Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"Hubba hubba hubba, money money money, who do you trust?"

I'm trying to come up with something semi-witty to say in response to a comment by new comics-to-film company COG 1 Entertainment producer David Uslan, but it's not happening. Here's the comment (italics are mine):

'"Normally, when I get a hold of property, I normally do not let the creators write the screenplay.You normally want to go with somebody who has a good history in the business, somebody salable, someone I trust with the material,” Uslan explained.'

From a producer perspective, I absolutely understand the desire to create the strongest possible package for a potential movie or TV show--"strongest possible" in this case meaning "easiest to sell", not unique, compelling, entertaining or good. Not that any of those are necessarily ruled out (with the possible exception of unique), but from a producer perspective, a unique, compelling, entertaining idea isn't particularly useful if they can't find someone to put money into it. And the people with money in Hollywood understandably want to minimize their risk, which means attaching as many pre-sold "elements" (writers who've written blockbuster films, marquee actors who bring an audience no matter how bad the film they're in might be, directors whose films consistently make money, etc.) to the package as possible

So I don't have much of a problem with Uslan saying "normally you want to go with somebody who has a good history in the business, somebody salable". It's what he says afterward that's grinding my gears.

I've tried to crush my inner artist for a decade now--irritating, self-righteous, pompous twit that he is--but there's still some lingering piece of him kicking around. Usually he doesn't bug me. But then he sees a Hollywood producer suggesting that a concept's creator can't be trusted with the material they themselves created, and a wounded animal scream echos through my soul...

A few years back, a friend of mine sold a property to Platinum Studios to be developed (by him, an editor, and a creative team) as a comic
and to be developed as everything else by the company. As turned out to be the case with many (many many) projects acquired by Platinum, nothing came of the comic (actually, that's not true; my friend and the editor spent a lot of time and energy crafting a damn fine comic script that will likely only be read by a small handful of people until he gets the rights back, if he ever does). Nothing became of the property in any other medium, either (also hardly an irregular occurrence, at Platinum or anywhere else--no matter what that small press publisher/wannabe Hollywood mogul asking you to sign all rights to your work in all media that will ever be created in the entire universe over to them for all time in exchange for footing the cost of a printing bill says.)

At some point, my friend sent an e-mail out to Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, Platinum's owner, stating his interest in writing a screenplay adaptation of the project. I don't think Rosenberg ever directly responded to my friend--but the editor in charge of the comic sure did, with a clear message that it would be best for everyone if my friend never did anything like that ever again. When you signed a contract with Platinum, you got a chance to write your comic, and that was it. Asking to be let in on other media put Rosenberg in an awkward spot, because he wanted to stay on good terms with Platinum's creators but there was no way he was going to let them adapt their own work to another medium.

And why would he? Why would he let me or Fred Van Lente anywhere near a screenplay when he could get Robert Orci or Damon Lindelof, and everything they add to a Hollywood package along with them? Hell, if it came down to it, I'd rather Lindelof write an adaptation of Done to Death than me, for exactly the same reason--nobody in Hollywood wants to read a screenplay some schmuck in Edmonton wrote (except for the Emmy-Award-winning producer and the ex-HBO VP producer and--well never mind, let's just say there are apparently exceptions to the rule and leave it at that). Risk-averse moneyfolk are less likely to buy into a screenplay by an unknown, no matter how good the screenplay might actually be. That's the way the game is played. I get it.

But if someone said they didn't trust me to adapt Done to Death...just thinking about someone saying that is making my teeth grind.



Speaking of Platinum, they recently announced an interesting project--a superhero anthology series written by Christopher Priest that, as far as I can tell, isn't actually comics but rather illustrated prose. The entire thing seems specifically geared to fail in the direct market--anthology, superheroes who aren't Wolverine, lots of words--but I'm always interested in seeing people fiddle with formats. It's also possible the project won't be solicited in the DM at all--I notice Platinum's just gone a second consecutive month without having anything in Diamond's Previews catalogue.



...I might as well link to an interesting back-and-forth between Sean Kleefeld and Platinum CFO Brian Altounian regarding the company's continuing difficulties on making good on's debts after Platinum purchased it.


No comments: