Thursday, 26 July 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #932: Hollywood & Books

There's been some interesting developments in the worlds of media, specifically in the strange grey world where books, movies, and TV meet, and how they illustrate the dysfunctions that lie at the heart of the studio system.

First up, two Hollywood big shots, former studio/network exec turned entrepreneur Barry Diller and meta-mega-producer Scott Rudin, are in "exploratory talks" over starting their own e-books company. So far, there's no word on what this venture will be called, or what sort of material it will print beyond the extremely general notions of fiction and nonfiction. They also might not even go through with it, but there are some good reasons for them to do it, which I will get to in a minute.

The second story is of a new deal between mega-publisher Random House and mini-media mogul FremantleMedia that's to be called Random House TV. The purpose of this new venture is for Random House to work with its authors to develop either television adaptations of already published works, or completely original scripted television projects that FremantleMedia gets first crack at co-producing and/or selling to broadcasters internationally.

So let's get into the reasons behind these deals.

1. Minimal Risk:  Getting into e-books is a hell of a lot cheaper than making movies and television. You needs some editors (a combo of a few permanent acquisition/managing editors and freelancers), some graphic designers, mostly freelance, and some people to handle marketing and publicity. In this wired age you don't even need a big office, if you have any office at all. You can even contract the manufacture of occasional physical editions to print on demand providers.

2. Great Potential: E-books are quickly becoming the mass market paperback of the modern age. It can become the new home of literature that is at first considered "disposable" but soon will become the breeding ground for the classics of the future. Properly marketed it could translate into good sales for low cost.

And then there's the reason they share with Random House TV.
In ancient Greek myth there's the story of a king named Sisyphus. He displeased the gods, so they his punishment in Hades was to spend eternity repeatedly horsing a big heavy boulder up a hill, only to see it roll down as soon as he reached the top.
If you want a taste of what Sisyphus went through, only with expense account three martini lunches, then try adapting a novel into a movie with a major studio or a TV network.
Even bestsellers can spend years languishing in "development hell" as just about every ex-frat brother of the CEO's son takes a turn mangling it into an unrecognizable monstrosity via their "notes." Millions of dollars are wasted, and even then the odds are against it ever seeing any screen.
Both the Diller/Rudin deal, and the Random House/Fremantle deal cut out a lot of the middlemen in the development process. This is especially true for Random House television. Instead of the traditional system of selling rights to producers or companies, and waiting for them to make the project, and get it on the air, they can just make it with the direct involvement of the author, and then sell it to the content-starved cable channels without all the money and time wasted in the usual studio/network development process. 

So there are lots of potential for these deals, so it will be interesting to see what they do with them.

1 comment:

  1. Pubishers have been the gatekeepers for a long time. They do not want to give that up and they don't know how they will keep authors from getting their slice in the future.

    Fifty Shades of Grey was Twilight fan-fic. Right now they are using their familiar tools but someone will find a way around that. Their best hope is for some government internet controls.

    Rainforest Giant