2015 Writers Panel: Writing for the Screen + Stage

This year’s Writers Panel features writers from shows including:

  • HBO’s Girls and Looking
  • Showtime’s Nurse Jackie
  • Plays including GracelandHushabyeand Smart People
Also joining our writers is literary agent, Alexis Williams. Hope to see you there!


Adventures of a Summer Intern: “Any Last Question?”

Although I was ecstatic to begin working at Bret Adams, I find it a little funny how little I knew at the time.  It’s now my final day at Bret Adams Artist Agency, and my final day in New York City. I’m already packed and have checked out of my apartment.  When I leave the office at either two or three—a little early because it’s Friday and it’s summer—I’ll be headed back to Ohio for a break before the school year begins.

Goodbye Card from the Office
Goodbye Card from the Office

I have made a group of great new friends who I am genuinely sad to leave, but will be happy to visit every time I’m in New York. We’ve spent the morning listening to composer submissions, looking over some designer drafts and enjoying a final lunch in the office. “This is it,” Alexis, my mentor, said. “Your last day. So what have you learned, and if you have any last questions, ask them now.” And I am surprised by just how many questions I still have about the job and the industry, but I suppose that just speaks to how intricate the job can be. It continues to teach and fascinate.

Exactly what I’ve learned is a hard thing to formalize. I think back to my first phone interview and all of the questions I had about what an agent does in their day-to-day work. It’s not an easy answer, because in this line of work day-to-day is an oxymoron, the work itself defies that kind of repetition and easy summery. Certainly I’ve learned how to write a contract for venues that range from local theatres with under 100 seats to Lincoln center productions with massive casts and huge opening nights; I’ve been able to meet some of the generations most venerated playwrights, and had a small but crucial hand in making sure their work continues to be produced; and I’ve even been able to take on some of my own independent projects. But it’s some of the smaller more specific elements—things that would have been impossible to anticipate on my first day—that I’ve really loved about the job.

Take Johnna Adams, a mid-career playwright whose play “Gidion’s Knot” I drafted some contracts for and eventually read. I have loved most of the plays I’ve read this summer but “Gidion’s Knot”, along with many of Johnna’s other plays, were something else entirely.  Her voice is so peculiar, outrageous and one hundred percent genuine that I couldn’t help but fall in love. Her themes of feminism and religion, and amazing adaptation of classic horror tropes makes me feel like her work was written just for me. I can’t imagine a greater feeling for an agent than the finding of a piece so specific and special that you would go almost any distance to see it produced. It’s rare to find a play that feels like it was written for you. So I can’t imagine how rare it must be to be able to help write the publishing contract and meet that author. But that’s what the job is, at its core, after all of the other “day-to-day” tasks are stripped away, it’s finding important writers and giving them a voice.

When my parents visited earlier in the summer my mother asked the very motherly question of whether this is something I could see myself doing after school. Although at the time I was unsure, and the future is infinitely unpredictable, I can now say yes. This job was a great fit. It was a great job. And it has been a great summer.

Jon Gleason is a rising senior RTVF major at Northwestern and is currently interning at Bret Adams Ltd. in New York, NY.

Adventures of a Summer Intern: It Is What You Make Of It

As I hurdle into my fourth week here in New York City, Bret Adams Artist Agency has presented me with some of the most unique and relevant experiences to my future career. I’ve seen Carson Kreitzer’s commencement performance for her seven year stay at the New Dramatist, deliberated over tactics to move Mary Zimmerman’s new work to a New York Stage, and met some of most talented, precedent setting young artists on the new-works scene. There are few places I would rather be this summer.

Past Posters
Posters from famous New York premiers

But, along with all of these amazing opportunities there is a whole section of the interning world, which goes unmentioned.  These are the anticipated, unavoidable aspects of a job that are boring, tedious, and generally uninteresting– the day to day, phone calls, filing, mailing and researching that comes hand in hand with any entry level position or internship. They aren’t painful experiences by any means, but they pale in comparison to the excitement and engagement required by other aspects of the job. Perhaps this is part of the reason why they aren’t talked about.

It becomes easy to trivialize these tasks as the type of coffee fetching mule work that defines a bad internship. Certainly such bad internships exist where the sole benefit to the intern is a resume credit and polished coffee ordering skills, and my point is not to say anyone should suffer through an experience that offers no real value.  Rather, I’ve found that even in an ideal situation there are undervalued aspects to any line of work. So what to do when confronted with these less engaging tasks? I’ve found that there is an equal opportunity to learn, even in these less engaging aspects, but that they demand the simple work of choosing. They require you to find value on your own, where it is not immediately present.Jon Filing

On slow days I spend a sizable amount of time reviewing contracts to be mailed out to designers, writers, or producers. This ‘reviewing’ consists of taking two purportedly identical contracts and examining them line by line to make sure that they do, in fact, match. This is not the most engaging work, and it’s easy to begin examining the contacts on a purely visual level. What I mean is, it’s easy to stop reading for content and start comparing for similarity. But these documents are also a wealth of information about what it means to be an agent. In each of these contracts are the rules for fair engagement between artist and Production Company, precedents about payments and royalties, agreements about travel expenses and first production benefits. Not only that, but between the lines of these legal documents are the personalities of the writer and the production company. In short, even in the most tedious task there is a potential to learn and engage with a new profession.

