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Jun 18, 2014

One of the most frequent requests that we get here at Voyage Media is, can you give me some names and contact information? Or, how do I get contact information for producers so I can send them my material?

Getting contact information is actually quite easy. I can tell you right now exactly how to do it. You get an IMDB Pro account and research contacts yourself. You can find their production company contact info, their representation info, and info for their agents, lawyers, managers, and so forth. Pay a small subscription fee and you can have it all right there at your fingertips. But there’s nothing special about getting that information.

Why "Contacts" Are a Dead End

The problem is that it’s not the contact information that matters. Even if you have some incredible pitch prepared, that contact is not going to take your call in the first place. And even if they did take your call, odds are, they’re not going to accept your script or whatever it is you’re trying to send them.

There are simply too many people out there with books or screenplays or projects in development, trying to get something to happen for their project. There are so many people out there doing this that if you don’t have some form of credibility and you haven't been vetted by someone trustworthy, there’s no reason why they would spend any time with you. These agents, managers, and producers have 30 other projects on their desk that have been vetted by the industry in some way.

How Do You Get Vetted?

This is really the key question. The traditional model of being vetted is having an agent or manager. The problem with that model is that if you’re not vetted already, you can’t get an agent or a manager. It’s a catch-22.

The other method of being vetted is to have a relationship with somebody who can introduce you. If you’re a screenwriter and I know you and I like you, I like your work and I know a certain producer or the executive of a specific production company, then I can introduce you. This way, they will take your call and gladly spend a few minutes with you, since I've already vetted you.

So then logically, your next question should be, how do I get vetted by someone who knows someone? How do I get that first kind of break?

The answer lies in being in the relationship business. You have to be in relationship with people, not just trying to get something from them. If you wanted to be friends with somebody, you would not call them and ask them to loan you $100 upon first meeting them. You wouldn’t ask them to loan you their car or help you out of a jam. Those are things you’d only do once you were already friends with the person.

You have to be friends with somebody first to be in a relationship with them. The highest leverage thing that you can do to become friends with somebody is to add value to their life somehow, or be in the business of solving their problems.

Once you’re in that business—and that’s not an easy business to be in—you will start flowing down the river instead of fighting to swim upstream.

Ask the Right Questions…

For example, what do you know about the person you’re trying to connect with? Have you done research on them? Do you know what they care about either professionally or personally? Does what you have or what you care about connect with what that person needs? Do you have something to talk about that’s interesting to them? Something that makes their day a little more exciting or a little more interesting or a little more fulfilling?

Do you have a project that satisfies the current market need that they’re trying to fulfill? Have you read the trades about them? Have you engaged them on social media?

Give WAY MORE Than You Get

A friend of mine, who is a confident networker, has become one of Richard Branson’s best friends. It’s been a very strategic thing that he did for his business purposes to become friends with Richard Branson. His initial way to gain this friendship was to be the largest donor to Richard Branson’s charity. And he didn’t do it with only his own money.

He rounded up a group of people, all of whom donated money into one pool, and then he presented that pool to Richard Branson. It was the largest donation that the charity had ever received.

Richard Branson invited him down to his private island. They ended up getting along and Joe, my friend, has continued to bring value to Richard Branson’s life.

So there’s another framework of relationship success that we as filmmakers often just do not live by, which is: if you want to be in the relationship business, then you need to be a giver and you need to give 20 times more than you ask to receive.

There’s this notion of give, give, give, get. Give, give, give, give, give, get. Give, give, give, give, give, get. But as filmmakers we’re always out there needing. We’re like can you read my script? Can you give me some advice? Will you finance my movie? It’s all give me, give me, give me. Never, what can I give you? What can I do for you?

Once you’re in the what-can-I-do-for-you business, then like I said earlier, you’ll start flowing downstream and things will emerge for you.

How Voyage Media Can Help Get You Into The Relationship Business

Predominantly, we help with the relationship aspect of this business by making sure your material is helpful to the people that it needs to be helpful to. We make sure that your project satisfies the market need, which can get broken down into several factors. Does it work for financing market need? Does it work for an actor’s market need? Does it work for a director’s market need? Does it work for an audiences’ market need? Does your project help all of those people achieve what they need to achieve?

That’s first and foremost. We help artists reframe their projects, add value to their projects to help their projects become helpful to others. When you have a project that is helpful to everyone, then that project gets financed and that project gets distributed. That’s what we specialize in.

Build a Relationship With Us!

The best way to get to know us and learn more about how we operate, what we do, what we care about, and how to play on the field with us would be to sign up for our newsletter. Provide us with your email address and we will share a bunch of free training and free interviews with you, as well as a ton of other information that you will find useful.

Jun 11, 2014

The keys to turning your book into a film—part 4.

