by Paige Wheeler
I’ve been doing a couple of film deals recently and that always intrigues authors. The thought of having an author’s work optioned is very sexy and exciting, but it’s a tough industry to get into. I’ve asked industry veteran Steve Fisher from APA to answer a few questions for me and thought I’d share them here with all of you.
1. PW: At what point do you like to see projects from agents/writers? Before the book has been sold; right after; or once it has published?
SF: I generally like to see projects immediately after they’ve sold to a publisher. That sale gives the project the “value added” that studios and networks like to see. It’s not necessary to wait until a book is published, though often that is when the sale happens. Since a sale to the film business is less about polished prose and more about a concept and characters, its expected that books will be shown around town in it’s early manuscript form.
2. PW: What is the market like for Film? TV movies? TV series? Is there a current trend that's selling well or being produced at the moment?
SF: the marketplace for books at the moment is reasonably good, but cautious. Increasingly over the last half dozen years or so, I’ve seen books sell after publication, on the heels of a great review in the NY Times, or with some packaging involved. Studios very often want to know who would adapt the book, who will star, etc. If there is a current trend, it is the appetite for graphic novels and comic books. Everyone wants to be, needs to be, in that business.
3. PW: What is the "average" range in option money? Has this changed in the past 10 years?
SF: “Average” money for an option is hard to say, because prices are really all over the map. What a book can demand for an option price is dictated by so many factors, not the least of which is interest/competitive bids from other buyers. In the absence of that feature options tend to be in the $20K to $50K arena typically. Obviously if the author has real name value, or the book is a big seller those numbers increase exponentially. The price for books has generally decreased over the last 6-8 years unfortunately. There are fewer 6 figure option deals around town, and studios have gotten more conservative with what they’ll spend on books.
4. PW: What's the likelihood that an option project will go into production? How about that the production actually gets distributed or aired?
SF: it’s really challenging to say how likely a project will go forward into production. There are, again, so many factors that come into play here. I’d say odds are generally in the 1 out of 10 or 15 range.
5. PW: Can you give me some examples of great projects you've worked on?
SF: one of the projects I’m most proud of was Patrick O’Brian’s MASTER AND COMMANDER, a project I sold 3 times before it got made. A real labor of love. More recently I’m happy about the Jim Sallis project DRIVE at Universal, which I set up with Hugh Jackman attached to star. Screenwriter Hossein Amini is currently adapting, and Neal Marshall has signed to direct. We’re hoping for an early ’09 start date (fingers crossed).
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