Monday, July 28, 2008

Foreign Markets

I still haven't made it out to see DARK KNIGHT. I know, I suck. I'm probably going to go tomorrow morning or afternoon. I was in Tahoe last week with my writing group working on the novel. It's going pretty well, but there are still tons of things to do. Anyway, as I work on my pitch document for this remake idea, I've been thinking a lot about foreign market concerns.

The reality is that the movie business is 60-80% driven by foreign financiers who are purchasing rights for sale overseas. Movies that don't have a strong foreign appeal are far less likely to be purchased and greenlit. What are the elements for a globally-appealing film?

First and foremost, genre. Action films don't require very much by way of translation. Sub-genres like heist films, gangster movies, detective stories, thrillers or horror films are all solid bets. As an artist, it's important to keep these things in mind when deciding to spec out a story, since you're spending months at a time on something with no idea where the market will be once you complete it. Also a strong genre sample helps a baby writer to get re-write gigs.

Movie stars run a very close second to genre. Most films are marketed with pictures of the lead actors on the poster. These actors do not have to be stars in the US, in fact, when casting is done on films supporting roles are often re-written, or created with specific foreign stars in mind.

Budget -- the US is still the only country that creates mammoth spectaculars like DARK KNIGHT as a matter of course. Studios sell of pieces of films (usually as part of a slate) to foreign financiers, but very few foreign financiers venture into the blockbuster movie-making business themselves (and, yes, I know about CHRONICLES OF NARNIA and ERAGON, but those are specific cases that have strong US executive elements driving them). This means that another important element is understanding the budgeting process and what different talent elements will bring in terms of a market return.

All of which is way down the road for me and my little pitch document. I'm still doing competitive research reading and trying to decide if I'll bring in a writer or writer/director before I go back in to visit the studio.....

Friday, July 11, 2008

Howdy, Strangers!

I've been busy. Working. Writing. And vacationing.

The last few years I've been really focused on writing, and learning to write, and haven't really generated any producing projects to speak of -- other than the ones that have fallen into my lap I've mostly just been collecting ideas. Well, this fall I've decided I'll try my hand at setting up a few things and see how I feel about diving back into that end of the business. Baby steps.

My first effort is towards acquiring the rights to a film that was made about 30 years ago. I'll keep you posted if it works out. I've contacted the rights holder and am waiting to hear back if there's any interest. If there is I'll write up a sales document -- basically a 1-2 page story idea which details my "take" on the re-telling and see if that gets any traction. If it does then I'll find an "element" (writer, director, actor or, given the state of the business, a financier) and walk into one of these big friendly agencies (*snark*) and give up a few percentages of my speculatively nice fee to have a package put together.

I think I've written about packaging before, so I won't go into the details of it here, but suffice to say that it is the best and worst thing to happen to the producing side of things since the studios were all sold to conglomerates and greenlight decisions started being affected by stock prices.

I'm planning to do a few book and short story options as well. *Sigh* It sucks to be working alone, so I'm hoping to find someone to partner up with, either another "creative" type or someone who really is just trying to produce. That would be nice since I hate all the paper-pushing that goes along with the job.

OK, last part of the update (and I promise my next post will be a real post, not this information dump) I recently started meeting with a group of kick-ass screenwriters, all relative newbies, and it's been great. The pace is fast which is part of the reason I joined the group, and we turn in pages every week. Some of these guys are turning scripts around in 1-2 weeks which is intimidating since I'm an unrepentant chiseler-in-stone type of wordsmith, but I thought it would be a good idea to pick up on the habits of people who can pour the pages out. I've learned a tremendous amount just talking to these guys and I can feel the studio story-development plaque shaking free. :-)

I'm off to the gym, trying to get my sexy back (still) after a long, lazy winter. Or two. LOL.