AFM on Hollywood IP and when the originals will rise
Intellectual property is what powers Hollywood today. As the industry has become more risk averse, fewer truly original scripts are being made, and those that appear to be original often have ties to recognizable properties (from music to video games to crime cases and other stories true), tying most given projects to a proven success or brand. “Within the industry, it kind of gives execs and studios a bit of cover, in the sense that they’re able to say, ‘Look at this thing that already exists,'” notes producer/writer James Vanderbilt , CCO of Project X Entertainment.
Vanderbilt is one of the panelists on the Nov. 2 AFM panel: Inspiration Is Everywhere: Accessing & Adapting IP for the Screen, alongside Margaret Boykin, vice president of film and television development for gaming company Ubisoft, and Charles Hopkins, director of development and production. at Concord Originals. Moderated by Jason Richman, Co-Head of UTA Media Rights Group, the discussion will focus on how writers, producers and distributors can identify intellectual property from unlikely sources, then develop and produce projects from these.
The top eight box office hits this year have been sequels or reboots, with a biopic (“Elvis”) and a video game adaptation (“Uncharted”) rounding out the top 10.
Taking advantage of this new paradigm, more and more companies with IP catalogs are developing projects in-house or bringing them to studios. “Rather than waiting for the phone to ring, it’s about our team proactively identifying IP under our roof, then crafting creative briefs and producing strategies to launch all kinds of projects” , said Hopkins. Its division was created last year to use Concord’s vast catalog of music and theatrical rights to create new films, TV shows and podcasts.
Some of Concord’s projects are straightforward, like using footage from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1970 European tour for a recent Netflix documentary, “Travelin’ Band.” Others require thinking outside the box and, as with talent agency packages, aim for synergy where possible: the division uses musician Robert Johnson’s catalog and folklore as the basis for a fictional thriller, “The Bluesman”, written by a Concord playwright. publishes, Aleshea Harris.
“There are a lot of creative opportunities in IP adaptation; it’s not just about coloring inside the lines,” says Boykin. She cites the 2021 horror-comedy “Werewolves Within,” based on a virtual reality game set in medieval times. “But we’re really using that as a starting point for the film, which tells a modern story.” Although he underperformed at the box office, she notes that it is the highest-rated video game adaptation on Rotten Tomatoes. Another Ubisoft project, the comedy “Mythic Quest,” eschews any straightforward adaptation, instead offering a behind-the-scenes look at a fictional video game company. Apple TV+ launches its third season on November 11.
Vanderbilt has written a wide range of feature films, from “The Amazing Spider-Man” to the Robert Redford-directed indie drama “Truth” (based on a book about Dan Rather’s George W. Bush reporting) to the reboot of “Scream from this year and next year’s sequel “Scream 6”. “With different types of IP, when it’s not necessarily a direct adaptation of something, it can almost be a Trojan horse in which to tell your own stories,” he says. He goes on to cite his WGA-nominated work on ‘Zodiac’ which, although based on the non-fiction book ‘Zodiac Unmasked’ by Robert Graysmith, incorporated ‘an enormous amount of outside research’ to learn more about the detective. police and the journalist involved in the series. killer business.
“There’s been such a wild ride in terms of increased transaction volume on our end, and just the desire and need for underlying conversational material in the film and television landscape,” says UTA Media’s Richman. Rights Group. “Business is better than ever.”
But while Hollywood will likely continue to hedge its bets with IP for some time to come, Vanderbilt takes a different view. “There’s no such thing as ‘safe’ IP, unless you’re making a Batman or Spider-Man movie,” he says. “It’s still kind of a pendulum, and we may be hitting a saturation point with [IP]. I think things are going to go the other way, and people are going to be a little more interested in the original stuff.