When is a Sled More Than a Sled?

I met Eva Flamm more than a decade ago when she first left her assistant’s job in order to pursue screenwriting full time. Since then, in writers’ groups and coffee houses we have had a long ongoing conversation about numinous experiences and the genre stories they inspire. Here is a snippet of a recent back and forth we had over Zoom.

Sean Hood: We had a conversation once about the Irish concept of “thin places,” places where the boundary between rational and irrational, reality and dream, gets thin. When did you first start getting interested in these sorts of experiences? (Ones that you would later write about.)

Eva Flamm: This has been a fundamental part of me for almost as far back as I can remember, but specifically, when I was ten I had a particular dream. My entire life has been shaped by that dream. There was the person I was before I had the dream and there was the person I was the next morning when I woke up. Everything became different.

Sean Hood: Do you mind talking about it?

Eva Flamm: Well, I don’t think it will really convey the quality of what happened.

Sean Hood: Of course dreams always have a quality that cannot be described in words, but give it a try.

Eva Flamm: Well, when I was ten we moved to a new state and a new city because my dad gotten a new job. So, we went on a road trip across the country. When we finally arrived at our new house,

it was a really dark and stormy night and we didn’t have any furniture unpacked yet. We were all sleeping in the same room on mattresses on the floor. It was it was a pretty unsettled time in my life because I was in this new place and I didn’t feel like I had a whole lot to hold on to.

That night, I went to sleep and I dreamed that I found a sled that could fly. But it wasn’t exactly a sled. That’s what I’m calling it, a sled, but in the dream, there was something about it that was actually something else, something much more than a sled. And the thing, that something more, made the dream… just completely overpowering for me for years.

Sean: What was it the felt overpowering?

Eva Flamm: Um, it was two things. One of the things was the feeling of flying while it was snowing. You know, when it snows, the sky becomes like layers of rooms, like there’s all these spaces, these other rooms above and below, which we don’t usually notice because we can’t see them.

But, when it’s snowing, you become aware of those spaces as snow falls through them – those layers, other worlds, above you that you would inhabit if you could just fly up into them.

So, I’m on this sled, and I’m I’m up there in those layers and I am so happy. Like the biggest high I’ve ever had while not awake. And then I woke up, still in the dream, and I thought “I’ve been dreaming. The sled is not going to be there.” But then I went to the place I had left it, and it was still there. 

And so at that point, I was completely convinced it had happened, this thing I had always wanted to happen (an experience of another world) had happened. I had found it. It was really there. But, then I really DID wake up.

For years afterwards, I would look for it, that sled, because I fully expected to find it. It was like I was missing a part of myself. It didn’t seem possible or fair that you could want something that much if it didn’t actually exist.

Sean Hood: Right.

Eva Flamm: And I did actually find it.

Sean Hood: Do tell.

Eva Flamm: I don’t know if it can fly. I haven’t gotten on it yet. But eight years ago, I was I was home visiting my parents, and we went to this antiques barn. There were just tables and tables of kitsch from, um, you know, decades and decades ago, clothes, shoes, silver christening spoons. 

I went to the upstairs level. It was freezing, and snow was coming through cracks in the boards, and I came around the corner and there it was. And I knew for sure it was my sled.

You know how when you wake up from a dream, you can remember the vague outlines of the thing, but you already know you have forgotten some important stuff about it?

Sean Hood: I know what you mean.

Eva Flamm: When I saw it, the sled, I immediately remembered what I had forgotten from the dream which was why it was not like other sleds: the runners were made of wood. The whole thing was made of wood. It was carved out of one piece of wood.

I never seen a sled like that before, but when I looked at it, it was like looking at my own face. I knew it so well. It was like when you haven’t seen someone in seven years and then you bump into them, and you suddenly remember: Oh my god, of course, that’s how your LAUGH sounds; that’s how your forehead wrinkles up when you look confused. It’s YOU.

The second thing about it was this: After flying in the dream, the last thing I did was paint the sled red, and I could tell that this sled that I found in the barn had been painted red a very long time ago, but that most of the paint had flaked off.

Sean Hood: I assume you purchased the sled.

Eva Flamm: I did.

Sean Hood: Where is it now?

Eva Flamm: In my parents attic, someday I’ll try it, someday I’ll ride it, but not yet, not for a while.

Sean Hood: And these sorts of experiences inspired you to write stories about other worlds and magical connections?

