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Deccydiva
08-20-2008, 04:45 AM
I apologise in advance if this is in the wrong place.
A naive question to most of you I'm sure - but I'm curious. When a book is turned into a movie, is the idea/sale of film rights initiated by the book's author and if so, who do they approach? A movie production company or a scriptwriter? Or does either one or someone else entirely take the initiative if they feel that a book might be a suitable candidate?
I do have a reason for this question but I know absolutely nothing so I'm starting out with this general question... hope someone can put me right, or give me a link.
Thanks!

kullervo
08-20-2008, 04:55 AM
No, 99% of the time, someone approaches you.

99% of the time, the approach is made by the screenwriter.

99% of the time, the "screenwriter" has never made a dime writing screenplays.

99% of the time, they will offer you less than a hundred dollars.

99.999999999% of the time, no movie will result.

99.9999999999999999999% percent of the time a movie results, you will earn no further money.

Deccydiva
08-20-2008, 05:02 AM
Hmm. Sounds like the odds are better on the national lottery! :Headbang:
Thanks for the reply, appreciated.:Hug2:

Billingsgate
08-20-2008, 07:54 AM
Kullervo, are you really sure about your facts? Most book publishing contracts (in their generic form) reserve the film, broadcast and other ancillary rights to the publisher, unless the author or agent has negotiated those out of the contract (which they usually - but not always - will). Meanwhile, most agents I've known want to reserve for themselves a piece of any film or ancillary rights, and it would be damn tough to talk them out of it. In other words, even if the author is approached, it likely isn't the author doing the deal-making.

Authors I know (including myself) who've been approached for movie rights to their published books have been contacted every time by production companies, not by screenwriters. Often these companies buy options on film and/or broadcast rights on a shotgun approach, just to make sure no one else gets them, in the hope that one will go into development and reap them a big profit. Fees offered of course have been laughable, but more like "equal to or less than a thousand dollars", not "less than a hundred dollars".

As for the 99.9% chance that no movie will result or, if a movie is made, no further dimes will be earned by the author, I can confirm that for sure.

The above is my limited knowledge, which is all from outside Hollywood, but still includes places with sizable film production industries (Hong Kong, Australia, France, UK).

krano
08-20-2008, 08:00 AM
Kullervo, are you really sure about your facts? Most book publishing contracts (in their generic form) reserve the film, broadcast and other ancillary rights to the publisher, unless the author or agent has negotiated those out of the contract (which they usually - but not always - will). Meanwhile, most agents I've known want to reserve for themselves a piece of any film or ancillary rights, and it would be damn tough to talk them out of it. In other words, even if the author is approached, it likely isn't the author doing the deal-making.

Authors I know (including myself) who've been approached for movie rights to their published books have been contacted every time by production companies, not by screenwriters. Often these companies buy options on film and/or broadcast rights on a shotgun approach, just to make sure no one else gets them, in the hope that one will go into development and reap them a big profit. Fees offered of course have been laughable, but more like "equal to or less than a thousand dollars", not "less than a hundred dollars".

As for the 99.9% chance that no movie will result or, if a movie is made, no further dimes will be earned by the author, I can confirm that for sure.

The above is my limited knowledge, which is all from outside Hollywood, but still includes places with sizable film production industries (Hong Kong, Australia, France, UK).

I think you're referring to legitmate offers, whereas I think kullervo is referring to the horde of unproduced writers on craigslist and other such sites trying to break in with a hot concept they found.

kullervo
08-20-2008, 11:16 AM
And the point is not who gets the phone call-- publisher, agent, writer, etc., the point is that the phone call comes from the other side. Usually the ersatz wannabe screenwriter.

dpaterso
08-20-2008, 01:32 PM
Funny answers...

I would have thought the novel author's agent would offer film rights to prodcos/studios, and if they buy, they'll assign a pro screenwriter to write the adaptation (unless the author has the chops to write a screenplay).

An unpublished novel by an unpublished/unknown author has no value to a prodco. They want fans of the novel to queue up to see the movie and/or buy the DVD.

Ditto, a studio will have little interest in a non-pro screenwriter adapting a published novel, even if the screenwriter obtains/buys adaptation rights from the publisher.

-Derek

Billingsgate
08-20-2008, 04:16 PM
And the point is not who gets the phone call-- publisher, agent, writer, etc., the point is that the phone call comes from the other side. Usually the ersatz wannabe screenwriter.

That does seem to be the way it works.


I would have thought the novel author's agent would offer film rights to prodcos/studios, and if they buy, they'll assign a pro screenwriter to write the adaptation (unless the author has the chops to write a screenplay).
-Derek

Not very many agents have the energy or the motivation to be expert at agenting in both publishing and the film business, though some agencies have both types employed. But I suspect that the above scenario only happens with established best-selling authors. The rest of us sit and wait for the offers from production companies. Then (in the case of two authors I know) the prodcos try to save some money by getting the author (who, in my friends' cases, don't have "the chops") to write the screenplay for far less than WGA rates, then they find the screenplay sucks and end up hiring a pro screenwriter anyway to rewrite it.

