Brendan Deneen has stumbled into some great gigs in his life. Despite his best attempts at remaining a starving artist, Deneen established himself as an expert in turning books into film, a talent that landed him a job as a film exec. Now, as an agent/manager at the young New York talent agency Objective Entertainment, Deneen, 36, is using what he learned in the film world to guide the careers of writers. In addition, he's also writing and publishing comics himself.
Moving to New York at 25, Deneen's goal was to become an actor, and he took a “brain drain” nine-to-five temp job at Credit Suisse First Boston while working on creative side projects. He quit Credit Suisse intending to “never have another day job,” but got a call about an opening at a literary agency; even though Deneen wasn't interested initially, he figured he might be able to score an agent out of the job. With no information about where the job was, Deneen showed up at the William Morris agency and wound up landing a position as an assistant to storied New York agent Owen Laster.
After a year at William Morris, Deneen responded to a blind ad for a job he saw posted on the media careers Web site Mediabistro.com for a development position with an emphasis on books. “I was like, 'I like movies. I like books,' ” Deneen recounts. Again Deneen went to his interview without a company name—and got a job at Scott Rudin Productions in New York. Deneen served a two-year stint as a story editor at the indie production unit headed by Scott Rudin, who's known in Hollywood as one of the few people who buys high-profile literary books and actually turns them into (occasionally) viable films. (Rudin's served as producer on adaptations like No Country for Old Men and The Hours, among others.) As a book-to-film scout for Rudin, Deneen tracked manuscripts being acquired by New York literary agents and gave notes on whether certain screenplays and novels were ripe for film adaptation.
From Rudin, Deneen moved on to Miramax/Dimension—and stayed at the company after the Weinstein/Disney “divorce”—where he tracked the book world again and also got more involved in film production.
Although Deneen got film job offers in Los Angeles before joining Objective, he wanted to work with writers, liking the idea of working as a manager, to, in his words, have the ability to oversee a writer's entire career. “What a manager does and what an agent does can be nebulous,” he says. “For me, though, what a manager can theoretically do is look at the bigger picture for a writer. I want to make the deals happen day-to-day, but I also want to look long-term and get screenwriters writing comic books and comic book writers writing novels. I want to get my clients to produce [films] if they want. I want to [get them] to not just see the paycheck for today but look at the growth of their career across a lifetime.”
With his Rolodex full of producers and other Hollywood players, Deneen's hope is that he can act nimbly to get his clients' literary projects in the right hands. Among Deneen's clients are Warren Adler, John Shirley, J.M. DeMatteis, Lisa Unger and Amber Benson.
As for Deneen's own publishing/writing, while he's no longer a starving artist, he hasn't given up his art entirely. He launched Ardden Entertainment with the U.K.-based comic bookstore owner Rich Emms and under that banner is releasing a new series of Flash Gordon comics, which he's also writing. And Ardden, which has a number of non-Flash titles coming out in the future, is also linked with Objective—the firm is representing film rights to Ardden's titles.
It's quite a bit of juggling for Deneen, but it seems to make sense for a guy who came to New York to act, found his passion writing and then stumbled into his dream job bringing literary material to the film world.