Last week we talked about creating short form materials to help facilitate getting producers to read your work and this week we’re going to talk about why creating short form materials helps a producer not just save time, but also save money.

When a producer is deciding which projects to focus on, which aren’t projects to consider, and which projects to option and acquire, they're largely considering three major things:

What is their cost to bring the project to market? How much of an investment are they going to need to make?
What's the probable speed to market, meaning is the project efficient or inefficient? How much time will it take?
Does the project meet the producer's creative and market needs?

All you really need to do to make your film project stand out is to answer these questions...and then get ahead of them.

A Closer Look at Costs

The other thing to really understand is that producers in Hollywood by and large are signatories of the Writers Guild of America. The Writers Guild of America is the union that manages all screenwriters and authors.

In the case of a producer in Hollywood who’s the signatory to the union, when they’re looking at a novel to adapt, one of the first things that they’re likely to need to do is hire a screenwriter to develop the material into a treatment or screenplay. The minimum union scale for a writer in the Writers Guild of America, is roughly $17,000 for one draft of the treatment and about $50,000 to $60,000 for one draft of the screenplay—and that’s the minimum union scale for a writer that nobody’s ever heard of.

And all of that money is at risk, meaning even though they’ve hired a union writer, it doesn’t mean they’re going to be happy with the work.

The author, who may be in the business of commissioning a screenplay or a treatment, is most likely not a signatory to the Writers Guild of America and therefore has the ability to hire nonunion writers to effectuate the same result for a fraction of the cost. The trick is to find and identify quality nonunion writers.

There are a gazillion writers out there, but it doesn’t mean they’re all good. Certainly, most are not good. So knowing what makes a great screenwriter and then knowing how to manage that screenwriter is really quite an art in and of itself.

A Closer Look at Speed to Market

In addition to the cost, it’s going to take them between one to two months if they’re going after a treatment or three to five months, possibly more, if they’re going to commission a screenplay. This is a pretty consistent time estimate, whether the writer is union or nonunion—drafting a treatment and adapting a screenplay both take time.

Economically, the point is this: If you are an author, a little known author with a little known book, and you show up with a screenplay in hand that's been written at a professional level, you've saved that producer five months (and $60,000). So that has an advantage when you go back to the context of how quickly can I bring this project to market (and how much money is it going to cost me to bring it to market)?

A Closer Look at Market Needs

In literally every case where we’ve made a deal happen for an author, which is probably about 50% of all the self published author deals in Hollywood, one of the factors playing into it is that we’ve made it really easy for a producer to say yes. We do this by solving not just their money and time problems and by creating these short form materials, but also by clearly identifying the market that their project should be in.

Every time we find a buyer, the buyer has said to us, Thank heaven for you. There’s no other way that I would have been able to find this project and you’ve made it really easy.

Our Experience

We’ve set up a bunch of deals over the last 12 months. Notably, there’s a wonderful book by Fred Ethan called 500 Miles to Nowhere, a great western that we set up for a television series.

There’s another project called From Dunbar to Destiny by Shirley Sprinkles, which is a true story that is being developed into a movie of the week.

Perfect Date by Michael Fowlkes is being developed into a two-hour Feature Line thriller.

Lastly, just to name a few, another project called The Programme is also being developed into a thriller.

How to Get Started

If you have the time and the energy to learn how to do this yourself, we have a really great coaching program called Sell Your Book to Hollywood. The best thing to do would be to simply sign up for our email list and we will send out, from time to time, an offer to join that coaching program.

Alternatively, if you don’t have a lot of time and you want to rely on experts to do this work for you, we have a great program called Book to Screen Access where we will adapt your project for you. Sometimes you can elect to adapt it along with us, meaning you can be involved, or you can elect to have us just run with it and adapt it ourselves without your input.

In either case, we also guarantee that we will promote the adaptation to buyers in the entertainment industry in hopes of finding your project a buyer and/or a producer who wants to run with it. The best thing to do in terms of getting involved in that program, in addition to signing up for our email list, is to call the office at 310-392-4180 and we can sign you up!

Jun 04, 2014

The Keys to Turning your Book Into A Film – Part 3

Continuing our series on The Key to Turning Your Book Into A Film, Part 1 told us that we need to be in the adaptation business, and in Part 2, we discussed Why Short Form Materials are Important.

Now, let’s really get into the nitty gritty and look at the short form materials you can create that will get you closer to turning your book into a film.

Log lines

First and foremost having an incredible log line is really important. A log line is a one sentence compelling and cinematic description of your story, its main character, that character’s main objective, and the main obstacle they face.

Log lines are an industry standard of communication. Everyone in the industry knows what a log line is, so being a master of writing a log line or having a log line written for you is definitely a requirement.