And still no movie gets made. Not yet.

Joe Calabrese
08-20-2008, 06:11 PM
Here's my 2 cents...

Just about every produced film out there that was adapted from a novel was optioned or sold to a production company, producer or studio. I will talk about this first. The authors of these novels to films in question got paid for the film rights, anywhere from a low six to low to mid seven. Price is almost always dependant on budget and how many weeks on the best sellers list or how many fans the novel has. Dan Brown got millions for his Davinci rights but that's because it sold more copies that the bible.
As for whether the publisher, agent or anyone else getting a piece of the pie... It all depends on the Lit contract. Normally yes. Everyone gets a bite.

Now sometimes a studio or producer will buy or option the rights for a rainy day. Speilberg bought the rights to Memoirs of a Giesha almost the day it hit the NY Times best sellers list in 1997. It took years before the film went into pre production in 2003. It is safe to assume that the vast majority of best sellers has already optioned or sold their film rights.

Now for the non best selling books. I can't think of any off the top of my head that were made into released films, but let's go into this anyway.

Studios want a franchise. They want to make money. So why option the rights to a novel that sold 62 copies through Publish America? Any writer thinking their indy press novel with get multiple calls from the major studios to make it into a film because their church newsletter gave it a good review is dreaming.

Now, I'm not saying it can't happen or hasn't. I really don't have the time to check out every adaptation out there to check, but the odds are in favor of my guess.

Now we have the fledgling screenwriter (or even the pro) who read something they love and wants to make it into a script.

The newbie screenwriter thinks because it was a novel it has to be easier to sell as a script. True, partially. If the story is fresh and good then it's an added bonus that a novel already exists, but don't think a producer is going to flip over the news that it is an adaptation. The pro screenwriter usually read something they love and wants to do it because they truly enjoyed the novel, not because they think it will be an easier sale.

Again, the producer will not buy it because it was a novel. He/she has to love the script.

The same holds true for anything. A producer must love it to buy it and make it and a studio must be able to see the potential profit. One cannot exist without the other. Even the great and wonderful Speilberg can't make a film unless the studio sees dollar signs.

DrRita
08-21-2008, 08:27 PM
No, 99% of the time, someone approaches you.

99% of the time, the approach is made by the screenwriter.

99% of the time, the "screenwriter" has never made a dime writing screenplays.

99% of the time, they will offer you less than a hundred dollars.

99.999999999% of the time, no movie will result.

99.9999999999999999999% percent of the time a movie results, you will earn no further money.

I think you need to reevaluate your 99%s

Donkey
08-21-2008, 08:45 PM
How very, very disheartening this is. Thanks for smashing my dream into little bits and pieces and stomping on it, grinding it into nothingness. I hate you all! (puts back of hand against forehead and leans head back, loudly exhaling)

Wait, I'm a guy, and therefore unable to display my true feelings. Sorry.....just lost my head for a sec. Let's try again.

You guys bite. I'm gonna write a book that's as popular as Brown's "Davinci Code" and keep all of the film rights to myself. Then I'll write my own screenplay and sell it for millions. Then I'll laugh and laugh!


;)

Joe Calabrese
08-22-2008, 12:00 AM
... I'm gonna write a book that's as popular as Brown's "Davinci Code" and keep all of the film rights to myself. Then I'll write my own screenplay and sell it for millions. Then I'll laugh and laugh!

Believe me when I say that nothing would make me happier than to see your dream come true (except perhaps my own dream fulfillment.)

No one said it was going to be easy.

Donkey
08-22-2008, 01:52 AM
Believe me when I say that nothing would make me happier than to see your dream come true (except perhaps my own dream fulfillment.)

No one said it was going to be easy.
Just having a little fun, Joe. I guess my sense of humor needs a little polishing too. lol :)

IceCreamEmpress
08-22-2008, 05:01 AM
Subrights agents at large agencies do send published books, especially those the agencies think are likely to be bestsellers, around to large production companies and intellectual-property "scouts" as a matter of course. But, yes, usually requests for options on midlist and small-press books come from individuals or small production companies.

nmstevens
08-22-2008, 10:31 AM
Kullervo, are you really sure about your facts? Most book publishing contracts (in their generic form) reserve the film, broadcast and other ancillary rights to the publisher, unless the author or agent has negotiated those out of the contract (which they usually - but not always - will). Meanwhile, most agents I've known want to reserve for themselves a piece of any film or ancillary rights, and it would be damn tough to talk them out of it. In other words, even if the author is approached, it likely isn't the author doing the deal-making.

