 tried to be that guy that poaches mother agencies 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 I've had some success in is there's no secret science to it. Having said that, I think I've to my own and 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 thinking out usually leads to knock on wood so you've been
Alex Ferrari 27:34
you've built already a reputation ledger I mean David says bringing it must be at a certain level
David Boxerbaum 27:39
Sure. I mean, I have always told this anybody I speak to whether it be at film schools or conferences whatever that you know all agents have in this town I think his tastes and their respects right. And and and i think respect integrity you can once you lose one of them you're in trouble once you this 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 to the marketplace. I just had a lot of success. What do
Sebastian Twardosz 28:23
you What's your process of actually doing this, but
Alex Ferrari 28:26
I 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 28:31
Sure. So let's use a recent example. Okay, 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 Otto Frank who and Frank's father who in his journey to after his daughter obviously is perish and he's now escaped the camps or left the camps and the war's over to get his data diary published in the same kind of timeframe or year 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 path been 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 literary works so ship was phenomenal. So read this, you get to hear yourself in an era where Transformers DC Marvel movies, how is that movie going to find its place in the marketplace, but I knew a not only was a writing to perb like this is a universal story of hope of the will to succeed the perseverance everybody knows the book. Like this definitely definitely especially what's going on in the world today. This would find its place might not be the big studio might not be, but it's gonna find its place somewhere.
Alex Ferrari 30:11
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
David Boxerbaum 30:22
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 wind 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
Sebastian Twardosz 30:43
you're slipping into them do you do you slip it like a day in advance a couple days?
David Boxerbaum 30:47
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 it 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 now these are these are producers executives in town. Okay, so listen in also an era now where I think specs have gone from they go out one day it takes like a few days people to read it and you find out really where you are in the 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 a cell phone now I'll know pretty fast, based on again my reputation of selling them and having a taste whenever so this thing went out on a Friday. By Friday night, there was heads of studios all over us because because the producer had given to we had allowed them to go to their certain territories, their studios, and we had heads of students and it went so fast that night that I didn't even have time this has happened to me numerous times but this one really took one off to go like this zone. I didn't even have time to get certain studios involved the pink tbid because it was going so fast. And in hindsight, I probably should just gave it to them but it just it was moving in lightspeed a Friday night and you know the scripted life zone these had the studios by Saturday morning and we started the offer started coming in and by Saturday evening we had six to seven offers they had offered up to where they were and Fox Searchlight won the day and it sold within 24 hours.
Sebastian Twardosz 32:27
I want to drill down into this a little bit if I can because this is Evan script who yeah 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
David Boxerbaum 32:39
I actually I did not sell that spec or the other agency that they had been at had sold it they had unfortunately felt like the agency they were at right they can't 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 right so myself on my side My colleagues and I kept in contact with them over the course of a year period 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 the agency just didn't do what they get that was promised to them they came to us cut to
Sebastian Twardosz 33:22
what was in their defense one of them worked at that agencies one
David Boxerbaum 33:26
of them worked there to escape it you know
Sebastian Twardosz 33:34
okay cuz I was gonna ask like how did that first one happened because that was also it
David Boxerbaum 33:38
was also the first one the first one went out that first one I mean I know the story that first went out and it went to a bunch of places and it probably should have gotten a better reception that didn't in a sense of selling to a bigger place it sold to an amazing producer basil one it just didn't get the financial sell that they wanted certainly 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 sells 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 it's just I think a wonderful story about you know why we do what we do when we just come to see myself Dave a couple days before that when we 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 the spec before there's a whole thing before Sundance theory, whatever, because Sundance is the kind of afternoon to start kind of the kickoff of the new spec season, whatever it is, but hearing that I just was like 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 right? money's 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 validated for his mama he could be a writer and you can have success this is not his first script as for script other one again sold for
Sebastian Twardosz 35:31
this one was significantly bigger than his verses high six figures yeah this
David Boxerbaum 35:36
is the first one was not even the same stratosphere oh
Sebastian Twardosz 35:39
David Boxerbaum 35:41
maybe not even the same stratosphere as that you know? Yeah. No, not life changing money. Jobs No, no,
Alex Ferrari 35:47
David Boxerbaum 35:48
So and what and 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 there was ever more point up to that point if I had felt burnt out or was having a tough time that gets you revitalized again.
