The Write Stuff For The Movies

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With creative ideas in Hollywood drying up, producers are searching for great new concepts earlier in the production process.

Some of the greatest movies ever made have been screen adaptations of a book. “Blade Runner” starring Harrison Ford, “Total Recall” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, “The Bourne Identity” starring Matt Damon are a few modern examples. One of the most successful movie series has to be Harry Potter, adapted from the brilliant novels by J.K.Rowling. Not to mention the epic work by Peter Jackson to bring to the silver screen the breathtaking trilogy – The Lord Of The Rings by JRR Tolkien.

But all of these movies have one thing in common, they were made after the book had gone big time - sometimes years after the event.

With dropping box office receipts, slowing DVD and home video sales, the movie industry is watching every dollar it invests to ensure it gets the best return and keeps the studio in the black. But amongst the many factors that drive movie revenues, no one can escape the simple fact that the concept needs to be good.

In a New York Times article (Summer Fading, Hollywood sees Fizzle) Michael Lynton, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment was quoted as saying: “Audiences have gotten smart to the marketing, and they can smell the good ones (movies) from the bad ones at a distance."

Even with the tried and tested method of recycling old ideas such as “Bewitched”, “War Of The Worlds” and even “Batman” (to name a few from this summer’s crop) the industry also needs new concepts if it is to return to growth. But with competition fierce, how will the studio execs ensure they get to this rare commodity first.

Steve Bell, author of the soon to be released “Secret Revelation” may give an indication to a changing trend in the movie industry.

“Last year I was covered in an article in ‘What’s New’ magazine,” Steve says. “I talked about the growing trend of writers to craft their books so they are ideally suited to be converted to a screen play (Movie Writes? - Authors focus in on the big screen - 2004). Well things have moved on a step further in this collaboration process. The studios are getting involved even earlier in the writing process and not even waiting for the novel to be out there.”

In the clamber for new concepts, studios are making stakes even earlier in the creative process. Rather than wait for the book to go big, post publishing, the execs are trying to strike deals before the first draft is even finished.

“I’ve had discussions with production execs even prior to submitting my manuscript for publication,” says Steve. “Discussions were held on how the plot may be ‘adapted’ slightly to fit even better into a potential screenplay. This is quite an interesting collaboration. It’s a shift in thinking.”

Does this new approach herald a major shift in the creative media industry? For authors it means a complete package – Book – Movie – Video Game all negotiated before the first draft of the plot is complete. For the movie industry it means that they get the concepts (and mould the concepts) at a much earlier stage, thus securing rights at a much lower cost. This may allow producers to spread their bets wider and cheaper with the hope of getting that blockbuster early on.

“Secret Revelation has been collaboratively produced to ensure it works well as a book, movie or video game. We hope, but can never say for sure, that it will be a blockbuster – it’s one of the many new ideas worth placing an early stage bet on. If it does go big, then it will have been a very cute investment. ”

More and more authors are being signed to deals during the pre-production phase of their work. Maybe this is the start of a new trend, a trend that just may save Hollywood and ensure that moviegoers remain delighted by fresh new ideas for years to come.

Andrea Gavazzi

Secret Revelation will be published by iUniverse

ISBN: 0-595-36987-1



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