Saturday, November 12, 2005

Brand New World

So I scooted down to Santa Monica the other day for the AFM. While there, I shook a few hands, picked up a few magazines and walked around.

Then I got the hell outta there to get back to work. The reason?

Well, in looking at all of the posters and sell sheets and talking to a few of my friends at various companies, I discovered a few things.

There has never been a better time to launch films into the marketplace. With more and more digital outlets opening up, DVD taking hold across the world, tax incentives and exchange rates - it's a marketplace where you can get a film made and move it around the world fairly quickly. With financing in place, you can make a dozen movies and move them around the world fairly quickly. Opportunity is in the air - it's a brand new world.

But Bill, I'm just a screenwriter. All I need to do is write.
Wrong. (well, not so much "wrong" as "yes and no")
But Bill...
Yes and No.

See, we're living in a brand new world.

We can't be Bartleby the Scrivener anymore (look it up). We can't just sit back and write, not thinking about how and where our writing is used. You can't just be a TV writer. You can't just be a comic book writer. You can't just be a feature writer. The needs of the marketplace, not to mention the needs of our individual bank accounts, demand that we as writers become... more.

You and I need to become brands.

For movies and TV and Games and all sorts of media and merchandising - branding is important. Branding steps right up, gets in your face and says, "This is who I am, and this is what I have to offer."

Why do you think Hollywood is making so many sequels and remakes right now? Why do you think they're buying so many comic book, video game and toy properties?

Why do you think there are several TV writers who now write comic books as well?

Yep - branding. Hollywood is taking recognizable properties and squeezing as much juice out of them as they possibly can: Bewitched, Pirates of the Carribean 2 & 3, Blade: The TV series, Serenity, Soul Calibur, etc...

We have the Marvel brand, The DC brand, the Mtv brand, the Capcom brand...

We also have brands that are individuals: Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, and in a new deal signed with New Line, Danielle Steel has a line of D2DVD movies coming out. Brands all.

And people with financing in place tend to back brands - distinctive properties with a certain look and appeal that have an immediate connection with their intended audience. It's a way of limiting the risk of investing in a film, because they're betting on a track record and not just a great story. They're betting that the audience that embraces the property will embrace the movie made from that property. Brands are marketing and PR gold.

As creators though, branding comes with a certain amount of responsibility:

It means control.
It means investment in your work and the time needed to complete it.
It means networking opportunities in other media in order to get your brand out there (and those opportunities mean hard work, learning new skills and bringing your A-game to the process).
It also means saying, "No", when the deal isn't right. This is, after all, your brand - you have to protect it.
It means building an audience, and letting them know what you're doing.

It's a brand new world.
What's your brand and what are you doing to get it out there?


DMc said...

Bill, in case you didn't see it - great article in the NY Times today around some of these issues.

Bill Cunningham said...

Thanks, Denis! I just printed it out and yes, indeed there are a lot of issues surrounding our "little" DVD industry.

Aric Blue said...

>>There has never been a better time to launch films into the marketplace.>>

Yeah, I agree--but on the other hand there has never been so many films being created. The ease and accessibility of equipment--remember when you had to do a lot of work before you could shoot a movie? You actually had to LEARN the craft?

I run into a lot of people who just want to be filmmakers. Then spend five minutes talking to them and you find out they just wanna do it for the fame and money--both of which will probably elude them.

I was wondering this the other day: You think Spielberg and Lucas and Scorsese(throw in your own over 40 director here) are PISSED that they were born too early? Can you imagine how many films they could have made if all this equipment was available when they were young?

John Donald Carlucci said...

How are you building your brand Mr. Bill?


Bill Cunningham said...

Well, my "brand" as a writer-producer has always been:
"Entertaining on a budget", "A writer with a comic book sensibility", "Reliable, resourceful, responsible", and "Knows his way around DVD and DVD marketing"

How I'm building my brand is as follows:

1. This blog.

2. I just placed a new short story in Vol. 2 of TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN. I will get press from that, which will lead to other opportunities.

3. I've received more assignment work this year, and it looks better for next year as discussions have already started. This will work well with #7 below.

4. On Jan 1st, a movie I have co-producer credit on is moving into production.

5. I have another script that's going out to talent in January that a studio D2DVD division has expressed interest in.

6. A script I rewrote looks like it will move forward, and will push me into a new budget category.

7. I'm sending feelers out to agents and managers.

8. I'm practicing my pitching. I have two treatments that I want to get paid to write.

John Donald Carlucci said...

These posts are why you are a must read every day Bill.


Jeff O'Brien said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RogerRmjet said...

Just read this on IMDB:

Danielle Steel Novels To Go Direct-to-Video Route

For years, a decision by studio executives to release a film only to video has been viewed as something akin to sending it to the trash bin. Now, New Line Home Entertainment has signed a deal with Danielle Steel, writer of trashy romance novels, to produce films that will go directly to video. In a statement, Kevin Kasha, the company's chief of acquisitions and programming, said that Steel's books "have enjoyed unparalleled popular success, and this partnership is certain to yield films that will excite her existing fans and capture many new ones." Steel herself said, "I have found the perfect home for the film adaptations of my novels."

Bill Cunningham said...

uh, Roger that note was in my post.

But thanks for the followup. New Line did indeed buy the Danielle Steel brand...Now there will be a lot of DS fans who will not only curl up in bed with her books, but also her movies.

Jeff O'Brien said...

Great - another reason why writers don't get laid.

Bill Cunningham said...

Dude -

Give the girl in your life some of those books or movies, come home with a bottle of wine and...

wakka chikka wakka chikka wakka chikka...

And the fact that I have to give out love advice to another writer is sad beyond belief... but you obviously need it.