TV and film agent for Island of Fog

Posted on August 9, 2009 (Subscribe to Blog)

As I might have mentioned once or twice, a film agent contacted me a couple of weeks ago (on July 22nd) with an interest in turning Island of Fog into a screenplay. I won't print his name here until it's all set in concrete, but to paraphrase, he said he was a Piers Anthony fan and had seen my book reviewed on Piers Anthony's website (second paragraph). Based on what the agent had read about the book there and on my website, he had a "gut feeling" that it would make a great film. I couldn't help agreeing! :-)

So we spoke, and even after a long conversation I felt that it was still a bit of a pipe dream. Making a film of my book has always been in my mind, but right at the very back, tucked away in a dark corner behind a door marked "Do Not Open Until Major Publishing Deal Has Been Secured." But the idea of a movie intrigued me, and I started to think – "What if it actually happened?"

Of course, then it was a case of how big the production would be. Are we talking about a blockbusting Hollywood movie with A-list stars, directed by Steven Spielberg? Or a classy but relatively unknown indie film? Or a straight-to-DVD flop? Or a made-for-TV movie on Sci-Fi Channel? Or even a TV series? It could be good, but there are many scenarios where the screen version could be a complete disaster.

On the other hand, even a complete disaster would be an achievement! How many authors can say, "My book was made into a film!" – even a rubbish one? And there's always the possibility that it could be a hugely successful high-budget motion picture. :-)

Bearing all that in mind, what do I have to lose?

I can think of a few possible issues relating to my efforts to find a big-house publisher. I've read that some (maybe most) literary agents won't be interested if there's already another agent involved. Then again, I've also read that many literary agents won't be interested if the book is self-published, so maybe I've shot myself in the foot already.

As Laura Canning, author of Taste the Bright Lights, said: "Ach, sign it – having a film made from your first book will definitely land you an agent for the second. Think beyond Island of Fog."

I agree. So, today the agent is sending a slightly revised contract for me to sign. This one makes it more clear that the contract is for this book alone, not all my future work. There's a 30-day get-out clause as well, for either party. So this might be a short-lived deal anyway; if there's no interest, then the agent will know fairly quickly and that will be that.

The agent is going to pitch the book to a couple of producers, but I also need to write a treatment. A treatment is what agents and writers usually use for pitching; it's a long synopsis, maybe 4-8 pages, going over the major scenes in a movie-like way, with detail on the key scenes, for instance:

"We open on a dark, rainy night. Headlights appear out of the darkness. A car slows and stops, and the engine cuts off. The door opens..."

...and so on. There's less detail on not-so-important bits, and the idea is to condense the book (or movie) into a fairly brief but complete synopsis. Writing a treatment is pretty much what I did for Book 2, Labyrinth of Fire, only without the movie lingo, so writing a treatment for Island of Fog should be simple enough. I hope.

Golly, it's exciting! The agent and I talked about the budget too. Believe it or not, the agent has only just finished reading the book. Before that I had asked him about budgets for the screen adaptation, because the story contains monsters and those will require some computer generated wizardry – something that would look fantastic on a big-budget movie but atrocious on a low-budget TV film. The agent is primarily in contact with two production companies at the moment, one of which is responsible for a VERY well-known series of horror movies, so a big-enough budget might not be an issue IF the story is accepted.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. I won't give up my day job just yet.

Comment by NIGEL ROWE on Monday, August 10, 2009...

That is amazing, Keith; you must be over the moon! I'll keep my fingers crossed. From The Secret Blog to The Hollywood Blockbuster Blog, eh?

Comment by HOPE189 on Monday, August 10, 2009...

Wow... a film made out of your book so soon. Island of Fog must be a great book, Keith. Wishing you all the best,
Hope

Comment by MING on Monday, August 10, 2009...

Impressive, Keith! Just imagine, how great that will be. Let us know how things turn out! :-)

Comment by PHILIP MANNERING on Monday, August 10, 2009...

Wow — a film! That is just super, Keith. Keep us updated please. I look forward to seeing the film in the near future! : -) Fantasy films are always a great hit.

Comment by SAM on Tuesday, August 11, 2009...

If I were you, I would say "no"—and I wouldn't take the risk. Yes of course there's a chance it might help in publicity and promotion, but you don't want to lose everything you've gained just by a bad film. Good films made are few and far these days, and those of books are atrocious. Example: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince's film. And then, as you said, many literary agents are just put off by the fact that there's another agent involved. That's rather the killer.

Of course it all depends on you—what you want, what you prefer etc. But it might—it just might—be a better idea to wait until the publishing deal. After all, they're the professionals, and they have much better budgets. If there are monsters in your book, the odds are that they—the publishers—can bring them "to life" much better than any film agent.

Good luck on whichever way you choose, Keith!

Sam

P.S - Nice website, nice shadow behind the lettering 'posted by...' Nice design too, much better than The Secret Blog. I will keep returning here!

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Tuesday, August 11, 2009...

Thanks, all, for the comments! I've been giving the film agent matter a lot of thought lately, and am swinging back and forth like a pendulum over whether I should sign or not. If I thought I had some chance of getting a big publishing deal, I probably would not sign. But the fact is, by self-publishing I might have spoiled my chances of finding an agent or publisher. I always knew this was a possibility, but I just HAD to self-publish, and I'm glad I did in many ways... but that big publishing deal might have to wait for another book! Of course, if I started selling thousands of copies of ISLAND OF FOG, then a publisher might glance my way... but until then I probably need to accept that I'm on my own on this one.

In which case, I can't see what I have to lose by having a film agent. Making an atrocious film is still better than no film at all, in terms of feathers in caps and so on. By the way, Sam, I thought the Half-Blood film was excellent! It may not have matched the book, but if my film had a fraction of that budget I'd be happy!

Oh, and Sam, it's not the publisher who has a "big movie budget" — the publisher just has movie rights. Whether it's a big budget or not depends entirely on the studio making the film. A independent film agent might end up with a big budget film too. But I get what you mean: a book that's been published and is very successful will likely attract more interest in the movie industry than a book that hasn't.

Comment by SAM on Tuesday, August 11, 2009...

Yes, I did mean the studio and not the publishers. I thought I was pedantic enough for errors—apparently not! Howlers always do escape our touch, don't they?

I saw the Half Blood Prince film and well, it was a bit like "Hmm" and not "Wow!" or even "Good." Nothing bad with the execution; I just thought the plot wasn't up to scratch.

Yes of course you can't lose anything by having a film agent so, if you don't plan on keeping submitting to major publishers, then—I'll admit it my mind's changed—you'll do better off by signing! Either way it's up to you.

But I admit, it WOULD be fantastic to see a good fantasy film! (As Philip Mannering says above, fantasy films are a great hit — I rather like them).

Comment by STEPHEN on Friday, September 18, 2009...

Oh boy, Keith, it is great that you have found a film agent for your book. Go for it, man. Most novelists would kill to have their first novel translated into a movie in so short a time. In this world, it is risk takers that succeed. If your book is turned into a movie, regardless of its outcome, you will be propelled into unimaginable fame and fortune. Writers like Ian Fleming, J.K. Rowling never knew beforehand that their books-turned-into movies would be very successful. Everything in this world is literally a gamble and if you do not take risks, you will never succeed. A movie (let me hope it is done as soon as possible when the book is still fresh in people’s minds) no doubt will propel your book into the stratosphere of unimaginable sales in that "traditional" publishers will be looking for you for the next book assignments or projects rather than the other way round.

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