Name: Matthew Dench
Agency: The Dench Arnold Agency
What was your first job in the industry, which led directly or indirectly to your current agent role? My family are in the business, my mother is an agent, my brother a first AD and my sister writes so I’ve had a bit of a head start! I started out writing script and book reports for a couple of agencies before getting a job offer starting on reception for LSA and then working my way up to assistant and finally a fully-fledged agent.
There’s no specific agent qualifications, so what would you say best qualifies you to do your job & allows you to do it well? I’ve been reading scripts all my life so I think I’m pretty good at story and helping clients figure out what is and isn’t working with their material before we go to market with it. It’s also a job with a lot of different facets and I’m pretty good at multitasking between the creative, legal and admin sides of the business.
What routine, if any, do you look to start each working day with? I commute into the office so the working day starts with reading scripts on the train and when I get into the office it’s a large cup of tea before I can face the day!
Lift the lid as best you can, and describe a typical working day? There’s no such thing as a typical day. You can have one day where it feels like nothing’s happening and another where there really just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done that you need to. I may come into the office planning to go out with a certain project or focusing on a particular client but then I’ll get a phone call or email and the whole focus of the day will shift. Some days are spent fire fighting, some deal making and some are spent meeting producers and hustling for work. No two days are the same and that’s one of the things that makes it a really interesting and fun job.
What do you feel a client and agent should expect of each other in the course of a fruitful working relationship day-to-day? Communication is a huge thing, as an agent if a client needs to talk or wants to go through an issue or an idea with you you have to make time for that but it’s also very much a two way street and all of the most successful creatives I’ve worked with are the ones who put in the work, both in terms of developing material and also networking and making contacts of their own. Your client needs to be aware of what you’re doing for them and the kinds of people you’re approaching but ultimately it’s a collaboration.
Is there a typical process that sees a first enquiry turn into a working client relationship? These days most of the work I will look at will come from recommendations from existing clients or producers I have a relationship with. I do try and look at everything I receive but sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day. If I’ve read something I like I will meet with the writer and see if they are someone I feel I can have a working relationship with.
What is the best way to approach you, or any agent, with a view to representation? Is there one part of an approach that makes you think this client is or isn’t for me? It all starts with an initial email. A lot of people will send out a generic cover letter which isn’t very interesting, if people have taken the time to find out a bit about our company and who I represent and say why they think they’d be a good fit for me that’s much more interesting to me than ‘I’m a good writer, read my script’
Is there any part of your day-to-day work that manifests itself in evenings & weekends? Reading, reading and more reading. I try not to respond to too many emails late at night or over the weekend but it can be a losing battle!
What one piece of advice would you give to a writer just starting out? Keep writing and re-writing. Talent only gets you so far, you’ve got to work hard too and the only way you get better at something is by doing it.
What one piece of advice would you give to your younger self? Trust your instincts and also only work with people whose work you genuinely love.
Favourite film? “Casablanca”.
Favourite TV program (currently or all-time)? “The West Wing”, also loving “Daredevil” on Netflix.
Favourite book? “The Count of Monte Cristo”.
Favourite director? Steven Spielberg.
Favourite writer? Aaron Sorkin.
Favourite actor (male or female)? Humphrey Bogart.