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Question and Answer for this week:
My Question pertains to writing. How does a struggling author get their books or stories seen by a film studio?
Answer by Brandon Blake, Entertainment Attorney:
I receive a lot of questions from authors in the same situation. Whether an author has been published by a major publisher or has self-published through the many independent presses that are available, many authors would like to move from print to theatrical motion pictures.
Moving from publishing to feature film is difficult. Most books that are adapted for major motion pictures are either best sellers or have a substantial cult following. Unpublished manuscripts are difficult because the work does not yet have an audience. Generally an unpublished manuscript will need to be adapted first to show the feasibility of producing the work as a feature film.
After 14 years of representing feature film producers, writers and authors, I have been on both sides of adaptations, representing the authors and the producers at different times. Although there is no single way to succeed as an author, here are a few tips that I have learned over the years.
- Unpublished Works: An unpublished work faces the steepest climb. I would suggest that the first step would be either to find a literary agent to represent the work or to dig in and either write the adaptation or find a young screenwriter with talent that can write it with the author. Neither choice is easy. Finding a literary agent is difficult due to the huge number of manuscripts being submitted each year. Likewise, writing a script or finding an interested writer will take time. But in either case the author is making a material step towards getting the work seen. Do not discount the many workshops and contests that can give a work a boost as well.
- Self-Published or Limited Editions: In this case an author should consider the audience of the work. Is there a large audience or a particularly supportive demographic? If so then the work might support a crowd funding campaign. Money could be raised to hire a professional screenwriter or even to develop the feature. If the screenwriter hired is well known or if the author has raised enough money to attach some known actors, then studios and production companies will start to take interest in the project.
- Well Known Works: Well known works can often be presented directly to studios who may want to develop the projects in-house. This is especially common with animated features. The process is that the studio will find out if there is tentative interest by the author in developing the work for a feature film. Then the development executives will shop the project internally to find potential interest from a producer in the project.
As with any of these approaches, the author needs to balance exposure of the work with protecting the concept and idea of the project. In my experience the risks of reputable, experienced producers out-right stealing a project are much smaller than most authors realize. However, that does not mean that the author will be treated fairly. Proper representation is important for an author at any experience level.
As with any legal matter, please do not make a decision about complex matters without consulting an experienced entertainment attorney first. I have been representing feature film projects for more than 14 years. Please feel free to contact my office about a quote.
- By Brandon Blake, Entertainment Attorney
About the Editor:
Brandon A. Blake is an entertainment lawyer and producer who works with Academy Award winning actors, directors and filmmakers. A complete biography is available online.
About the Entertainment Lawyer Q&A:
The Entertainment Lawyer Q&A does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor is the information treated as confidential. Responses to selected questions will be made public and shared with our subscribers. All entertainment law information is informational in nature and is not intended to be acted on without entertainment lawyer counsel.
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