Big Break Behind the Scenes: Judge and Super Vision Manager Tony Zequeira
Reared on Spielberg, Zemeckis and Scorsese, Tony Zequeira got into film to work with people making the kinds of stories that captured him when he was young. Now he does exactly that at Super Vision, his own management and production company.
Starting as an agent’s assistant after film school, Zequeira worked up to junior agent, then shifted to management. Currently, he manages about 10 screenwriters and writer/directors.
His writing-team clients Gregg Zehentner and Scott Barkan just wrapped on Bleed, starring Robert Patrick and Robert Knepper. Another client, Ivan Mena-Tinoco, will soon direct Nightfall. A visual-effects man, Mena-Tinoco (Harry Potter franchise, The Da Vinci Code) is pioneering new techniques for the indie.
Zequeira has also been a DJ since he was a teenager. He deejayed recently for Feed SoCal, in which supermarkets host an annual “carnival atmosphere” food drive with music and food vendors. Shoppers purchase pre-packed groceries or donate nonperishables for those in need.
He is producing two upcoming projects, including the feature The Violent Kind. And Zequeira thrives on the one-on-one, personal interaction with his clients.
FD: Why do you prefer being a manager over being an agent?
TZ: Whereas an agent will sell a script when it’s ready, as a manager, I will help the client come up with an idea, or I will steer a client in a direction of a particular idea of what I think their strengths are. I’ll read all the 15 drafts of their scripts until I think, or we both think, it’s ready.
The manager’s the one who gets the call at 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning when the client is lost, whether it’s metaphysically, emotionally, spiritually or GPS-wise because their phone dies.
FD: What are your favorite types of genres to work in?
TZ: I’ve literally seen great movies in every genre. So it’s hard to say I only like or I’ll only do this stuff.
I was always a big proponent of films that reached wider audiences, stories that don’t mean that you have to be some kind of elitist intellectual to understand.
As far as what I would be looking for … I have a lot of straight drama writers, and I have a magical realism guy and an action fantasy guy. I have a couple of action fantasy people, as a matter of fact. I’d love to find a great romantic comedy writer. I’m a sucker for a great romantic comedy, even a straight comedy.
FD: What kind of clients do you like to represent?
TZ: I take on baby writers … they have the seeds of talent within them. And I try to cultivate that.
I try and find somebody with a unique voice. I try and find somebody who, in their story, is going to take me someplace that I’ve never been before.
FD: How do you find clients?
TZ: I talk to anybody and everybody I can … executives that I talk to every day who’ve read interesting writers. I follow a lot of the contests, of course, Final Draft, and I will get referrals from my current clients.
FD: Do you ever look at unsolicited queries?
TZ: I’m not a snob. If somebody writes me a good e-mail and doesn’t sound like a crazy person and presents themselves professionally and has a piece of material or has something of interest to me, I’ll write back. I’ll respond. And I’ll read.
FD: What would you tell writers trying to break in?
TZ: There’s no such thing as “I’m just a beginner.” Your former heroes—the people you idolize as screenwriters—that’s now your competition.
When you ask somebody to read something that you’ve written, you’re asking them to consider spending millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars on something that you’ve written … you have to be willing to perform at that level.
It’s a tough business that will ask a lot of you. But if you’re willing to give that much of yourself, the odds are, eventually, it will give itself back to you … you’ve got to do it for a long time. It’s not just the heart. It’s like heart over time. That’s the equation. Heart over time equals success. Heart times time.
FD: How much does proper screenplay formatting matter to you?
TZ: As long as they stick to a basic format, I really don’t care about things like fade in and fade out. I get it. Your script is starting. You don’t need to fade in. I think you can take liberties with your scripts, things that you can jerk the reader out of their trance.
FD: What do you look for in a potential client?
TZ: I ask that they have faith in me and that they take my advice. And I look for people who believe in me. Believe in themselves. Positive attitude. Positive spirit.
Having a couple of scripts already written doesn’t hurt, particularly if you’ve gotten some recognition, some real recognition from a decent contest or two on a couple of those.
I want somebody who understands that even the best writers in the world worked for nine or 10 years before they got their first break.
I work in the commercial studio side of the film business. I don’t do independent filmmaking … if you want to work as part of the film business, you have to know how to write those kinds of movies.
FD: What qualities jump out in a winning script?
TZ: There’s that unquantifiable thing of, “It feels like a movie.” But is this something that would get me up out of my couch, put on clothes, get in my car, drive to a movie theater, park, pay dollars, sit in a theater, and watch?
A good script is not just a good story. It’s something that is a good experience. When you are done reading it, you feel exhilarated.
Something that doesn’t feel mundane, something that doesn’t feel like I’ve read it a 1,000 times before.
A good script transports people, and it does so unknowingly.
You’ve got roughly five or 10 minutes psychologically before I tune out. So if you start your script with “interior – bedroom – day” or “interior – kitchen – day,” we’re not off to a good start. Unless that kitchen is in a house on a planet in another solar system, or there’s something really funky or freaky or weird going on in the kitchen that you want me to start to notice.
Always try and root your story into your characters … if you don’t care about the people, then you certainly don’t care what happens to them.
Be economical. Is the script economical in its description? I don’t need pages and pages and paragraphs of description. If a script reads slow and feels heavy, it’s going to lose. You want people to experience your script like they would experience the movie … if your action sequence is fast-paced and rapid and action-packed, it should read that way.
Know the kind of script you’re writing, too. Don’t say, “I’m going to write an action script, but it’s going to read more like a love story.” No. Write your action script like your action script.
FD: Why do you like judging for Final Draft Big Break?
TZ: The scripts that you choose are that nexus of commerce and art, which is that they’re entertaining, but they’re also great storytelling. The path that you guys take in terms of the scripts that you choose are very much in line with what I look for. So Final Draft has always been close to my heart.
When you guys say, “Here’s our top five,” I really feel like I’m reading, potentially, five potential movies.
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Screenwriter / Playwright / Script Reader
Asmara Bhattacharya is a produced screenwriter/playwright, script reader, and festival screener, with multiple placements at Final Draft, Nicholl, Austin Film Festival, and other competitions. A trusted sounding board and consultant for industry professionals, dedicated fans also caught her in “Independence Day: Resurgence” and NBC’s “The Night Shift” – for one glorious half-second each. More can be found on her website: www.dickflicks.net or follow her on Twitter @hotpinkstreak