THE GATHERING DEAD Film Development Fund
So I mentioned in an earlier post that I’d have a reveal about The Gathering Dead, and here it is. Try not to get anything on your keyboard… ;)
After reading some months ago on the blog of the erstwhile David Gaughran where he spoke of crowdfunding his latest novel, A Storm Hits Valparaiso, the idea to try my hand at this kind of financial networking became lodged in what passes for one of my frontal lobes. I didn’t know if I would be scurrying to recreate Gaughran’s success anytime soon, but it seemed like a potentially nifty process for securing some preliminary funding for a future project. I had no idea what project I might tie this into–I mean, I have so many!–but it was definitely something that I would revisit at some point in time. So I put a mental coda on that.
Well, it’s come around again.
But first, a quick bit of semi-recent history. Let’s stumble down Memory Lane together, shall we?
When The Gathering Dead came out, many folks beyond myself thought it would make a halfway decent film. The comments came mostly in reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and of course I took note of this. Many of the reviews contained actual comparisons with recent films, such as Black Hawk Down, which I felt was more than just slight cool–I mean, my book contrasted favorably with one of Ridley Scott’s best films? Can’t shake a stick at that.
But while nice, the reviews didn’t exactly motivate me to develop the book into anything more than it was. A book is a book, a movie is a movie, and movies are made from books written by other authors. Not me.
Then, as things began to heat up and the book circulated around in both print and electronic media, I received some interesting probes from folks over on the Left Coast. Would I be willing to option the book for a potential film? Why, yes…yes I would!
Unfortunately, Mrs. Knight didn’t raise a dummy for a son.
I asked for contracts with everything spelled out: how long the option would last for, what kind of money was to be doled out and when, renewal rights, script input (actually, I wanted to write the first draft myself), treatment approval, beat sheet review, etc., etc. In short, this wasn’t something I was just going to give up, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to give it up for free. Or even next to free. And I wasn’t going to allow myself to be cut out of any potential revenue streams, either.
Actually knowing what to ask for makes things more difficult. One potential suitor disappeared right off the bat. The second suitor sent me contracts with almost everything I asked for. So I took them to an IP lawyer who is also an entertainment attorney, and after some fairly standard revisions wherein my rights were more clearly spelled out, I sent the revised contracts back for comment. The comment? “Look, you should be happy we’re even coming to you! You’re gouging right off the bat!”
Gouging? Moi? To be specific, I didn’t ask for a million dollars up front or anything like that. My revisions to the contract were pretty transparent, even to a non-legal eagle like myself. I wanted to ensure I was protected, and that meant not giving up everything right away. Suitor two probably understood, but wasn’t interested in starting things off on a level playing field. So…bye-bye.
Not surprising, and if I was acting from a strictly mercenary point of view, I would have accepted whatever I got. You see, attracting interest in the property isn’t particularly hard in the Hollywood industry. If you hit the right plot points and present things in a fairly professional manner, people will take notice. I’ve been there before, and have profited from it, back in the days when I was just an aspiring screenwriter (a lifetime ago). But options almost always expire, the property is tied up during the contract, and really, almost nothing ever, ever gets done beyond some n00b writing some script coverage. That’s it. Really. The chances of a project receiving the green light is about as high as being struck by lightning, or being bitten on the ass by a shark while sitting on your own toilet. And at least in the United States, that’s a pretty dismal success-to-failure ratio. (Though I will admit there have been times when I’ve hummed the theme to JAWS while evacuating, just to see what happened.) So this ends The Brief History of The Gathering Dead in Hollywood. Now, it’s time for take two:
Crowdfunding The Gathering Dead!
So here is where Mr. Gaughran’s blog post came into play. Some synapses fired and I thought: Hey, I’m an entreprenuerial kind of guy–maybe this crowdfunding thing could give me a leg up on getting this done! A few days of research led me to IndieGoGo, where after another few days of noodling around and checking out the other projects available for funding helped me to generally get to how this might work. After a while, I was able to convince myself that this might be a good thing to try.