1. ShepardN7
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    ShepardN7 New Member

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    Film and TV Rights

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by ShepardN7, Jan 9, 2014.

    I may be jumping the gun a little but hey, "Dream big!". I trying to write a series of sci - fi/fantasy novels and I'm close to the point where I'll be submitting to agencies and stuff. I'm very proud of the story and have faith that it could go far. However I'm also interested in film making, but wanted to tell the story as a book first. This is because a film of this story would cost a lot and have big sets, thousands of extras, special effects etc.

    If my book were to become successful and a movie studio came calling asking for the rights to make a movie/tv series I would say no. My question is: How far do my rights go? Would they still somehow be able to just get it and make the movie without me or can they do nothing if I say no?

    This story is really important to me and I want it told correctly. I welcome your responses.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You could always consult with an attorney before deciding whether of not to accept the offer. After all, why stop Dreaming Big when you have a chance to ride the cash Caddy to the big screen.
     
  3. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    It depends on your contract. You lease the rights and no longer own the story for the life of the contract. If the contract grants your publisher the film sale rights you have no say. If it doesn't you control.

    You also don't get to write the script, so forget about that. Unless you've worked in the industry, or trained for it, you haven't the knowledge of film making to even plan out the scenes. You have to be knowledgeable in the financial end, so as to create scenes that can be made at reasonable cost. Then comes knowing how to write for the actor, which means a knowledge of stagecraft and acting technique. Writing for the screen is a difficult and demanding profession.

    In fact, I'd hold off on ordering that Porsche for a bit, because the average writer creates, edits, polished, and then puts away about a half million words before they have the skills to sell their first piece. You can shorten that a bit through study and mentoring, but not much. Moatly it's a matter of taking longer without that.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you own all rights to your work until you sell/give any to someone else...

    not until the book enters the public domain on the expiration of your copyright, which takes place a certain number of years following your death...

    while you're alive, no one can legally do anything without your permission...

    and if you sign a contract to adapt your novel to film, you will only have whatever control over how the script is written that is spelled out in the contract... as an unknown author, that is not likely to be much, if any...
     
  5. ShepardN7
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    ShepardN7 New Member

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    Thanks for the advice guys. I just wanted to clarify that I want to make the movie one day by founding my own film company and not entering the industry the other way. I just want to make sure that years down the line I can do that without having to buy my own story back. Thanks again.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    then your solution is simple... if you are fortunate to have a traditional publisher take on your book, just make sure your contract with them has a clause stating that film rights are retained by you and it does not include giving them any rights whatesover to a film adaptation... not even the right of first refusal...
     
  7. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hold on. Big sets, special effects, thousands of extras? That will cost hundreds of millions. Studios and associated companies are already in a position where one under-performing film can ruin them, they wouldn't sign on for that without some very experienced people at the helm. You're a hugely expensive commitment to an uncertain reward, against long-standing franchises with big-name stars which producers know pull in the bucks.

    Even if you manage to keep the film rights in the contract with your publisher, which a lot of publishers will try to squirrel newfound authors out of, and press hard enough for a studio to look it over (only one or two have the kind of resources you'll require - your own start-up won't), you'll still need to give away a good chunk of your control anyway if you want it to hit production. If the dream is that important to you, you might be better off surrendering up most of your film rights to the publisher and worming your way back into production through good old-fashioned schmoozing. It's vastly more likely to be accepted by the publisher, and stupefyingly more likely to deliver your full-on film.

    I'm not saying it's a pointless ambition - no ambition is pointless provided you know the contours of the slope - but you still need to work with the realities of the industry and be a little pragmatic about things. Where big blockbusters are concerned, the dollar is king, and the people who know how to make dollars are the ones whose voices are listened to.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2014
  8. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    Not true. Arthur C. Clarke was involved in the adaptation of 2001. There is a good list of book authors that were involved in the screenplay process.

    Also not true. It's not up to the screenwriter to budget. It's his/her job to convert to script format. Someone else decides if there is money for the scene.

    While it's important to write it in such a way as to garner actor support, you're not writing for an actor, you're writing for the story.

    @ShephardN7, the format between screenplays and books is very different and you can't write thoughts into it. They have to be shown in some way or cut. What you see and hear, here and now. Screenplays focus on plot points more so than novels because you have at most 120 pgs to work with with 1 pg roughly equal to one minute. You would need to strip down to the crucial plot points.

    Big sets are green screened these days, so that's a savings. Your thousands of extras would be CG'd. Still, you'll need to cut it down to absolute essential plot points.
     