Alex Ferrari 36:15
So how often I know this is a story that I hear all the time when you sell a spec script let's say you sell for a million or hi six weeks or whatever, how many get produced because there's so many that being are bought constantly Yeah, but they just sit on a shelf and never understand that So do you have any insight on
David Boxerbaum 36:32
that? Yeah, I mean it's just so hard to get movies made these days with you know, original content it doesn't necessarily make it to the screen these days as much as we'd want it to be since you know, since the years like like years past I would say out of 10 one or two will make it to the big screen which is really really sad and
Sebastian Twardosz 36:52
scary a big there blanks
David Boxerbaum 36:54
I mean the the the transaction is they have to have that opportunity to at least have it on their shelf and the property on the shelf 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 it is 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 is their acquisitions at a Sundance of all the movies a quarter sentence and then what they do at the box office and you're looking to go head shaking Yeah, and the year before wasn't very good. I mean it's just really head shaking. And so it's good agents
Sebastian Twardosz 37:33
selling movies a lot of money here Yeah, that's what you do.
Alex Ferrari 37:37
It was so impressive that you can see something like avatar that I'm such a huge risk yeah on a brand new property with nothing they spent what 400 $500 million on that yeah,
David Boxerbaum 37:48
I mean that by that point you're betting on a filmmaker and saying well obviously go down with the ship on with him literally Yeah exactly. You know I think at that point but yes you're right i mean it's just I mean film filmmaker not an avatar there's no IP built in there and nothing you know no major you know major stop doing star nothing you know rolled it rolled it but but to be able to say from the guy who brought you Titanic brings you an avatar Yeah, of course. I mean that's that right there you know so sadly not as many as we'd like to see but I still hold hope that studios and realize that this is a business of original content and original creativity original voices and that there still is a want and need and a passion for the Deadpool Batman still based on a Marvel product but a very obscure ma right
Sebastian Twardosz 38:42
and it was done for I think 35 or 40 bucks,
David Boxerbaum 38:45
very shoot and in theory a shoestring for that
Alex Ferrari 38:47
and they change and they change the genre. Yeah, for sure. Because it took a risk
Sebastian Twardosz 38:51
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 for
David Boxerbaum 39:02
a director purely gonna 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 actors all of 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 going to get you know rave reviews in town you kind of obviously have to get in front of everybody could possibly can that movie
Sebastian Twardosz 39:33
genre matter? No, not at all. Because I've seen some great dramas like I always go back to spider was a really, 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. Yeah,
David Boxerbaum 39:47
not at all. I mean no, Donner's 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 For 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 in building 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 something very visually visually show effects stimulating you know
Sebastian Twardosz 40:21
like Tron or one of those guys anyway there's a film called real end right yeah really but yes runner yeah Tron guy too
David Boxerbaum 40:28
yeah but yeah West ball did ruin ruin West Bossman years you know just hustling trying to get things made and everything and if it does ruin and ruin lead yeah read that read it based on her 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 and put it in their hands extremely hard, but it's just as rewarding as
Sebastian Twardosz 40:52
directors. directors have to audition now to write like they have to
David Boxerbaum 40:56
really have to put together rip rules have to put together what does that mean look every direct you have to do this now. You won't say I wouldn't say every director I would say people
Sebastian Twardosz 41:05
not the well known
David Boxerbaum 41:06
directors I would say that most new directors are breaking into the scene unless they were pinpointed by the executives or by the studio or 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 would show their vision of what they can do it looks like something that shows so some and then 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 41:35
but like a lot I've noticed that Marvel specifically has been using a lot of new directors yeah lately especially the one that does
David Boxerbaum 41:42
a charm what john is a cheap one that I did this by john Carr
Alex Ferrari 41:48
first name when I did Spider Man spider man yeah boy yeah yeah man. But like how to go from 500 Days of Summer Yeah.