Eva Flamm: I think the only way to adequately convey something like this to someone else is by telling a story about it. With the story, you can fill in the atmosphere and the context, you can make the experience, no matter how strange, seem so… familiar. And, I think that the more specific the story is the more familiar it will seem to a lot of people.

Sean Hood: And isn’t it interesting that it’s only in the specificity of it that it becomes relatable and universal. Even experiences that are “weird” or “uncanny.”

Eva Flamm: There is a sense in our culture that if you wake up sad, something’s wrong with you, but perhaps we wake upset because there’s another place, a place that we’re familiar with, and we simply would rather be there.

What I want to convey to other people in my stories is this: If you go out there, if you do look for it, something is going to happen. I can’t tell you what it is because I haven’t experienced your dreams. However, it would be extremely unusual if you went out there looking for it and nothing happened.

What makes a film “meaningful?”

Four-Part Portrait of Jacques Thelemaque by Sean Hood

I met Jacques Thelemaque in 1992 when we were both making films on Hi-8 and Super-8. His films have screened at the Sundance Film Festival and the Los Angeles Film Festival, but he is best known for founding the filmmaking collective Filmmakers Alliance. He and I have been writing together in coffee shops and talking about movies and filmmaking for almost thirty years. Here is a snippet of our most recent conversation.

Sean Hood: So, we have been talking about movies that have “meaning,” that have a purpose beyond being just another product for consumption. Can you elaborate on that? What makes a cinematic experience meaningful for you?

Jacques Thelemaque: It has be more than a temporary distraction, and by “distraction” I mean getting emotionally invested in something that is safe but that doesn’t resonate on a deeper level and something that’s pleasurable but not really relevant to viewers’ lives. 

So, “meaningful” for me has these two primary things: relevance and resonance

If a movie or piece of art resonates, it doesn’t necessarily have to have a transformational impact right away, but it lingers in your consciousness, in your thoughts, in your unconsciousness. As it lingers within you, it provides an opportunity to open up to the world.

Sean Hood: So you’re saying even if they don’t spark metamorphosis right then and there, meaningful films push you towards changing in some fundamental or some important way?

Jacques Thelemaque: Yes, changing… or perhaps just opening because sometimes a meaningful film can be purely aesthetic. It doesn’t have any intellectual impact on you, but it opens up the way you see the world, opens up the way you think about yourself, and opens up your own art. If you’re an artist.

Sean Hood: By “open up” do you mean transcend your own boundaries?

Jacques Thelemaque:  Yes, your perspective opens, giving you the freedom to act, to think, and to experience in new ways. It resonates within you, either emotionally or intellectually, and you carry that resonance with you beyond the experience. It keeps on playing with you in some way – perhaps you just feel uncomfortable or disturbed for the rest of the day, but something is happening. Something is changing within you, and that’s always a good thing, in my opinion, as long as you are a fairly healthy person, emotionally, intellectually, it’s a good thing. Something’s happening. New possibilities are opening up. 

Sean Hood: So that’s resonance. What do you mean by relevance?

Jacques Thelemaque: Just that it means something to you personally – it pertains to stuff that you care about, that holds value for you, emotionally or intellectually. It has some impact on your sense of purpose in this life.

Sean Hood: Can you give me an example of a film that has affected you in this way?

Jacques Thelemaque: Well, the example I like to use a lot is Alien, because it’s NOT an “Art” film. It was a very successful, very commercial movie. It hit all the traditional story beats of a Hollywood film. It’s a well-crafted film in the mainstream sense, but it’s also a “beautiful” film. It resonates with depth, themes, mythology, and metaphor. It’s not just entertainment. It’s deeply disturbing and strangely, unexpectedly beautiful in a way that transcends entertainment.

Sean Hood: Yes. That movie utilizes lots of dark space and sort of strobe effects where images are flashed and the creature is only seen in glimpses and fragments. In those blank spots, those ellipses, we project our own anxieties and fears to try to fill the gap and try to make sense of what we’re seeing. The movie becomes more personal for every individual who watches it. You sort of work through your private anxieties and fears by surviving the experience.

Jacques Thelemaque: And then another commercial film that has resonance and relevance is The Godfather

It’s a gangster film, but also a family drama. It’s not rooted necessarily in reality, but it plays on a lot of myths about gangsters in order to play with myths about family and honor, about ways of being in the world, and the way the world really works. It’s an exploration of our own family structures and more generally on our social structures.

Sean Hood: I agree.

