A Stage 32 Exclusive: Q&A with Sam Haskell

Posted by Sam Haskell
Richard "RB" Botto Richard "RB" Botto

A quick thank you and a round of applause to all who participated in submitting questions for former Executive Vice President and Worldwide Head of Development of William Morris, Sam Haskell.

Over 30,000 of you read Sam's two part exclusive: Agency Business Yesterday and Today. If you haven't had the chance to experience the wisdom and learned teachings of Sam, you can read his guest post here: A Stage 32 Exclusive: Agency Business Yesterday and Today

My congratulations to all the winners. And, again, my extreme appreciation to Sam.



I want to thank all who took the time to not only read my blog and the excerpts from my book, but also those who took the time to ask such intelligent and articulate questions. It was a difficult task cutting the list down to only five! In the end, I tried to choose those questions which I had not addressed previously in Promises I Made My Mother. This is not a plug for the book! But it is a fact that the answers to many of the questions asked can be found within the covers.

My very special thanks to Stage 32 CEO, Richard Botto, for hosting me. This site is an invaluable resource and tool for all creative minds regardless of geography, previous success, or level of development. It's been an honor to participate and share my experiences with this incredibly talented community.

Best Regards,


Joanne Griffin: Dear Mr.Haskell, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog posts and will be seeking out your book. With your depth of insight and knowledge into managing people and projects, how do you think the role of Agent will shift in the near future & where are the better agents looking for new talent? (Is it still traditional places like showcases, auditions or it is social media channels like Stage 32?). P.S I hope your book is transformed into the screen (documentary?), I would certainty watch it.

SH: Hi Joanne, finding an agent for new talent can be quite difficult. Most agents do indeed find their clients through showcases, acting teacher recommendations, and film reels of your work. A SAG card is a must as well. I usually recommend that young actors enroll in the Beverly Hills Playhouse for classes. The instructors there invite agents and mangers to see their student's work, and it is also a great place to network! Good luck!

Robin Chappell: Mr. Haskell, Thank you for your insights and your thoughtful service to an industry, which is increasingly only 'thoughtful' of the bottom line. I know the industry is changing (and rapidly), but this seems to be only making it harder to make quality productions.

My question is this: I am a multi-threat creative in an industry where increasingly we have to wear many hats. But it is also increasingly harder (as I'm sure you well know) to get the proverbial 'foot in the door.' I've talked to many who are trying to mount productions, which have A-List attachments for their project, but are still having a hard time finding the backing (because of the [also] increasing dependence on Tent Poles to shore up the 'sagging coastlines' of revenue).

How can I interest an agent or a manager to take me on with the many projects I have in my personal pipeline, when so many others already have the connections and projects in progress and are having a hard time attracting capital? I know that agents/managers want to see you can make them money, but you have to have the imprimatur of having an agent/manager to even see those doors.

Thank you once again, and I look forward to going back and reading your other blogs here, and reading your book (with its purchase going to help fund such a worthy cause).

SH: Hi Robin, your question exemplifies the term "Catch-22"... you can't get a job without and agent, and you can't get an agent without a job! Instead of focusing on many different projects, put all of your attention on the one project that speaks loudest to you. It is this one project that will help you get a foot in the door for those projects that will follow. Save your own money, go to family and friends for money, find young actors who want to get film on themselves and get them to invest in themselves and in you. Then go and shoot a 15-20 minute version of your project on a Canon Hand Held Camera. You could accomplish this for less than $10,000 and you would have something you can actually submit to an agent. There are so many ambitious and talented young people who would love this opportunity to join you on this project. Good luck!

Scott Cornfield: For someone whose career was based around quality television programming, it must be very difficult for you to see how reality TV has changed the landscape of the medium. While there are exceptions and some very high quality programming continues to bubble to the surface, the overall look is certainly not what it was during your watch. If you could deliver a message to the decision-makers in television today, what would it be? Thanks a lot for your time in sharing your insights with the rest of us! We DO appreciate it.

SH: Hi Scott, your question is a good one, and one that I've been asked from those sitting in a position of power. Here is my answer, though it will not be focused entirely on the issue of reality TV which I agree is taking a nose dive in the "Quality TV Department". My advice to the decision makers is this: You are being paid an incredible salary based on your ability to lead and make creative decisions. When you order pilots in scripted TV or in non-scripted reality TV, make sure you order pilots for shows that you would want your family to watch. And when those pilots are completed, sent to advertisers, sent to research analysts, sent for testing, and the results and recommendations are sent back to you to help you make your decisions, choose the shows that YOU feel are best...not the shows that research recommends. I believe you will have the same success/failure ratio whether you make your own choices or whether you follow the recommendations of others, so MAKE YOUR OWN CHOICES! This advice has been followed by several high power TV executives....and they've had a great deal of success! Good luck!

Bernard Lee De Leo: What is the best approach and venue to sell a screenplay (or teleplay)?

SH: Hi Bernard, spec screenplays and spec teleplays are written every day. Every potentially successful writer has a favorite story that he or she wants to tell...an idea that may have been percolating for years. My advice is to write that story, and submit it to every agent in town. Also, write a spec teleplay for hit shows like Grey's Anatomy, The Good Wife, Revolution, CSI, NCIS, etc.....and submit them to the writing staff of those shows....spec scripts show the Executive Producers that you know their franchise and their characters....and many unknow writers have been put on staff through a spec script. Spec scripts must also be sent to young literary agents who will eventually submit the spec scripts for you and ultimately find you work. Good luck!

Mike Shields: How do I get myself in front of the agents of integrity that you spoke of? I'm finding it hard to get noticed when everyone on the planet is calling themselves a filmmaker these days, simply because they own the latest iPhone. What do I need these days to be considered as an actor, writer, director, or producer in order to make me standout from everyone else? Besides prayer, of course.

SH: Hi Mike, your question of how to find someone of integrity to help guide your career is probably the most common question young actors, writers, and directors can ask. God helps those who help themselves. You must accomplish something to get a credible agent's attention. Whether talking yourself into a casting office and getting yourself booked in a small part in a film or TV show, getting your SAG card, or writing a spec screenplay that is read by a good agent, or filming a short with a Canon hand held camera that shows you have a director's eye...getting someone's attention is completely 100 percent YOUR responsibility. After you get their attention, the rest is easy. Good luck!


Promises I Made My Mother

To purchase Sam's book click here: Promises I Made My Mother. Remember, Sam is generously donating the proceeds from Stage 32 members sales to the Mary Kirkpatrick Haskell Scholarship Foundation.

The Power of "No" by Tommy Stovall
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