While there have been may great film projects that originally began as a novel or in more recent times a graphic novel (see ‘V for Vendetta’ and ‘Watchmen’) there is a trend now for many great novelists and storytellers to transfer their ideas and unique characters into a series for television, primarily on the cable networks. Many of the recently Emmy nominated and award winning shows such as FX’s ‘Justified’, which is based on the short story ‘Fire in The Hole’ by Elmore Leonard, or HBO’s fabulous ‘Game of Thrones’ which is based on the novels written by George RR Martin were converted to episodic television (Cable and Subscription Cable respectively) and delivered just the results that the respective executives were seeking. Great programming that immediately produced both the lofty Nielsen rating numbers, as well as the social network buzz” that the programming executives were wanted.
In a world where movie budgets continue to balloon well into the hundreds of millions of dollars and where studios are reticent to greenlite any project that does not have Tom Cruise, Will Smith or any number of comic book characters, studios are becoming much more conservative in both the number of projects that they will “take a chance on” and the amount of money that they will budget for said films. Television on the other hand, specifically cable and subscription cable networks such as HBO, Showtime and Starz have found themselves consistently pushing the envelope for more original and daring programming. The stage was set with HBO’s breakthrough hit The Sopranos staring the late, great James Gandolfini, which the network then followed with the powerful urban drama The Wire. These two shows not only drew public and critical acclaim, they were also the first subscription cable original programing to break through what I like to refer to as “The Water Cooler Test” They became shows that the public would talk about the next day at work (this being before the age of Twitter) They became shows in which the personal lives of the actors and actresses became folder for the gossip magazines such as People Magazine and US Weekly, and most importantly, they became the shows that drove HBO subscriptions to record highs as the organic momentum of daring quality television prompted everyone to want to know what everyone else was talking about. Since HBO broke ground with their original programing, not only have the other subscription cable networks followed suit, but also cable networks, such as the aforementioned FX and others have become increasingly aggressive in developing original programing that is outside of the box.
While there are an abundance of talented authors and screenwriters competing for attention to produce the next blockbuster film, if you consider yourself amongst that group, why not look at your project as a series that can be pitched to television as opposed to the theaters? In the current financial climate for the film industry, no less an authority than George Lucas himself predicts a complete overhaul of the industry due to former and projected large budget blockbusters that will flop. This will lead to even tighter budgets by studio executives and fewer opportunities for writers and producers of independent films looking to break into the business. A talented novelist/scriptwriter who recognizes this trend can begin to take steps to place themselves in the best position to be successful in the future.
Best of Luck to you!
Managing Partner / SMASH Entertainment LLC.
Game of Thrones is HBO’s biggest hit since the Sopranos
George Lucas Commenting on the future of film- ABC News