Sebastian Twardosz 41:55
All the time like that
Alex Ferrari 41:56
I started in the old days I would never have because
Sebastian Twardosz 42:01
this is what the system is set up to do
David Boxerbaum 42:03
because you if you look at what Marvel's what Marvel wants to be known for his his 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 that those kids people have broken out and there's 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 42:26
what's not just Marvel everyone's I mean yeah, are you all 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 sure antastic and they they want your point of view
David Boxerbaum 42:39
yeah it's honestly a breath of fresh air to see these that you know, these young filmmakers breaking out I think it's great yeah, it's a new a new vision for always movies is wonderful, you know, so I'm all for it. You know, I mean, sometimes it's risky it implodes occasionally.
Alex Ferrari 42:54
So what would be advice you would give someone just starting out as a screenwriter try and break it
David Boxerbaum 43:01
well it just was so frustrating matter I mean it's simple saying but great writers right? Which is first and foremost. So if you were a screenwriter 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 don't I guess I didn't 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 of 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 also 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 being that 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 know?
Alex Ferrari 44:23
No, is it a prerequisite to write your first script? No Starbucks in LA. Every time I go to Starbucks, I
David Boxerbaum 44:30
have to be honest, this laptop is shifting. Now you can do coffee bean repeat. So it's one of those three half of you wanted anybody who's
Alex Ferrari 44:39
not in LA don't get that. Yeah, when I first moved here, I was like, everyone's writing a script. Yeah.
David Boxerbaum 44:46
So I was a writer. I don't like to do that because I'd want to make noise much noise. I'm 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 in up you I mean right away
Alex Ferrari 45:05
so breaking the director
David Boxerbaum 45:06
director is I would say just go out and shoot shoot whatever you can there are so many new opportunities now to be to have your and I talked about that when I was talking to the kids of NYU students are you have your stuff now uploaded on YouTube I mean formerly fine obviously all these places where people can see your stuff me oh I think you just have 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 and I do suggest features or shorts well I mean listen either ORS fine but it's I mean 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 all your credit cards and go severely I mean that but like if that's what your passion and love is do whatever
Sebastian Twardosz 45:51
you can bring somebody on just a short sure absolutely sure it's good enough and sure enough
David Boxerbaum 45:55
absolutely it's it's harder but you can of course I think studios are a little bit more resistance to giving somebody is this into giving somebody a shot just off a short film but it's done for sure. But just you know to break in to get your start in directing. I always think film school is great but most importantly just go out and shoot do it show out and do it again. I commend anybody that does it just go out and do it
Sebastian Twardosz 46:22
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 46:29
mean obviously the film school ones who pay attention or that SAML golden we pay attention to that anything in the blacklist I think fragment lettered site is such a is very connected to the Hollywood scene and very in touch to Hollywood scene We've had great success with the blacklist 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 write and only
Sebastian Twardosz 46:53
do most of your clients usually have a manager before they get to you What does it matter?
