What You've Always Wanted To Ask A Hollywood Manager & Producer: An Interview with Jake Wagner

Friday 23 April 2021

Bringing back a guest favourite today at Into The Script, welcoming Hollywood Manager & Producer Jake Wagner. From award-winning short films to major box office hits including
Stuber and Crawl, Jake kindly shares with us his top tips about finding success in this industry.

Hi Jake, a huge thank you for joining me at Into The Script! My readers are so excited to hear your insights and advice, and it’s always a pleasure speaking with you.

1.You’re a seasoned Hollywood Producer & Manager, the founder of Alibi Entertainment and previously at Good Fear Film + Management, with Box Office credits such as Evidence, Killing Season, Stuber and Crawl. If anybody knows what it takes to succeed in this industry, it’s you.

With the circumstances we’ve all found ourselves in during the pandemic, do you have any advice for writers when it comes to trends or concepts that they should steer away from?

And additionally, are there any concepts you think would be more successful to explore in a post-pandemic environment for writers? For example, self-contained horrors that allow minimal sets, characters etc.


Hi, so glad to join you again and thanks for having me!

In my opinion and from what I’m seeing, any spec script or idea that is about the pandemic, or a heightened version of the pandemic is not working out there, I just think we’re all fatigued with that in our daily lives. 

Looking past our current situation it will be interesting to see what trends come out of this period in our lives. I believe that both Horror and Comedy will be booming coming out as great horror generally comes from unsettling times in our world and we def could all use a hundred good laughs. 

I personally am already super focused on both Horror and Comedy projects and ideas and am seeing success in the marketplace on setting them up right now.

2. There’s always a lot of discussion about the best way for writers and filmmakers to submit a query. What makes a positive first impression in a submission query when it lands in your inbox?

For the most part I would say queries do not work as so many of them come in weekly to reps that it almost becomes spam, there are much better ways to get your writing discovered than queries. 

That said, I myself do sometimes read the loglines so my best advice is to keep it super short and sweet. 

Say something complimentary specific to that person to get their attention such as congrats on their last movie that came out etc, then state the genre, title and 2 sentence logline of your project. 

Throw in a this meets that at the end if you want, “it’s The Hunger Games meets Knives Out, or it’s The Hunger Games on Mars, and say you have a pdf copy ready if interested. 

Polite and to the point. 

If you don’t hear back do not follow up, if you don’t get a response it’s a pass, or they did not bother to read it at all even.

3. What are your top 3 tips for writers looking to make their pitches a successful one?

One of the new and interesting things that came out of doing business in the pandemic is pre-recorded video pitches. 

The few I have seen are a great mix of the writer pitching the story edited together with scenes from other movies that are similar to what is being described. 

It is a 20 minute sizzle reel with a narrative pitch intertwined. To do a great one will take some time and resources or access to editing software, but if done well it’s a super efficient and no pressure way to take out a pitch. 

The video link is sent to all the buyers and they can set up a Q & A afterwards or just buy it. I think this format will exist after the pandemic, tho we will also go back to pitching in the room. 

As for top 3 tips, first you want to deliver the pitch as if you are telling a friend a fun story from the night before, casual and cool. 

Second you want to keep it around 20 minutes. Third you should include a visual deck to either walk through during the pitch on an i-pad or laptop, or for a leave behind. 

This visual deck should have potential actor pictures, setting pictures and general mood & tone pictures as well. 

If you go the extra mile such as a video pitch, or visual deck it really helps in the odds of selling your story.

4. What do you feel transforms a mediocre story into a great and marketable concept?

Ultimately you just need a unique and original story, something we haven’t seen before. Does it help it it’s high concept? Yes of course. 

But I would argue that Nomadland is not a high concept story, yet it’s a world we haven’t seen before and an interesting character on the journey through that world. 

If you’re going to tell a story about a spy, which is something we have seen a hundred times, then bring a new twist to it, a new layer or wrinkle. 

What if there was a James Bond film that was not about 007, but was about Q, the head of the research and development division of the British Secret Service. 

Of course we don't have the rights to James Bond, but I use the example of an idea for a new way into a spy movie. 

That is a new POV, a new type of “Hero” in a story we have seen many times before, so it brings a fresh perspective on a tried and true format and genre.

5. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given for working in this industry, and would you mind sharing with us?

Some good advice I got when starting out was to say yes to every opportunity in the business that came my way and through all those experiences you will find out what you’re most passionate about and then you can lock in on that as a career path. 

I would suggest that for aspiring writers as well. Say yes to helping your friend shoot their short film, who knows you may love being on set and being behind the camera as a DP or Director. 

Take an acting class and you’ll get a whole new perspective on what actors go through. 

You’ll either find another job in the business that appeals to you or the experience will strengthen you as a screenwriter, either way you will be making contacts and networking and fuelling your passion for storytelling.

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