Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Question of Risk

A fraternity brother of mine just emailed me and announced that he has just published his novel through Lulu.com (www.lulu.com) - a publisher that, thanks to digital technology publishes on demand. That means that every time a book is ordered it is printed. No more. No less. No waste.

I had turned him on to Lulu, because I was investigating publishing some of my scripts with production notes and illustrations as well as some pulp novels. Despite the fact I've been published elsewhere and could possibly get a publisher interested in my pulp concepts, I like the idea of publishing on demand and the degree of control I would have over the final product.

That's important because I want to own all of my characters and concepts outright. I don't want to have to sign over my hard work to someone else just because they're writing the check. Then, I would become an employee and not a creator.

(Let me be clear that I will sell my services for the right price, but if it's something that I have sweated and toiled over - It's my baby. Mine. Get it? I'll write the next Superman or Batman movies, but they ain't getting Rip Rocket without me producing it my way.)

All this has had me thinking about the future and Bit Torrent and John Roger's post about 4th Generation Media (4GM) and what it means for the creator in all of us. I advise all of you to read it at www.kfmonkey.blogspot.com if you haven't already. It's in the links section for your convenience.

Media and technology are converging to a point where the small guy (you or me) can have a greater degree of control over the movies we make, how they are seen/distributed and what cut of the pie we get from that. Basically it boils down to the fact we can each have our own little media empire in our kitchens. We'll be our producer and our distributor and our merchandiser.

A good example would be the whole Image Comics crew, who back in the 90's broke away from Marvel/DC and formed their own label, producing comics their way. They took the heat when things were late or the story sucked or the art was bad or whatever... call it the price of ownership.

But at the end of the day, they also took in 100% of the profits after expenses. Call that the prize of ownership. Todd McFarlane became a millionaire, and created a toy company to handle things his way. I'm sure that the whole affair wasn't easy, but I'm sure the rewards made it worth it.

So now, with all of the desktop moviemaking capability we all have at our fingertips - via technology and information on the web, you and I could become our own studios...

If we're willing to risk it.

Are you willing to keep making the phone calls and taking the meetings to gather together investors? Are you willing to say "no" to a regular paycheck and health benefits that come from working for the studios or other WGA signatories? Are you willing to learn new technology and business models in order to get the job done - to see your movies made your way?

I think that's the biggest question of all.

What are we willing to risk?

Because if we aren't willing to risk anything is all this new technology worth anything to us? I'd have to say no because this new world we live in is for creators, not employees...

And we all know that employees don't risk a thing.

10 comments:

John Donald Carlucci said...

John Rogers and the Global Frequency seem to be affecting all of us.

JDC

Bill Cunningham said...

and Mark Cuban's moves with Soderbergh...

and the explosion of TV DVD...

and Lucas & Rodriguez's work in digital cinematography...

The point being are we going to embrace change and take control of our work, or work for someone else as an employee? Both certainly are valid, but there are consequences as well.

John Donald Carlucci said...

Yeah, I think we will. I think that once you get tired of looking for breaks into the industry you have to make those breaks yourself. We've never been in a position where we have SO MANY tools at our disposal before and now we just needs a couple pounds of persistence and luck to make it happen. We both share a great love of the pulps and this model allows for those to come back. That is the most exciting of all for me.

RogerRmjet said...

It's the best of times, it's the worst of times. I was just reading yesterday how the spec market is at its lowest point in years. And of the films being produced, virtually all of them are adaptations of known properties. It's great that Hollywood is finally making comic book movies worth seeing, but who knew that's all they'd be making? But the opportunities have never been better for the independent filmmaker. Thanks to digital technology, anybody can go out and make a movie about stuffing him/herself on McDonalds food or stalking Drew Barrymore. This is where opportunity lies. Anybody who truly wants to make movies would be a fool to pass it up.

Anonymous said...

Would adapting a spec script into a book help or hinder its chances of being sold?

Bill Cunningham said...

Anonymous --

I am one of these guys that says every writer, no matter their preferred format - comics, screenplays, plays, articles, PR, short stories or novels - should write other formats to "exercise the writing muscles."

That said, what has been the pro feedback you've received on the script? Who has covered it? What has the coverage said exactly? How many different opinions have you received? If everyone says they don't like the story, then guess what? IT'S A BAD STORY.

If it's a bad script then it's going to be a bad novel UNLESS you can bring something new to the table and revise the story for the novel format. Just because you rewrite it doesn't automatically mean it will sell.

Set it aside and do something new. Write an entirely different script and finish that. THEN go back to this script and see if it's worth it. Can you improve it?

Bill Cunningham said...

Just a quick note --

Screenplays are our children. They're good sweaty fun (pro)creating them and they're painful as hell to birth. We love them so much even when they're slightly misshapen or retarded or spazzy. We can say whatever we like about them because they're ours. God forbid someone else makes a comment on how our kid looks or acts.

But sometimes, sometimes...you need to guide that kid out back behind the woodshed, split his skull open with a shovel and bury him under the rose bushes.

You'll get bigger blooms on the roses...

John Donald Carlucci said...

And sometimes you take parts out of your children to transplant into other children. You then discard their rotting - ewww, this is getting out of hand.

Putting aside a script that isn't working doesn't mean the end. I have several pieces I keep that have not worked for various reasons and later found elements/characters that worked better in the piece I am currently working on. Those dead projects are fertile fields of material you can recycle.

JDC

Alex Epstein said...

Whether you publish with a trad publisher or print-on-demand, you own the aux rights to your book. They only have the publishing rights under a standard contract. Anyway, you can always define what rights you sell to a pub company.

Bill Cunningham said...

Yeah, but I have control issues...
I'll publish my books myself and then maybe interest a publisher later and license them out to various media. There's a big difference between selling something already created, and a spec.

Besides, I have an entrepeneurial mentality when it comes to this stuff, and half the fun is doing it myself or with a team of people that I know I can bully into my way of thinking (Joke).