Saturday, June 24, 2006

Niven Busch on Agents, Darryl Zanuck, and Breaking Into Hollywood

Darryl Zanuck Everybody who breaks into the business does it in their own way. Some are recruited out of school, some know somebody in the biz who gives them a lead to a director or producer who looks at their portfolio, some are in a training program. Here's a story about a new hire in Old Hollywood that took place seventy-four years ago. The second of my Niven Busch posts: Niven Busch dropped out of Princeton to become a writer at then-new TIME Magazine. Bryce Hadden, the magazine's co-founder, was his cousin, and over the next decade Busch wrote and edited for TIME, THE NEW YORKER, and COLLIERS magazines among others. Busch ran into childhood friend Myron Selznick (agent-brother of David) at a theater opening in 1932, and Myron told Busch that he could secure Busch employment as a writer in Hollywood. Shortly thereafter, Selznick did exactly that. Old Myron Selznick told me how I came to be hired. He said he had my name on a list. "Niven, you were really lucky your were hired. I was in to see Zanuck one day right after I met you in New York, and Zanuck called me in and said, 'Myron, I've got a new policy on writers. I've had too many young writers strike out. I don't want anymore apprentice writers. I've wasted too much time and money on them. After this, I don't want apprentice writers, I only want experienced men who've written two or three novels, or one hit novel, or one hit play, or who have come from another studio with real experience. That's the only kind of men. I'll do whatever you ask, but I only want top people.'" David and Myron Selznick So Myron said, "I couldn't have him tell me my business, so I looked down on my list and I picked you out because you had the least qualifications of anybody on it. And I said, 'Look Darryl, that's a wrong policy. Now for instance, here's a hell of a talented guy, Niven Busch.' And I gave him a pitch about your NEW YORKER stories, and that you were working for TIME, and they both wanted you exclusive, and you had had stories in Colliers, and all that was true. So Zanuck said, 'Alright, how much you want for Busch?' I said, 'three hundred a week. I'll give you this great talent for a real low price.'" Myron said to me, "Zanuck hired you, but it was only because he was trying to tell me how to run my business that I presented you to this man. So don't you ever get cocky because you're working for Warner Brothers." And there it is. Hired because you're the least qualified. And a powerful agent has a point to make.


Site Meter