When was the last time you were at the movies?
If it was sometime in the past 50 years of so (please tell me it was!), then chances are you caught a flick that was based on a book.
Book adaptations have always been a source of compelling content (think Jaws and the first Jurassic Park), but more recently, adaptations have become one of the fastest growing, most reliably profitable and attractive markets for producers in Hollywood (think Hunger Games and Harry Potter).
Authors everywhere are gaining more and more traction with producers looking for compelling stories to be adapted for film and television…
So where do you start?
Traditionally, authors begin by looking for a literary agent who would then connect them with producers and agents in the entertainment industry, and act as their calling card to success in Hollywood.
Well I’m here to tell you that is not [always] the case…
If you are a well-known author who already has a large following of fans and readers, then this traditional route will be effective for you because a lit agent has pull with producers.
A lit agent’s job is basically to make a producer’s life easier by acting as a middleman between writers and producers.
But… If you are an author who is just starting out or still working to figure out how to gain traction for yourself and your book(s), then going the lit agent route is not your best option.
Literary agents are very focused on the projects that will provide an easy transaction with guaranteed profit. Which is great for those established writers with built in audiences and profitable material, but not so great for an author who isn’t quite as established (yet).
So here’s what you do….
Bypass the literary agent and go straight to the producer!
Producers by nature just have different priorities than a lit agent. It’s their job to stick with a project from start to finish, which means that 9 times out of 10, a producer supports the projects for which they feel passionate about.
Simply put: Agents are transaction focused; Producers are passion focused. They need new and exciting material to keep their careers moving.
This is where your opportunity lies!
Now, your job as an author is to get producers on your side to support you and your story…
To help you do that, here are 3 tips for nabbing a producer to champion your project from start-to-finish:
1. Be helpful and build good rapport!
By now you probably know how busy producers are. They literally have stacks and stacks of scripts and books to go over. So the more helpful you can be (by lessening their workload), the more likely they are to get behind your project.
One of the best and most effective ways to do this is to present producers with easy-to-read materials that speak their language. Hint, hint: producers are very visual people and would much rather read short, compelling content, rather than a dense book or screenplay…
Using materials like a lookbook or a treatment to convey your project’s main ideas is the way to go because these types of materials involve less reading for the producer while simultaneously helping them to visualize how a project will look.
Another way to be helpful is to build a good rapport with producers…you can start by being open to feedback (accept what they have to say!) and being respectful of their time.
Producers will stick their necks out for projects (and people) they really believe in (and like), so it’s imperative that you bring them concise, compelling content that has high market value and the possibility to go big (AKA award worthy and highly profitable) while also being kind and courteous.
Make their decision to take your script to the finish line a no-brainer!
2. Know your market!
This tip requires you to do your homework! If you ask a producer what one of the most annoying/off-putting things that happens to them on a regular basis, they will most likely say: “Pitches that have nothing to do with me or my market!” (Followed by several grim tales of mishaps and gaffs).
If you’re a chef, you would never pitch to get a job as an astronaut.
Similarly, if your book is a thriller, you should never pitch to a producer who works exclusively in animation.
When you do land a meeting with a producer in your market, it is of the utmost importance that you are prepared with project options, ideas for how to market your story, and knowledge of current market trends.
3. Be in it for the long haul…and be nice along the way!
Making a movie can take up to 5-10 years (Twelve Years A Slave took 12!). If you’re not willing or able to invest that kind of time, why would a producer want to help you out?
The longer you stick it out, the more opportunities you will create for yourself, while also showing your producer that you’re committed.
Also, you must be easy to work with (and nice)!
There are a ton of stories out there about creators who let their arrogance get the best of them… take Troy Duffy for instance (yes, there’s a reason you don’t recognize his name).
Duffy was a bar-owner turned overnight Hollywood success story, until his ego got in the way.
He wrote the screenplay for The Bookdock Saints, which was picked up by Harvey Weinstein and Miramax to the tune of a $450,000 contract, plus a $500,000 two-script deal with Paramount.
Not too shabby for the Chicago-native bar owner!
However, things quickly went south when Duffy began developing a reputation for being crass and rude to the producers and potential stars of the film (he insulted Ethan Hawke and Keanu Reeves who were in consideration for Boondock and Jerry Bruckheimer who was a potential producer for the film).
As word of Duffy’s unprofessional/rude behavior got back to Weinstein, he was blacklisted and Miramax dropped the Bookdock contract.
The next thing Duffy knew, his calls were being refused, his deal was dropped and he lost all his contacts in Hollywood; he will likely never work again in Hollywood because of his horrible behavior, overblown ego, and tarnished reputation.
Let this be a lesson to you…
Don’t let your ego get in the way!
So the moral of the story is (1) you don’t necessarily need a literary agent to make it in Hollywood, (2) you can go straight to a producer to champion your project and (3) build good relationships with producers!
Do you have any tips we missed? Comment below!
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