Authors I know (including myself) who've been approached for movie rights to their published books have been contacted every time by production companies, not by screenwriters. Often these companies buy options on film and/or broadcast rights on a shotgun approach, just to make sure no one else gets them, in the hope that one will go into development and reap them a big profit. Fees offered of course have been laughable, but more like "equal to or less than a thousand dollars", not "less than a hundred dollars".

As for the 99.9% chance that no movie will result or, if a movie is made, no further dimes will be earned by the author, I can confirm that for sure.

The above is my limited knowledge, which is all from outside Hollywood, but still includes places with sizable film production industries (Hong Kong, Australia, France, UK).

It is a standard thing to request, but then again, if you look a little bit further down on "generic" contracts, you'll generally also find a standard request for your first born child and a vital organ of the publisher's choice.

The fact that A) they ask for it and B) if you don't know any better, you'll give it to them --

-- doesn't mean that publishers, as a rule, get their hands on those rights. It's strictly a matter of how much or how little they want to publish what you have to sell.

What *should* be the standard deal between an author and a publisher is *first North American printing rights* -- everything else that they tell you is standard -- especially including reprinting in any electronic media, is bullshit.

They may get those rights anyway, if you have no agent and if it comes down to "take it or leave it" -- but don't buy any of this "standard terms" stuff.

The only thing that's standard in the publishing industry is the same thing that's standard in every other industry -- and that's the unrestrained greed of management.


In terms of who it is that, in the majority, ultimately acquires the rights to published material -- it may very well be that a great many screenwriters will pick up the phone and ask about rights, but in the end, in terms of those who actually go through the whole process of negotiating the option of the acquisition of rights -- because this isn't, by any means a "do it yourself" deal -- it's not like you can just down-load a standard "rights acquisiting" contract and fill in the blanks.

You pretty much have to have an entertainment attorney negotiate the deal and draw up the contract -- because you can bet that neither the writer, nor his agent, nor his lawyer, nor the publisher, nor any rights holder, is going to pay to draw up the contract. That costs money. It's billable hours. And it's going to be your lawyer and his hours and your bill.

And even if it's an option that runs a few hundred dollars -- or a free option, the money comes from paying your lawyer to draw up the contracts.

Now, unless you have a lawyer working on commission -- which means that you have some other revenue stream that's paying him (because drawing up a contract for a low budget option isn't paying him anything), that means money out of your pocket -- and when the average writer realizes that he's going to have to spend money to acquire a property -- and not even permanently (because options revert after a set period -- a year, or eighteen months, or whatever) -- they generally get cold feet.

So while I do know some writers who have actually optioned books (I know a writer who once optioned one of the Stainless Steel Rat books -- and then proceeded to write an abominable screenplay based on it -- option cost a few hundred dollars, lawyer bills ran a few thousand. Option lapsed. He never sold it), most books are optioned by production companies and producers.

In fact, even if you happen to be a screenwriter, the act of optioning a property really makes you a producer, whether you want to be one or not -- because now you are not simply someone looking to sell your services as a writer, or even to sell a finished spec screenplay. Now you are someone who owns a property -- in this case, the rights to the underlying book (as well as the screenplay). Anybody wants to make the movie -- they've got to deal with you, because you have the rights to the book.

That makes you a producer, like it or not.

And even if you weren't interested in writing the screenplay at all -- and you had the rights to the book -- that'd make you a producer too.

So I'd tend to agree, that the majority of rights that are actually acquired will end up in the hands of production companies -- even fairly modest ones, rather than out-and-out screenwriters who are simply looking to acquire a book to adapt for themselves.

A whole industry has grown up designed to search for books that might make for good movies. Most things that come out have already been read and covered when they were in galleys. Anything that seemed at all likely would almost certainly have already been optioned before it ever even hit the bookstores or got reviewed in the New York Times.

Even rather obscure books, if by reasonably well-known authors, were likely acquired, simply as a matter of course, on the off-chance that they might be made into movies.

I was interested in pitching a take on a book written by T.H. White (who'd written Once and Future King) -- this was an obscure book, it had been written in the fifties. It had never been adapted before.

The goal, of course, was to have whoever I pitched it to acquire the rights -- but as it turned out, the rights had already been acquired. A studio owned them - had acquired them along with everything else that T.H. White had written way back when. So no rights were available. I could pitch it one place -- but that didn't really make sense.

And it's not even as if they were doing anything with any of this stuff. They simply had it. It was there in their library of stuff along with who-knows-how many other things to which they owned the rights. Probably thousands of things.

I'd be willing to bet that most studios only have the most passing sense of what they actually own in terms of literary properties.

And these are outright sales -- not options.

Oh, well. Something else I'll probably never write.

NMS