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Hollywood is catnip for writers. As a writer who’s been doing the job for a few decades, I’ve had more than a few Hollywood encounters myself. I’ve negotiated screenplay options. Talked backend and points with production companies. Got the limo rides. Been on movie sets. Walked the walk. My current screenplay might even get signed this time, then again it might not—it’s Hollywood baby and anything can happen.
Way back in 2002, the first two times Hollywood came knocking, I was too awestruck to enjoy the moment. All I could think was DreamWorks is considering my books for the movies--and then before that could sink in Fox was there considering my books too. I was dancing on top of the world, especially with the same books doing so well on Amazon's bestseller lists.
Dancing on clouds was fun but it wasn't until Hollywood came knocking a third time that I knew I'd really done something right. That third time, it was VMP who came knocking. As they're the producers of Armageddon, Virus, Clockstoppers, Adventure Inc., The Coven, The Punisher, Æon Flux, Room Service, Welcome to the Jungle, The Incredible Hulk, Punisher: War Zone, I thought for certain this was the right fit. The right production company for Ruin Mist.
But it wasn't to be.... A lot of years passed and thoughts of breaking into Hollywood faded away. In 2008, I finished Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ruin Mist and Keeper Martin's Guide to the Fantastical Beasts and Fairie Creatures of Ruin Mist. Both books were BIG hits with fans and as it turns out with MGM, who came knocking, as did Artciculus Entertainment.
MGM was the one I'd've liked to see make the movies. They could have done it right and ensured a 4-movie run, which was what I was hoping for. It's the complete story that I want to tell in film and it's only through the course of all four books that the story behind the story is fully told. That being the story of the tragic romance of Ansh Brodst, a man at arms, and Delinna Alder, a princess of the realms.
In 2010, I finished the Ruin Mist comics and a prequel, Dawn of the Ages. The Ruin Mist graphic novel was published in late 2011. And it's these stories that bring a new movie production company to my door.
If you’re a writer, you might think there’s no more perfect place than Hollywood to live out your starry-eyed dreams and no bigger canvas for those very same dreams to play out. But what have you done lately to make those starry-eyed dreams a reality? Anything? Something? Nothing?
Most likely the answer is nothing, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Whether you have a single, finished, polished work that comes alive on the page or a hundred, you can start doing things right now to help make your Hollywood dreams a reality.
In Hollywood, it’s ideas that matter. Hollywood’s all about big ideas and big deals. If the concept is the right one, Hollywood could care less whether your book has sold five copies or five million copies. Sure, it’s easier for Hollywood to tie into and market a film based on a bestseller but Hollywood makes movies out of also-ran books every, single day because somewhere, the right someone loved the concepts the books explored.
Whether you think I’m smoking something funny and want a toke of that great stuff or not, queue up some of your favorite movies, go through the begin and end credits and see how many say “Based on the novel (or short story) … by …” Odds are you’ll see more than a few of those “based on” credits (and many from authors and books you’ve never heard of).
The number of “based on” credits you see is a reflection of just how important written works are to Hollywood. However, that “based on” credit isn’t representative of every book, novella or short story adapted for film. It’s a privilege, a right that not every author gets. Only authors savvy enough to negotiate the “based on” right get credit, and they have to negotiate the right into the screenplay option agreement in the first place (and then ensure that the right isn’t written out in addendums and such later). What then is the true number of theatrical works based on books? Does anyone really know?
Doubtful. What I do know though is that Hollywood is always looking for fresh, source materials and books give Hollywood plenty to work with. The source books needn’t be from bestsellers or industry luminaries. For that matter, the source books needn’t be books or anything book-like either. Hollywood options plenty of short-form works for adaptation as movies. In some ways, short-form works are easier for Hollywood to work with as they present the characters, the central story, the plot more succinctly than books. Hollywood options plenty of works that were never books too—they’re called screenplays and screenplays are the currency of Hollywood.
As a writer, before you count yourself out of the game, deal yourself in by learning the basics of the screenplay trade. Familiarize yourself with how screenplays are written and how screenplays are pitched to the studios. An understanding of screenplay structure will help you position yourself. An understanding of the pitch will help you sell your work to Hollywood.
As for me, I don't know if the 6th time is the lucky charm for Ruin Mist. It might be, then again it might not be. It's Hollywood baby, and anything’s possible.
Thanks for reading!
(c) 1995 - 2013 Robert Stanek