Representing writers and directors for stage and screen, Emily Hickman also manages the dramatic rights of authors at The Agency. Having most recently worked with Marina Carr on Blood Wedding, she tells Ruth Comerford what it takes to manage clients…
How did you become an agent?
I was always really passionate about theatre; I did a lot of student drama at university. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do specifically so I wrote to lots of theatres and was lucky to get an internship at the Donmar Warehouse, which was amazing and led to a role working in its casting and development department. I started doing a bit of script reading and realised that what I’d really like to do is work with writers in some capacity. I assisted another agent and his clients for several years before I started taking on my own clients alongside his, and built my own list. It took many years.
What is your typical day like?
I work across theatre, film and TV. I try to get up early and read a script at home before work – that doesn’t always happen but that is the intention, because it’s quite hard to fit in reading at work. Once I’m in the office I tend to have one or two meetings a day, which might be with producers, writers, clients and colleagues to discuss particular projects. I’m at the theatre a couple of nights a week, whether that’s supporting a client or seeing other work. A big part of the role is meeting with producers and literary managers and getting to know them and their taste so that we [agents] can tailor our submissions to try to find the right home for a play, or relationship for a client.
What qualities does a literary agent need?
First and foremost you have to be a really passionate advocate for your clients. You need to be a people person; it’s good to be diplomatic. You need to have a good eye for talent. Part of the reason writers and directors have agents is so they can have some of the difficult conversations about money and copyright. You are there to protect them and their work, and take away those things so they can concentrate on the creative.
What have been highlights of your career so far?
Seeing Kieran Hurley’s work come to fruition has been really exciting; he is one of the clients I pursued when I first saw his play, Beats, at the Edinburgh Fringe. I represent [Bush theatre artistic director] Lynette Linton and I think her trajectory over the last year has been really exciting. Sweat was a highlight: seeing her show at the Donmar and then the transfer to the West End was really wonderful. It’s also been fantastic seeing Blood Wedding at the Young Vic.
What is your advice to those seeking representation?
Approach an agent, or invite them to see a piece that you are really proud of and that best represents you. Talk to other people you know in the industry. There’s no point getting an agent for the sake of it – you need to find someone you really connect with, who has a strategy for your work; someone you can trust. Then it will hopefully be a really long-term relationship.
Blood Wedding runs at London’s Young Vic until November 2
Training: BA (hons) English literature, University of Bristol (2001-04)
First professional role: Casting and development assistant, Donmar Warehouse (2004-05)