Something from the other day made me think about this again, and I thought perhaps I should share. These are a condensed version of my experiences with tinsel town and my foray into it a couple of years ago.
It all started when a very large number of people started telling me that I should get the Valens Legacy Series made into a movie. Or a series of movies. Or a Netflix series. Or any of that. By that time I had earned a surprisingly large amount of money from the series. I had also sold a surprisingly large number of copies of it. I'm talking the kinds of numbers that certain self-hyping tradpub authors who crow loudly about the big contract they got wished they could sell.
So armed with those numbers (which I did have to present - more than once) I started thinking 'if only I knew somebody in Hollywood... And then I remembered that I did. An old friend of mine is a 'somebody' in Hollywood. I'm not going to give any more information than that - because I don't want to get a phone call from him asking why all of these people are now bugging him. So I reached out to him, asked him if he knew anyone who might be interested, if he thought it was a good idea, all of that stuff. He said he'd let me know.
A week or two later he tells me he read the first book, (mind you I didn't have to send him a copy, he went out and bought it) and liked it. He wanted exact sales numbers to see how things went. Then we'd talk.
Over the next few months, there was a lot of talk. I did a book synopsis. I did a series synopsis. We discussed legalities and other issues. He started reaching out to friends in the industry (I won't share names, again, but these are important people), to get their take and their advice. There were meetings, there were more talks. Again, the response was positive. We were given advice on which producers and which studios to target. So we moved forward.
The next step involved several interesting steps. There were legal contracts done for representation. There were some things done with a certain guild to protect certain assets. A screenplay was created - not that it was expected to be what was actually produced, but because you need something to show to people. The showrunners, the producers, the executives, all of those folks want to see a script. They want an idea of how this is going to look and how it will be shot. My friend interacts with a number of studios at a high level on a regular basis. He's known to a lot of people in the industry because of his work, both past, and present (no, he's NOT an actor).
So the screenplay is finished. Mind you it's over a year since I pulled the trigger on this whole endeavor and it hasn't been exactly cheap or easy. There's been a fair deal of work. At this point a famous producer (whose work I happen to enjoy a lot) has heard about it and asks to 'see it first'. So yeah, we give it to him and no one else. Then we sit and wait.
A month later, he comes back and tells us while he loves the story and the idea, the amount of special effects would be equal to (famous movie/series he did) and he'd promised himself he'd never do another movie/series (I'm not gonna say which cause I don't want anyone guessing who) with that many special effects. So, sorry - great story and all, but he wasn't interested.
That, sadly, was that. Because when one of the top producers in Hollywood turns you down - no one else will touch it. Honestly, I can't argue with him. By that point I'd been introduced to so many production aspects of making a show, that I had a far better understanding of how it all works. Valens Legacy, because of the lycanthropes, the magic users, the magic, the combat / fight scenes, would be a special effects and CGI heyday. It would also be very expensive. And time consuming.
Looking back, maybe we should have gone the animation route. It was one of the conversations we'd had back early on, before we starting signing contracts and all of that other stuff. But after almost two years of meetings and everything else, the time was pretty much past. The two other series that had 'lycanthropes' or 'anthropomorphic animals' that had come out of Japan animation studios were approaching their peaks and the crest of that wave would be passing soon. So trying to catch it and ride it was now beyond us.
I'll admit it was exciting at times and fun at others. There was a fair deal of work involved and I learned a lot about what was going on at ALL of the streaming services and many of the studios during that time frame. I knew who were tied up with current or new (not yet released) series. Who was winding down and looking for their next project. A lot of information got shared around about just what was going on behind the scenes that most of us don't hear about (or honestly don't care about because we're not in that business) that was both interesting and fascinating.
And I'll admit that when I wrote Summer's End I kept an eye on keeping the special effects to a minimum. As well as the number of sets. Because all of that was going through my head at that time having just edited a screenplay written by a couple of pro-screenplay writers who I'd been interacting with.
I did take a very different route than most people. I didn't wait for someone to 'option' the story and honesty? I'm of the opinion that the only reason people option anything, is to keep it from being produced, because someone else is out there working on a similar production and they want to cut down on any competition.
Oh, one other thing I learned. Many of the producers in Hollywood are very unhappy with a certain series that a certain author never finished - even though he promised them he would. So now if you're trying to sell something? They want to see someone who finishes their work and is productive - so they don't get stuck having to finish it themselves. That got brought up more than once and I had to trot out my bibliography more than once.
So that's pretty much it. It took about two years to go through all of that. Part of that was because neither of us had been through the process from start to finish before. My friend, due to his connections and his own company, got a lot of free advice from the kinds of people you'd normally have to pay a fortune to talk to, if they'd even talk to you, because he's worked with them for many years. Some of those friends shared what we were doing around the town, which was how 'certain producer' heard about it long before anyone else.Will I ever do this again? No, probably not. I wasn't happy with a lot of the changes that were made to the story because 'That's the way we do it here in Hollywood'. Yes, I understand that film is a different medium than books. However I tend to feel that my hooks are better than theirs and that my way of presenting a story is better as well. Yes, I let them do it their way, because they are the 'experts' and I didn't want to be labeled as a problem or difficult. But I still wasn't thrilled. I also learned that what I write is too complicated for Hollywood, or at least too complicated for who they think will be watching. And yes, everyone who has anything to do with your property can NOT resist the temptation to put their own fingerprints on it.