Jacques Thelemaque: And then The Exorcist – same thing. It taps into very raw, deep, and irrational fears in order to make us think more deeply about our own religious beliefs. It was terrifying, but it also makes us wonder about religious myths – what’s real, what isn’t real, and what do we really believe in?

Sean Hood: So if part of what makes a movie meaningful is its capacity to do something to you, do something that you carry with you afterward, something that could possibly change you, that means that part of the movie is going to be challenging… or in some way NOT pleasant. So, it makes sense to me that the films that you chose were a gangster and two horror films because in these genres people expect to be scared or disturbed as part of the “entertainment.” Filmmakers can slip in meaningful or challenging things in the guise of a “thrill” or “scare.” 

It’s interesting that more “serious dramas” can actually end up just reaffirming the ideas and beliefs the audience brought with them.

Jacques Thelemaque: Hallmark films and Lifetime often deal with challenging subjects, but they deal with them in the most superficial – sometimes flat out stupid – ways that don’t challenge us in any way whatsoever. They just make us feel safe.

They are not rooted in any real-life complexities and darkness. Everybody walks away, unchallenged in their feelings, their beliefs; they are just made to make us feel safe and comfortable.

Let’s face it, most audiences don’t want an unpleasant experience because they’re already dealing with so much shit in their personal lives. So these movies are all about hiding you from your own feelings so that you can walk out of the theater feeling pleasant.

So again, the movies that are meaningful for me have those two things: resonance and relevance.

(Feel free to join in this conversation in the comments section below…)

Going green is all about what you gain, not what you give up

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

It was written by Kate Laffan

According to The New Republic magazine in June this year: ‘You will have to make sacrifices to save the planet’, while the US newspaper Metro asks: ‘What would you give up to end climate change?’ These headlines, read from my desk in London where I carry out research in environmental psychology, present us with stark choices: between self and society, wellbeing and morality. It worries me to see pro-environmental action being equated with personal sacrifice in this way. It also makes me wonder whether we could change the content of a third recent headline, this time from Sky News – ‘Majority of Brits unwilling to cut back to fight climate change’ – by reframing how we talk about pro-environmental behaviour.

A growing body of research suggests that, rather than posing a threat to individual wellbeing, adopting a more sustainable lifestyle represents a pathway to a more satisfied life. Numerous studies have found that people who purchase green products, who recycle or who volunteer for green causes claim to be more satisfied with their lives than their less environmentally friendly counterparts. In the most systematic exploration of this relationship to date, the social psychologist Michael Schmitt at Simon Fraser University in Canada and colleagues found that, of the 39 pro-environmental behaviors examined, 37 were positively linked to life satisfaction (the exceptions being the use of public transport or carpooling, and running the washer/dryer only when full).

Digging deeper, the authors of this 2018 paper found that the strongest positive relationships were between life satisfaction and those behaviors involving a cost in money, time or effort. So, participating in local pro-environmental activities is far more predictive of life satisfaction than, say, turning off the tap while brushing your teeth (despite it being a more effortful undertaking). In complementary vein, when the psychologist Stacey Ann Rich at La Trobe University in Melbourne and colleagues looked at people on the far end of the sustainable lifestyle scale, they found that ‘voluntary simplifiers’ – or people who freely choose to live frugally – report higher life satisfaction than nonsimplifiers across several different studies. Far from suggesting that people lose out when they put significant effort into living a sustainable life, it seems that the more you put in the more you stand to gain.

This is promising evidence, but the measure used – life satisfaction – can miss some of the potential nuances in play when people think (and feel) about their lives as they go about them. My own research at the London School of Economics addresses this issue by examining how pro-environmental behaviors relate to different types of wellbeing. In particular, I make a distinction between hedonic wellbeing, which relates to the emotions that people experience, and eudemonic wellbeing, which reflects their sense of purpose.

There are good reasons to think that this distinction might matter. Some pro-environmental behaviors can boost people’s mood: imagine cycling to work rather than driving through central London traffic, for example. Other behaviors that are typically carried out on autopilot, such as recycling, might not be expected to have any impact at all. Still others might cause people to experience feelings of stress, as anyone who has recently tried to have a short, cold shower will attest.

Contrast this with how we might expect pro-environmental behavior to relate to people’s sense of purpose. The environmental psychologist Tim Kasser – an expert on materialism and wellbeing, and now emeritus professor at Knox College in Illinois – has argued that pro-environmental behavior can contribute to people’s needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence – all of them key drivers of eudemonic wellbeing. More directly, to the extent that people perceive engagement in a wide range of pro-environmental behaviors as ‘doing the right thing’, we might expect them all to contribute to people’s sense of purpose.

