Humpy Friction represents television sitcom writer/producers. His clients are generally nocturnal, so Humpy isn’t up early. He is usually awake until 2 or 3 in the morning hanging and partying and schmoozing with his edgy writers. He has spent the better part of a decade making his career, and his word (flow of commissions) is his livelihood. He has 25 clients – 5 hitters, a dozen or so up-and-comers and a half dozen he fears he is going to have to fire at year-end – they just aren’t selling to his buyers. And firing a client is a brutal conversation – used sitcom writers don’t have a ton of gigs to fall back on. The founder of Shmoop knows this fact painfully well.
Humpy will visit the morning read-through session for his writers who do a working lunch (breakfast) at 1pm at Paramount where two of his star writers are working on a new sitcom starring Martin Sheen called Duh, which is an Irish style documentary on how to raise great kids. Sort of Brechtian theater, maybe. (That reference was for the 14 English majors who actually read this unit.)
Anyway, Humpy gains access to the read-through because he is old friends from high school with the studio exec who greenlit the project. Normally agents aren’t really allowed on set. Humpy has a gut for what will work and what won’t. This sitcom feels like a one note joke and he thinks it’ll be cancelled after its initial run. In fact, he argued with his clients, trying to get them NOT to do it – but they insisted and there was a million bucks at stake from the studio to get them to create it so… he couldn’t say no. And over time he learned that he is often wrong – crazy things sometimes work. Matthew McConaughey is a movie star, after all.
Humpy makes a mental note to prep his clients for when they are fired or the show is cancelled. So he makes a few phone calls on his drive back to the office to mid-season replacement people – he won’t use the names of his clients but he’ll mention that he may have a couple of real horses comin’ out of the pen in December. That’s more or less, the code anyway.
It’s 2:45 and he’s at the office – one of the half dozen clients he’s going to have to fire is sitting in his office, crying. “She left me.” Humpy knows the story – he’s Merlin… like he lives his life backwards, having seen this movie so many times, he knows everything that’s coming. He guesses – Marbury was drinking too much; his wife had told him to stop; he didn’t; she left. Expensive divorce. And then Humpy feels bad (kind of) – a big part of the reason that Marbury was drinking was that Humpy couldn’t find him work – nobody wanted to hire someone associated with the romantic comedy about the Klansman who fell for the Nazi spy with lanky legs. So 30 minutes into the visit, Humpy just went ahead and had the “it’s you, not me” discussion and fired his client of 8 years. He felt bad, then took a mental shower and… moved on. He knew Marbury would slowly drink himself out of whatever equity was left in his highly mortgaged house and end up fully bankrupt with children who would blame him for all of their miseries.
But as Randy says on Idol, “Welcome to Hollywood, baby!”
Humpy hops on his computer and starts going through the daily breakdowns, seeing what parts are currently available and attempting to match each one up with the best possible candidate out of his own pool of talent. Once he’s worked all that out, he submits the chosen headshots to the corresponding casting directors and hopes for the best. He also fields calls from buyers who are looking to have specific talent come in to audition. He jots down all the relevant info (time, place, what to wear, where to retrieve audition sides, etc.) and then passes this along to the talent, usually via voice mail, as they are either out working or out partying or in sleeping much of the time.
It’s 312 emails later and Humpy is ready for drinks at Four Seasons with a new client he is wooing away from a rival agency. The client wrote a great short film, which won the Student Academy Award; they then won Miramax funding to make it for $3 million into a full feature, which won a bunch of snooty French awards. The kid made two more features - which sucked - and now his last stop was television.
Humpy knew the writer was talented and sellable – but he wanted to understand the ego behind the mask – he wasn’t going to coddle him; but if the attitude was good, he’d push to sign him. The relationship between an agent and his client is a long one – in Hollywood they outlast most marriages. Humpy wasn’t going to invest tons of time and effort and his handshake in someone who was either going to fail, wash out, or generally not be anything but loyal to him for a long time.
Humpy was on wife #2; she was an actress, or had been. Has been? Dating her was the most spectacular thing in his life. Then they married. Like wife #1, she was 26. Things went downhill. He spent his 15 minutes at dinner with her and their kid who, he worried, looked a lot like their pool boy. If he married again, he vowed it wouldn’t be an actress, but she would definitely be 26.
Humpy zipped to a studio taping of How Did We Get Here?, which was the #3 show on television. Two of his rock star writers were producers. They were going to make BANK on this show when it went into syndication. Humpy wouldn’t be able to commission all of the dough that comes from their efforts but he’d cut them a sweet deal with the studio for the next 10 years and be able to pay for a small yacht.
At the taping, he sat next to the general counsel / lawyer / business development person from Fox – they niggled over another client’s deal – Humpy wanted x; Fox wanted to pay x divided by 2. Both sides were hoping to meet in the middle. The time between takes was when the negotiations happened and, by the time the show was over, Humpy had felt he’d earned his commish.
There was an impromptu party at Charlie Sheen’s house (it was a Tuesday). Humpy swung by, slapped some backs and punted on the midnight hot tub raid on the Van Halen yacht. He slunk into bed next to a snoring wife and was pleased to be asleep before 1, perchance to dream.