2 weeks until the 11th Annual Winter Conference in New York, January 29-31, 2010!!!
2 weeks until we get to learn, and laugh, network and be inspired!
2 weeks until we get to hear amazing speakers, like Eddie Gamarra!
Eddie Gamarra is a literary manager/producer at The Gotham Group, specializing in representing works for TV, Film and Dramatic rights. He's sold books to be made into movies like Michael Reisman's middle grade novel "Simon Bloom, the Gravity Keeper" and Nathan Hale's picture book, "The Devil You Know." He will be an executive producer of "Lunch Lady," a movie adaptation of Jarrett Krosoczka's graphic novel "Lady" series ("Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute," "Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians," etc...), which he sold to Universal. He will also executive produce "Spanking Shakespeare," the film version of Jake Wizner's Young Adult novel.
Eddie has seen the movie and adaptation possibilities of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels - and he's sold them. He will be at the SCBWI 2010 Winter Conference to give us "The Real Deal About Television and New Media," and it's an incredible opportunity.
Here's our interview:
Lee: Hi Eddie, Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview in the run-up to the SCBWI Winter Conference! Let's jump right in:
You work as a co-agent with literary agents like Barry Goldblatt and with publishers like Simon & Schuster to represent works for Film, TV and Dramatic Rights. How do you choose the books that might make the leap to another medium - do they send you what they think, do you go through it all, or is there more of a structured process?
Eddie: Good morning! We like to know about every project handled by the agents we work with and the publishers we rep. We have sold projects to studios and networks at various stages ranging from book proposals not yet submitted to publishers to back list titles, from copy edited manuscript to out of print titles. There really isn't a structured process other than that we ask our clients to send us whatever they have, when they feel comfortable enough to share it. Once we have the materials, we then read and discuss internally. We always look at material with the question of format in our mind. In other words, we ask ourselves some basic questions: "Is this a movie or a TV series? Could it be a TV movie or web series?" If the answer is yes, to any of these questions, we then strategize about how to best share the material with the film/TV community: does it need to be "packaged with an element" meaning "do we need to attach a big director or star?" Or, "Should we get a screenwriter on board who can come up with the pitch of what the movie-version of the book is?" Nowadays, having meaningful elements (big name actors, directors, screenwriters) is very important. We also want to know what the marketing plan is for an upcoming title - will it be a big splash when it comes out? If the book has already been published we always want to know how has it sold, has it sold into international territories, has it won any significant awards, and been well received by critics and reviewers.
Each book is unique and requires a custom made strategy.
Lee: That's really interesting, and it makes sense - every book is unique.
Sometimes, in the process of adapting a book into a movie, so much changes that it almost seems like it’s a completely new story, spun off with some of the same characters or situations. Should authors be concerned about their material being “changed?”
Eddie: Any author or publisher who is about to option his or her book to a third party, be it a film studio or a children's theater, needs to feel at ease in their gut that the book is going to transform. It very well may become something they love, but it may become something they despise. It may help promote the original title or it may be such a bastardization that it could harm a book or franchise's brand value. The rights holder may wish they could give back whatever money was paid to them. The opening credits and the end credits to a movie or TV show list up to hundreds of people, all of whom had some role in making the book come to life in a different way. That is a lot of hands on a project. Many authors are accustomed to working closely with an editor and agent. That's it! Maybe they work with a publicist. With film or TV, the author or publisher's involvement is typically very minimal unless otherwise negotiated. Very few rights holders get script approval. Anyone about to option a book needs to be ok with letting go and praying for the best.
Lee: Good advice. The title of your Real Deal breakout session is “The Real Deal About Television and New Media.” Is there any preparation you’d like people attending your workshop to do, so they can get the most out of it?
Eddie: There are a few things I'd love for people to research and/or think about before the breakout session:
Why are some books/book series, like Gossip Girl (or Dexter or Bones or True Blood), better suited for TV where as books like Shrek or Night at the Museum seem to work very well as features?
Of the top 100 films of all time (in terms of box office), how many are based on children's books?
When can we consider a book to be "a brand" or an author/illustrator to be "a brand"?
How does the concept of "the franchise" get used in publishing versus in film/TV?
How does one define "success" in children's publishing? And are those markers of success in that industry also meaningful in the film/TV industry?
What are the creative parameters of children's publishing vs. film/TV?
One simple example: is the lead of your story a child or an adult?
I think we will have very fruitful sessions as we talk through these kinds of questions.
Lee: Great things to think about! Can you share a piece of advice for authors who dream of having their works leap into other media?
Eddie: Watch movies, watch TV. See which projects earn the highest box office or TV ratings. Educate yourself about that industry. Learn who are the big names, top talent, who actually gets stuff made.
Lee: Is there an opportunity with youtube and blogs and all the new social media and technological advances for stories to bypass the traditional gatekeepers? And is that a good thing?
Eddie: It's important to bear in mind that publishing is undergoing a transition that media companies are long familiar with. Bear in mind that film studios used to make movies. TV networks made shows.
Over the course of the 20th century, the studios and networks became part of larger companies and so we now find ourselves in a state where studios make microwaves and TV networks make lightbulbs. Sony, for example, makes movies AND the DVD's AND the devices on which the DVD is played. Create the content and control how it is distributed. That is key!
For publishing, we now find a major online retailer making a device upon which e-books can be read AND then publishing original content. This is called vertical integration. Every time there are new outlets and technology, there will be new opportunities to explore and exploit. Media historians often refer to "the democratization of media" - by which they mean - every time a new outlet or technology is created, the masses won't have to rely on the big companies to create and distribute content. Of course, we all know that the big conglomerates buy out those outlets and technologies.
There are still many opportunities for creative people to utilize outlets and technologies to both tell traditional stories and have them distributed in new ways, or tell new types of stories altogether. Each technology brings with it both unique creative parameters and new ways to make money. Web series have to last only so long and cost so much to make and to buy, for example. Every day we find new examples of how people effectively use each media to tell new stories. Of course, each media will have its rules and rule breakers. There are lots of opportunities for experimentation.
That said, how exciting is it for a self-published author to get the call that a major publisher wants to publish their book. Conversely, how exciting is it for a successful author to make money off of new forms of distribution.
Sorry to be rambling and pedantic, but there is so much to discuss when it comes to new media.
Lee: No, it's great. So much to think about - it's nice to have the perspective that all the changes mean that there are opportunities on all sides of storytelling!
The Conference will be Boiling Over with ideas and inspiration, but outside in New York city it's going to be the middle of winter... so, final question: Eggnog or Hot Chocolate?
Eddie: Even though LA is a desert, I still drink hot chocolate fairly often, especially while wearing a sweater. I miss NY, what can I say. Eggnog has that special “it’s the holidays” feel, so I’ll go egg nog but only for those special east coast holiday winter nights.
Thanks. This has been a blast. I’m so excited to be working with SCBWI and I know the conference will be fantastic.
Lee: Thank you, Eddie. This was great. See you in New York!
Remember that it's not too late to register for the Winter Conference, where you can see Eddie Gamarra (and so many more great faculty) in person!
And don't forget to bookmark the official SCBWI Conference blog - so you can get a feel for what's coming up. And once the conference starts, it's a great place to enjoy the tapas-like tastes of all the amazing moments, speakers, workshops, learning, and fun!
Namaste, and hope to see you in two weeks in New York,