As part of my PhD, I examined these ideas using questionnaire data from a sample of more than 5,000 English residents. I found that people’s levels of happiness or anxiety were independent of their engagement in pro-environmental behavior on the previous day. This suggests that, while individuals might not derive pleasure from engaging in pro-environmental behavior, nor do these behaviors generally come at an emotional cost. At the same time, my research indicates that the more pro-environmental actions that people engage in, the more worthwhile they consider their activities to be overall.

When taken together, the life-satisfaction evidence and the results of my own work fly in the face of the view of pro-environmental behavior as a sacrifice and point instead to a range of potential psychological benefits of going green. We are still in the early stages of understanding what’s driving these apparent benefits, but recent work by the economists Heinz Welsch and Jan Kühling at the University of Oldenburg in Germany, among other scholars, suggests that conforming with social norms, having a positive self-image and opportunities to socialize all play a role.

Aeon counter – do not remove

If you style pro-environmental behavior as onerous, then moral appeals of the ‘You will have to make sacrifices to save the planet’ kind are never far behind. Better then, is to encourage people to take action on climate change by presenting environmental issues as personally relevant. The subjective wellbeing evidence gives us an opportunity to move our focus away from what people might have to give up or do without, and towards the potential gains of living not worse but differently. Such positive messages might better motivate pro-environmental actions that contribute directly to individual wellbeing, while at the same time safeguarding the wellbeing of others and of generations to come.

Kate Laffan is a fellow in the department of psychological and behavioral science at the London School of Economics and Political Science. In November 2019, she takes up a Marie Curie fellowship at the Geary Institute for Public Policy at University College Dublin. She lives in London.

What is Melancholia?

Depression is defined as pathological sadness – a disease for which there are a variety of treatments. I myself have suffered from episodes of severe depression, and I have successfully overcome these episodes with a combination of Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy, anti-depressant medication, exercise, and meditation. Because I have first-hand knowledge of depression and the effectiveness of treatment, I think it’s essential that I differentiate depression, which always involves some sort of disfunction, maladaptation, or physiological imbalance, from melancholia (as in The Black Sun,) which I define differently.

To put it simply, depression is a disease; so if you are depressed, something is wrong with you. You are feeling an overwhelming and continual despondency that is inappropriate to your particular circumstances, and more generally, atypical of a healthy, thriving human being. You have an illness that warps your perception of the world, and you need treatment.

However, when you experience melancholia, there is nothing wrong with you. The “symptoms” you are feeling – lethargy, pessimism, low motivation, slowness, emptiness, grief, loneliness and even thoughts of suicide – come from a deeply felt awareness of death, loss, and impermanence. These feelings are entirely appropriate to your situation, and to the human condition, and may reveal some essential truth about your world.

In melancholia, suicidal ideation is not a literal impulse to kill one’s physical body, but a longing for transformation, both of one’s identity and the world in which that identity is enmeshed. (In later blogs, I will introduce the concept of egoicide.) Melancholia is not a problem to be solved or a condition to be cured; it is a truth to be encountered, an experience to be felt more deeply, and a window to insight.

I associate melancholy with many of the topics that obsess me, including Buddhism, Post-Jungian psychology, Imaginal experience, mysticism, existentialism, art, aesthetics, cinema, and even mathematics. It’s a word that I will use often in this blog, and it’s important that readers understand that I am not romanticizing depression, rather, I am investigating a related, but unique state of conciousness.

In the Venn Diagram below, I’ve differentiated four separate kinds of sorrow or despondency. YELLOW is ordinary sadness, the kind of sadness we feel in response to common disappointments, failures, and losses. GREEN denotes depression as treated by CBT; it is a negative cognitive bias caused by negative automatic thoughtsmaladaptive behaviors, and/or dysfunctional world beliefs. BLUE is depression caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain – a deficit of serotonin and dopamine. Pink, at the bottom, is melancholia.

It seems likely that most of us are feeling some mixture of these four elements when our mood is low. My point is not to argue whether the neurochemical model or the Cognitive/Behavioral model of depression is valid, but rather to differentiate depression-as-illness from melancholy.

In particular, I want to challenge our culture’s relentless pursuit of happiness and obsession with psychological growth. If sunny optimism defines what it is to be “healthy,” then the culture begins to see any encounter with the darker, more tragic, and rightly depressing aspects of life as “unhealthy.” Melancholia is seen as something to be avoided, like saturated fat, herpes or income tax.

When we “grow out of” every experience of deep sadness, then melancholia as a necessary, vital and enriching human experience, is denied and forgotten.

Future blogs will explore the idea that our inability to tolerate sadness (like our inability to tolerate boredom) results in a “positive cognitive bias” or patholgical happiness, which may ultimately be more destructive than depression. Lingering over the inevitability of death, illness, and decay disturbs our very American fantasies of perpetual expansion, economic growth, and boundless possibility.

(See my recent blog about the perverted symbolism of sunny, happy, optimism: The Tyranny of Sunlight. )

If melancholy is seen as just another problem to be solved by programs of self-improvement, then vital parts of the human experience fall into Shadow -unacknowledged and unspoken.

So, the process I’m exploring in this series of articles on The Black Sun is one that DOES treat the various forms of depression as illnesses, but the goal is not to eliminate the experience of deep and heavy sadness, but instead to correct our cognitive bias and right our neurological imbalance so as to allow for a more meaningful and transformative encounter with melancholy.

James Hillman described this process in “The Dream and The Underworld” as a deliberate descent into Hades. This descent humbles the “heroic” ego. It is not a quest with an objective, or a riddle that needs answer. It is a “move backward” rather than forward, a process that is “pathologizing” rather than healing; it is an experience that offers not happiness, progress or victory, but only meaning and depth; It is an unsettling and eerie encounter with a dream world that is both irrational and psychotic; it is a voyage into imaginal space, and eruption of the Ordinary Numinous in which we wrestle with archetypal entities, neither quite real or unreal, who are “deceptive, unpredictable, frightening, and wise.” It is the journey down into the mythical and the alchemical – a place that we can only interpret with metaphors or images, as we would a dream:

“The brood of night gives the dream an atmophere that is far from the happy optimism of growth psychology or the secret delight of sexual desire. We are not being told that our dreams help us, that they round out our lives and inflame our creativity. Nor are we being told that dreams pour out of a libidinous wishing well. Instead, they are akin to deceits and and conflicts, to the lamentations of ageing and the doom of our destiny. The dream takes us downward, and the mood that corresponds with this movement is the slowing, saddening, introspective feeling of melancholly.”

James Hillman, The Dream and The Underworld, pg. 34

So, using my own images, an experience of melancholy means peeling away the layers of yellow, green, blue, to reveal the red… and the black.

That “something that emerges” is represented by The Black Sun.

What are the odds of selling a good screenplay?

Ask A Screenwriter #4

Short answer: Very, Very Low.

Estimating odds is never easy because a number of assumptions must be made, and many of these assumptions may not apply to a particular script. “Good” is an extremely subjective term. A brilliant and original screenplay may actually be no easier to sell than an average script if what makes the story “good” is seen as risky, or if the “originality” is misunderstood. Conversely, if the writer just had a hit movie, the odds of selling the next script skyrocket. Maybe, it’s a mediocre screenplay based on a wildly popular book. Sometimes scripts are bought just because producers or executives like the underlying premise and they plan to hire a more seasoned writer to rewrite it. However, a script that is well-written is always more likely to sell that than a script telling the same general story that is mediocre.

So, here are some general statistics to make the argument that, all other things being equal, the odds of selling a good screenplay are LOW. And for you, probably about 1/1000.

Roughly 50,000 screenplays are registered at the WGA each year.[1] However, not all screenplays get registered, so it is safe to assume that about double that number of feature scripts get written every year. (For example, I finished two screenplays last year, but I didn’t register either at the WGA. There are many other ways to establish a legal claim of authorship, including registering the script with the Library of Congress.)

Some estimate that as many as one million scripts are written per year worldwide in hopes of “selling” that script to Hollywood.[2] So my pool of 100,000 scripts is really just the 10% of scripts worldwide that are “professionally” written – meaning any script reader would recognize it as having the minimum level of narrative form, format, coherence, and quality to submit to a buyer.

So, out of 100,000 “professional” screenplays how many of them are “good.” Let’s just say the top 5% of screenplays are good.

So out of 5,000 good screenplays how many actually sell?