I’ve found that rather than biding my time, waiting for something more interesting to happen, by reading each of these contracts–even through the legalize–and asking questions when I don’t understand, I know infinitely more about being an agent than I would have if I had lulled myself into complacent comparison.  In the end your internship is what you make of it.

Jon Gleason is a rising senior RTVF major at Northwestern and is currently interning at Bret Adams Ltd. in New York, NY.

Adventures of a Summer Intern: NYC In Just a Week…

At the beginning of the summer I had breakfast with my father who was in town to help me move into a new apartment on Lafayette Street.  Sitting at a diner across from my apartment, he asked me what I expected out of the city. At the time I didn’t know what to expect. Having now spent some time working and living in New York, I can say that if you spend the summer in the city you can expect a season of dilated time and all manner of people in disarray. It has been less than a week, but I already feel like it’s been months. With so many people to meet, placed to visit, and things to do there are never enough hours in the day, and never a dull moment. Already I’ve learned more about the city in less time than I ever expected, though I do have a tendency to board trains headed towards Queens when I need to be headed downtown and vice versa. And contrary to what I expected, I’ve found everyone to be incredibly pleasant and helpful. In fact, more than anywhere else, a barista or neighbor in New York City cares, and is inclined to ask you what you’re reading, if you need anything, or where you’re working.

In answer to that question, I’m working at Bret Adams, a literary agency housed in a brownstone just off tenth street, situated in what I’ve been told is the fashionable neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen. Bret Adams LogoMy daily trek to work takes me through Time Square and past as many theatres as you can imagine. With only four employees—two junior agents and two partners—Bret Adam Lit. Department lives up to the term boutique.

Bret Adams Building
Bret Adams Office Building

This means there is a lot to do and a lot to learn, but ask me what exactly a Literary Agent does and I couldn’t yet tell you. This is because the job is infinitely complicated, and I only started on Monday. Thus far what I gather is that Agents hold a lot of meetings with both well founded and new playwrights to discuss their work and possibly representation, and they broker contracts with regional and city theatres for the playwrights they represent.

What I can tell you however is what a Lit. Agent intern does.  My job consists mainly of reading plays, seeing shows, sending letters, and developing a generally familiarity with the theatre scene in New York.  In just a week I have had the opportunity to read and give notes on five or six developing plays. I read and edited a new inspiring collection of 100 short essays about mothers in the theatre.  Today I’m reviewing some contract templates to familiarize myself with the general agreements between production companies, playwrights, and agencies, and later I’ll be seeing a reading of a new musical. Tomorrow who knows? As promised, the life of an agent changes day to day, but if that’s the first week, I am anticipating an exciting summer.


Jon Gleason is a rising senior RTVF major at Northwestern and is currently interning at Bret Adams Ltd. in New York, NY.

The Internship Search: Answering the Unknown Questions

Hi Northwestern, I’m here to talk about something—which for better or worse, sooner or later—is on everyone’s mind.  Internships. They may be the most indispensable learning opportunity for undergraduates studying communications, but how do you get one, why do you need one, what technically is a cover letter anyway? I am a junior in the School of Communication looking for my first internship, so I certainly do not have all of the answers. What I do have, and what you have too, are some great people and some excellent resources on our side. I hope you will join me on my search for New York City internship, and let my experiences inform and improve your searches.

If there is a place to begin it’s several months ago, when I was wrought over the intern question—a question that can quickly turn into what do I want to do with the rest of my life.  I would recommend against this thinking, your internship is only the first stepping stone to a career.  There is a reason they call it getting your foot in the door, not walking in and making a scene.

I knew the resources, SoConnect, CareerCat but I discovered it was difficult to use these resources productively when I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and believe me I had no clue. All of the job descriptions came across as vague and boring, because I knew I couldn’t commit to them long term. I may have been a film major but I had wandered through the film scene trying on and then abandoning an array of possible careers like old shirts:  Director, Producer, Casting Agent, and Lighting Designer. What I realized after several weeks of serious thought and stress was that my only obligation is to my own happiness, as is yours. The best way to discover what you love naturally is to examine those things you do regularly without external motivation.  For me that passion had always been writing, particularly prose writing.  It’s not something I ever really thought about. It wasn’t anywhere in my major description, but I thought, maybe I’ll do something with that.

I landed, after much thought and more searching, on literary agent.  For those of you who don’t know—as I certainly didn’t—a literary agent is the gate keepers of culture, the pruners of prose…or to some the crusher of dreams.  They decide and advocate for what gets published and what does not. They also negotiate the payment and legal side of publication deals. The job demands a keen eye and lots of reading, but it also opens the door to the publishing world, and you are directly rewarded for your ability to assess the future value of projects. From what I can tell it is the job for me, not an end goal but a starting place, not anything I thought I would be doing, but what I am striving for at the moment.  This is something I can commit to for certainly a summer and perhaps a few years, and that is really all I could ask for.

Unfortunately this is also the point in the blog where everything else becomes speculation.  I have several cover letters drafted on my desktop or waiting in the inboxes of hiring managers.  The only feedback I’ve received is “we’ll hold your resume until we begin reviewing candidates for summer interns,” –it’s better than nothing.  So at the moment I am in limbo, waiting at the mercy of HR representatives and hiring season, but at least I’m out there, and I’m excited, and that is a lot.  If I have any unentitled advice to give, it’s find out what you want to do and apply apply apply, you have a great school behind you and something will come through.  Happy applying.

Our blogger is a Junior RTVF and Weinberg student looking for an internship in New York City for this summer. Follow them as they share their story of an internship search.