Sisters in Crime, an organization of crime writers and readers, sponsored a conference last weekend to teach us the inner workings of the TV and movie industry. My takeaway is that Hollywood is like a blender of money that someone took the lid off and turned on.
The conference started with a presentation by Pam Veasey, executive producer of CSI:NY and CSI: Cyber, on how to pitch your book series to Hollywood. At the end of the day we would be pitching our series to producers and agents for possible adaptation to TV or a feature film, and she wanted us to be ready. She told us that producers, agents, studios would rather have a published book, than an idea. And that we’re storytellers, so we should tell a story, rather than outline a plot. Don’t pitch dialog. Pitch action.
All the panelists made it clear that they do not want anything coming in over the transom. Trust me, authors asked about that in each session. Remember the phrase, “have your people call my people”? Yep, that’s how it works.
I’ll jump ahead here and tell you my pitch went really well, if I do say so myself. She said she loved the premise of my series. (Three former Georgia beauty queens start a detective agency and, because they haven’t told their husbands, have to meet their clients at the local Cracker Barrel.) She even took the books to read. Then she emailed on Wednesday to say that my books were “a fun romp,” but not for her. Though my series wasn’t chosen, just pitching was a wonderful experience.
For successful projects, having your series or book optioned is the next step. The option buyer has a period of time to exercise the option and then begin production. By far most optioned projects never see the light of day. Some books are optioned 8 or 10 or 12 times, and never made.
Let’s say, your work will be going into production, the next step is hiring a screenwriter. Most contracts include some amount of collaboration with the author. EVERY speaker that covered this said that how the author communicated with the screenwriter and producer, and responded to their comments determined the extent of their involvement.
Some authors want to try writing screen plays themselves. Author, and now screenwriter, Megan Abbott, said that she didn’t read books on script writing because they made her anxious. Instead, she read all the high quality scripts she could get her hands on. However, another speaker recommended Pam Douglas’ Writing the TV Drama Series.
Hollywood is such a different world and it was fascinating to have a peek inside – but I wouldn’t want to live there. On the downside, I found how they ignored new media unsettling. Something about it felt familiar. Oh, yeah. Remember when Crown Books and Borders thought no one would ever be interested in that little Amazon thing? And then all the agents and publishers poo-pooing indie writers? Hmmm.
I loved hanging out with author friends I don’t see that often, and making new friends. We’ve promised to keep in touch and we meant it – because this isn’t Hollywood.