Everyone has an idea for a story. A germ. For most people it never develops into anything more than a brief afternoon’s flight of fancy. For those that have the writing itch, only a few will ever be published, and of them, even fewer will become established authors, and even then only an elite will enter that pantheon of writers who manage to transcend death.
Between many of these steps are the agents. They guard the hype, the success and reputation of authors. They are as much a consumer as we are. They protect and guide those who have “made it” while at the same time being on the lookout for the talent that will one day replace them.
The eternal struggle between art and commerce and the subsequent wicked web of interdependent relationships forms the central theme of The Agent, a drama set in the business side of the literary world.
I have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing what appears to be a depressing, and at times gruelling, process of trying to become a published writer, but I suspect that people such as Writer/Producer Martin Wagner have a few war stories to tell.
The film is focused almost entirely on Stephen (Stephen Kennedy), a writer looking for a break in an industry that places appearances above talent, and agent Alexander Joyce (William Beck), a man who is good at what he does, but places marketability above all else.
It would be discourteous to reveal the twists and turns that occur between these characters. You may be surprised to find yourself taking Alexander’s side from time to time - as an audience we are naturally predisposed to cheer on the artist. However Stephen, while passionate, is naïve, and his inbuilt self flagellation shows a man unable to decide what he wants from life.
“Thousands!” he exclaims when asked if he believes if there are any great books that haven’t yet been discovered. In our technological age, exposing people to your writings is not difficult. Stephen, if he truly sees himself as an artist above all else, would not be concerned about book deals. But he is. Commerce triumphs over all.
Kennedy gives Stephen an everyman quality. His appearance and cries for the artist to be respected could have come across as cliché, but he gives the character just the right amount of warmth that balances out the self belief and self doubt that fluctuates within the character.
Beck presents Joyce with the recognisable traits of a hotshot, take no prisoners agent, but does enough that we don’t dislike him, even when he demonstrates his mean streak. For this agent, it is not enough securing deals for his clients. He must hold mastery over their careers.
Wagner has managed to create a well paced script. It does have some flab in the middle section and when the characters move out of the office it feels like water is being tread, but these scenes are kept buoyant by the performances. Meanwhile, director Lesley Manning (who terrified this eight year old with Ghostwatch, the famous BBC hoax documentary) keeps the shots almost entirely focused on the two leads, giving the film a stripped down feel.
In these days of Richard and Judy book clubs and the intense public interest in the ghost written books of celebrities, it seems that the ability of newcomers to enter into what is at the end of the day, a profit driven industry, is more difficult than ever.
The Agent is released on September 18. For more information please visit the official website - click