Brief Summary or Synopsis   

A second wonderful tool is a brief summary of your book. This should be one to three paragraphs, or maybe three-quarters of a page. It should visually and cinematically describe the beginning, middle, and end of your story in a compelling way.

When you get past this point, you moving into the realm of the “treatments.”

Treatment

A treatment, in Voyage’s universe, is 7 to 10 pages. We think of them as adapted storylines. It should be a 7 to 10 page document that describes the adapted storyline of your project, and it should be clear whether it’s for film or television.

Often times the beginning, middle and end of the film story that you’re making based on your book will look different than the way you wrote the book.

A treatment is an actual adaptation document that allows the producer or the buyer to see the possibility for your film or your book as a film (versus having to read the book and make that interpretation themselves). It can be a very effective device to get them to see its possibility and make a decision one way or the other.

The Screenplay

The ultimate short form tool (which isn’t really a “short form” tool) is a screenplay. The screenplay is effectively the blueprint of the movie or first episode of the television show, and it includes the entire storyline, the action, and the dialogue and, while it’s not necessarily a short form document, -- in the case of a movie, it takes about two hours to read a screenplay, versus 20 to 30 hours for your full book.

In the case of a television series, more like a half-hour or an hour to get through the story. Once again, it’s a lot faster to get through this than the book.

When it works well, the screenplay describes, in a crystal clear way, the movie version or the television version of your story.

Sell Your Book to Hollywood

We have a coaching program. It’s called Sell Your Book to Hollywood that’s a do-it-yourself coaching program where we train you in everything you need to know to both identify your market, adapt your book and then identify buyers and reach out to them to make a deal.

The program includes live coaching on a monthly basis as you’re going through the program. If you register on our email list, we send out offers for that program from time to time.

We also have a very robust “done-for-you” program where we employ producers and screenwriters to craft log lines, summaries, synopsis, treatments, and screenplays for our author and manuscript clients. In addition, the great thing about the done-for-you service is that we also promote your book project to producers, so we actually make efforts at finding you a buyer.

To date, since we’ve started our book to screen program, 1 out of every 2 books that have been picked up by Hollywood producers are books that have come through our system and for which we’ve created short form materials and for which we have then promoted and found buyers for.

Sign up below and you’ll be registered for our newsletter, where you’ll get all of the offers and information for our programs delivered automatically to your inbox.

May 28, 2014

The Keys to Turning Your Book Into A Film – Part 2

In Part 1 of The Keys to Turning Your Book Into A Film, we touched on solving the time and the money problem for the producer. One of the ways to solve this is by creating short form materials.

Let’s look further at why short form materials are important.

You want to solve the time problem for a producer – making it easier for him or her to commit to your project -- by creating materials that you can use to develop a producer’s interest. These short form materials will help them to commit to spend that 20 hours or 30 hours evaluating if your book is something that they want.

Make it Easy to Get Through

Short form materials are important because producers are busy. Producers, or any buyer in entertainment for that matter, have a pile of material that they have to get through on their desk and they are inherently going to want to get through the stuff that is either the most compelling or the easiest to get through.

The most compelling materials are things like top bestsellers that every buyer wants (so there’s an urgency around making an offer on them); projects that are brought forward by well known agents or managers (that might have well known talent already attached); or projects that are being put forth by the top producers in the industry. Those projects are compelling and have a sense of pressure around them.

Everything else falls to a secondary or tertiary level. If you’re a self published or unpublished author, there’s a preconceived idea that your material isn’t necessarily strong and isn’t ready to be adapted for the screen.

Now, that may or may not be true, but it does mean it doesn’t come with a compelling and urgent dynamic, therefore, you have to use a different tactic and make your project easy to get through and review..

By creating short form materials, you make it easy for a producer to get to know your story, get to know your characters, get to know if this is a story that resonates with them and with their marketplace or that it is compelling for them – and that they want to go to the next step of reading longer materials and take thatstep toward reading and maybe even optioning your book.

So short form materials serve to make a producer’s life easier. (And anything that you can do to make a potential buyer’s life easier is a great way to go.) 

Materials

In brief the best short form materials to turn your book into a film are summarized here:

Loglines, which are one-sentence quick summaries of your book written in exciting and visual entertainment speak, can be really great, and serve a bit like your ‘elevator pitch’.

Then there are book summaries or synopses which provide an outline of the story.

And then there are treatments, which often are a big sales tool. In many cases a treatment can be just a 7 to 10 page beginning, middle, and end of the story. It’s a document that solves the time problem. And it’s a document that can be adapted into a screenplay.

And finally, the screenplay, which is the blueprint of the film itself. Which as we discussed in Part 1 solves a money problem for the producer, as they don’t have to put out the money for the adaptation.

In our next post, we’ll break these down further, as we dive into Part 3 of The Keys to Turning your Book Into a Film.