In 2018 there were only 40 spec screenplay sales reported in the Hollywood Reporter or Variety, a statistic gathered by the folks who run The Blacklist.[3] This doesn’t count writers who are hired to write scripts based on existing material ( a book, a sequel, an existing script that needs a rewrite, a producer’s idea, etc,) which makes up the bulk of the paid screenwriting done in Hollywood. It also doesn’t count the many screenplays that are optioned, with writers hired to rewrite their own material. However, when people say “sell a screenplay” they are usually imagining selling an original script to a major studio or production company. The average number of these sales in recent years is about 50 screenplays per year.

So to summarize, assuming your script is one of the 5000 “good” scripts out of the one million that get written worldwide. Your chances of selling it are…

1% or one-in-one-hundred.

Are you discouraged yet? It gets worse.

How many of those 50 sales are screenplays by unknown, unestablished writers? Maybe 4. Sometimes fewer. Yet how many of the 5000 scripts were written by unknown, unestablished, non-WGA writers? Only about 5000 WGA writers out of 20,000 WGA members, earn any money in a given year, and most of them are TV writers. But let’s be wildly optimistic and say that of the 5000 good scripts written, 1000 of them were written by WGA members.

This means that out of the 4000 good scripts written by as-yet-unknown writers, only 4 will actually sell. So, for you, the chances are one-in-a-thousand.

What does this mean for you and your dreams of being a screenwriter? If you have “what it takes” to write movies, you are probably delusional, obsessed, and sadly unfit to do anything else. So stop reading Quora and get back to writing.

As Han Solo said in The Empire Strikes Back…

I answered this question on Quora in the space Ask A Screenwriter. Here are my recent articles On Screenwriting.

Why are Hollywood writers firing their agents?

Ask a Screenwriter #3

The Writers’ Guild of America demanded that the Talent Agencies sign a Code of Conduct. The Agencies refused. So, all WGA writers fired their agents and agencies. Writers will remain “unrepresented” by agents until an agreement is reached.

To explain:

The Code of Conduct is a document intended to eliminate Packaging Fees and curb the practice of Agents receiving money as de facto producers.

Agencies, in particular, the “Big Five” (CAA, WME, UTA, and ICM) who thrive on packaging fees and who feel they can’t survive without them, refused to give them up.

To explain in detail:

Talent Agent negotiates fees with Producers and studios on behalf of Writers.

A Talent Agent makes money by taking 10% of the fee negotiated.

For there not to be a conflict of interest, the Talent Agent negotiating with a Producer should not also be a Producer on the project.

Since the 60s it has been illegal for an Agent to also be a Producer.

However, the most powerful agencies (like CAA and WME) often behave like producers. Whenever a writer sets up a TV pilot, the agency charges the studio a “packaging fee.” This fee amounts to 6% of licensing and 10% of the gross, which is precisely something that a producer or a writer-producer might get.

“Packaging Fees” are ostensibly paid so that a powerful agency will bring other talented writers, actors, and directors it represents to the project. However, attaching additional talent is a producer’s job. And it’s not clear that the people who are “packaged” are having their best interests served. Most problematically, the agency could end up making far, far more than 10% of the deal:

Said Meredith Stiehm, the creator of Cold Case, “When the show was sold, CAA negotiated a packaging fee for itself, without my knowledge…It wasn’t until six years and 134 episodes later that I learned about it. It turned out that on the show I created, I worked on exclusively for years, CAA ended up making 94 cents for every dollar I earned. That is indefensible. An agency should make 10% of what a client makes — not 20, not 50, not like in my case, 94%. 10% is enough.”[1]

Furthermore, companies like the newly formed, WME affiliated Endeavor Content are both producers and agent-like representatives. Although the heads of Endeavor Content call themselves “matchmakers,” writers feel that they are behaving precisely like agent-producers.

Bottom line:

Writers say there is a conflict of interest. Agencies say that if the money is good, what’s the harm?

Bigger Issues:

Writers, who often get their own work based on their own relationships, are asking themselves, “If I have a lawyer and a manager, what do I need an agency for?”

Agencies, who are struggling to find ways to make money in a rapidly changing industry, say “everybody benefits from agency packaging and participation. The writers are creating chaos, and the result will be that everybody loses.”

See these articles:

Why Are Agents Producing Shows? Writers Guild Would Like to Know

Endeavor Content Takes Big Swings to Expand Options for Producers

WGA Sues Big Four Agencies Over Packaging Fees

I answered this question on Quora in the space Ask A Screenwriter. Here are my recent articles On Screenwriting.