  9. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Actually, if you look at film adaptations of novels, many of them have the author as either a writer and or a producer/executive producer. So I wouldn't worry about being helpless, you'll have some influence in the direction of the film, you'll just have to accept that things will go and things will change!
     
  10. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    You and Robert_S are correct in saying it has happened. It has happened a lot. But, on the grand scheme of things, the likelihood of it happening is very small indeed. It's smaller still if the author's not a big-shot, and ridiculously small if they don't have a portfolio of prior work in the field.

    To be a producer/executive producer you need a demonstrated ability to handle massive sums of money (far less in Clarke's day than now). We're talking eight zeroes. Writers don't tend to have the ability. To work on the screenplay, especially in a world where numbers like that are being thrown around, you'll need to know the ins-and-outs of acting, set limitations, budgeting, and much much more.

    Think about it from a producer's perspective: you've got a minimum of a hundred million, and this guy here - this writer, with no previous experience of such sums - wants to tell you how you should allocate it.
     
  11. Lightman
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    Lightman Active Member

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    True but misleading. Clarke didn't publish a book that Kubrick proceeded to adapt. Rather, Kubrick and Clarke collaboratively worked on the 2001 project and produced their work - the novel and the film - in tandem.
     
  12. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    @Robert_S said:
    Give me a break. Of course Clarke was involved. It was a joint project with Kubrick and not made from an already written novel. They worked together on the script, basing it partly on several short stories Clarke had written earlier.

    And of course you're ignoring the fact that the vast majority of people who have a film made of their work are consultant's only because they have no knowledge of the realities of writing and producing a script.

    Our OP wasn't talking about just being "involved."

    But it is up to the screenwriter to have a feel for what it will cost. Before you can write a scene you need to take into account the realities of making that film. And to do that you need to know who will be involved, how many, and how much time it will take to set up and tear down, and all the other realities that need to be taken into account. Otherwise that single, five minute scene you schedule in a difficult location will cost millions to make, while not contributing a commensurate dramatic impact.

    The simple fact is that no one is going to risk millions of dollars on a script written by someone without experience in the industry. Every medium imposes its own constraints and has its own strength, and there's damn little overlap, so no matter how good a novelist you are, you need to learn the craft of whatever medium you intend to write for,
     
  13. ShepardN7
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    ShepardN7 New Member

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    I was going to leave it at that, but I want to clarify some more stuff. I have been making my own short films and series for five years now. I have acted on screen and on stage and wrote/directed on screen and on stage. My life long ambition is to become a film maker. The story I came up with was for a movie not a book, but I liked the story so much that I want to tell it now.

    This is why I also want to make the movie myself because it was a movie first. Even when I do start up a company I know that this won't be my first film. I already have my own team that work with me on my films and in the near future my company will be formed. I know how to write screenplays, direct actors and produce movies, the difference is scale which I'm slowly working on. I know the people I want to work with and I now how I like to work which is why I want to do this myself. I'm talking many years down the line, but I don't think of this as a pipe dream anymore.

    Thank you all for your advice. If any of you care at all I was going to post when I get this thing published. Check it out if you want. Thanks again guys, you all seem like very cool people.
     
  14. JimStrader
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    JimStrader New Member

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    Hi. I've been in the entertainment industry for 20+ years and i have sold movie and tv rights to a large array of books (including comic books as well as video games etc). We also have a publishing division looking for material but that's another conversation. I'm happy to give general advice.

    Making a film yourself is about raising money and pre-selling various distribution rights to your film at a convention like AFM in Santa Monica. The indie film business is a hard slog. The indie business is all about scripts. No one (except in the rarest of cases) will commit financing based on a book. Next since you havent necessarily produced a film similar to what you're looking to put together, they'll look to who's directing to guarantee delivery of a great film. Next concern for financiers is who the stars are. International financiers rely on who the actors are to determine what the likelihood of success is. Without a director or actors, financiers and distribution partners just dont really commit to projects.

    Now Arthur Clarke was previously mentioned. Well Clive Cussler had script approval on Sahara. It was a disaster and everyone in Hollywood learned: never give an author script approval. Now there are exceptions like JK Rowling and Stephen King but you wont get it - ever nor will I. A studio who buys something really wont want the writer involved.

    I believe the original question centered on if a studio wants to buy it and you say 'no' can they make it anyway? The simple and short answer is no. And they wont. And they don't. Outright theft really doesnt happen in Hollywood when dealing with legitimate players. If you're dealing with people that really ARENT in hollywood with nothing to lose? I've seen weird crap with people beyond the fringes. I really try to avoid them like the plague. They are more work, more hassle and less money.
     
    redreversed likes this.

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