David Boxerbaum 46:57
Well that's a matter I mean I'd say now I'd say a good I'd say a high percentage of my clients have managers but at some but not that is changes sometimes they come to me you know manage them and come up with a manager and when it comes to the lawyer so change 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 is unified in the approach to the career right we're all in sync ever if there's a if there's a crack in that system then something's not working right
Alex Ferrari 47:25
and you normally you sit down and strategize like like career path like yeah, I you know get the script then from here we're going to do that
David Boxerbaum 47:33
I mean, I'm much more hands on in the approach of Atrazine 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 to 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 47:58
and by the way, it's not the be all and end all for scripts actually sell I mean as long as the script is really good even if a spec doesn't sell an assignment absolutely at assignment but you also do the rounds you get to keep
David Boxerbaum 48:09
course but you know a great piece of writing even if doesn't sell still a great piece of writing that's going to get to get garnished 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 so I want 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 1990s back Let me tell you
Alex Ferrari 48:36
what like someone like Max Landis who's been doing insane specs sales lately I mean
Sebastian Twardosz 48:41
he's kind of writes like incredibly fast he writes ridiculous
Alex Ferrari 48:43
output you're just completely puts out 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 showed me the weapon and long has been
David Boxerbaum 48:53
done really well for himself I mean let's see that but you see a
Alex Ferrari 48:56
Turn you seem studio starting to go down like hey let's pay big money
David Boxerbaum 49:00
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 and a spec mark. Most people would say you're out of your fucking mind for saying that. You have me the stock market you know it's all about perspective. I mean keep the blinders on. What's going on? I don't care what all the noise is cut to keep the noise out. But now I have seen a great a great success in that world
Alex Ferrari 49:30
Great. I think that's very cool man. Thank you so much.
David Boxerbaum 49:33
Thank you That's great fun thank you I had a lot of fun Thank you for having me here of course I'm now I have to go out and brave the crazy Blizzard it's going to be outside we have like a little Blizzard Sundance but thank you guys and obviously continued success to the everything you guys are doing.
Alex Ferrari 49:47
Thank you. Thank you for being patient.
Sebastian Twardosz 49:49
Thanks everyone for listening.
Alex Ferrari 49:51
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 you 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 on the indie film hustle tribe. And of course, thank you to my co host, Sebastian Torres, from circus Road Films, and Adam Bowman, from media circus, who are our co hosts and co production on these special Sundance episodes, and I just got back from Sundance, so I'll be I'm warm again. I swear to God, guys, I felt like it was the shining out there. Every morning, I would wake up, and it would be three feet of snow out there. I'm like, Oh my god, where's jack nicholson is he gonna come through the door, and he's second with an axe. It's calling Hey, yours, Johnny. But uh, it was a wonderful trip. Man. I loved loved loved loved this trip was my favorite trip to Sundance ever, I got to meet such amazing people make some great connections party a little bit, which, as a father of two, you don't get to do very often. So I was really grateful for that. And I also realize I'm not 21 anymore, so I can't party as hard as I used to. But it was a lot of fun guys. So again, everyday this week, and next week as well. I'm going to be putting out all these special edition Sundance episodes. So you guys are going to be in for a tradesman daily podcast five days a week, I think don't get used to it. Because I don't think I could keep that up. But we'll be going on for the next week or two. And as well as all of these interviews will be on my YouTube channel and will be put in the show notes of each episode. The show notes This episode is indie film, hustle, calm Ford slash 131. But I will be putting up all the videos as well as well as some other special videos I took while I was at Indy at Sundance, and doing a little street interviews with people that we ran into and it's gonna be a lot of fun guys, you're gonna see a lot of stuff coming out of indie film hustle over the next few weeks from Sundance, and then an on to then cinequest and going through through that whole adventure. So I can't explain to you how excited I am. I've been holding on to that information now for a cup almost a couple months now. And I wanted to tell you guys but I was sworn to secrecy. So today I can finally tell you that we got into cinna craft world premiere at cinequest. Super, super excited. So thank you again, guys so so much. And guys, if you like what we're doing at indie film, hustle, please share it, please send it to your friends, please post it on Facebook, please retweet, repost, share, do anything, you can't get the word out, it really helps us out a lot. We're growing at an exponential rate. And it's all thanks to you, the tribe and helping us get the word out on what we're trying to do. And what I'm trying to do here at indie film, hustle, help as many filmmakers as humanly possible. So, thank you again, so so much. Keep that also going keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.