Paying Two Million Dollars To Option “Blank Book” Might Have Been A Mistake

By:
brozik@gmail.com
@spidermensch

Gentlemen, we aren’t going to deny that we might have committed a serious blunder. Paying a substantial sum to lock up the opportunity to turn “Blank Book” into a feature film might not have been in the best interest of the studio. If indeed this presents a problem without a viable solution, then we will, with regret, tender our immediate resignations. Before you make that determination, however, we would be grateful for a chance to explain our thinking and to offer some suggestions for salvaging the studio’s investment.

As you are no doubt keenly aware, in recent years first-run motion pictures have been capturing an ever-decreasing share of the entertainment market. The age of social media and video streaming is blighted by a steady decline in the number of moviegoers. Moreover, three of every four movies shown in theaters is a sequel, prequel, or remake. Charged with identifying and securing the rights to something utterly original, but which would also appeal to so-called “Digitals,” we sent our 24-year-old intern to the nearest bookstore to scan the shelves for a property that could be turned into the next bona fide blockbuster. She asked if she could stay at her desk and visit amazon.com instead, and we agreed that this would be a more efficient approach. So far, so good. Indeed, Kaylee offered to stay awake and online for as long as it would take her to pick a winner.

Unfortunately — and we want to be clear that we’re not blaming Kaylee, whose internship with the studio has already ended — when she brought us a printout of the screenshot of the listing for the item, being pressed for time, as we all always are, we focused primarily on the size of the book — 256 pages in hardcover, which gave us the impression that there would be more than enough material for a 90-minute film — rather than the description, which would have informed us that there is no text on any of the pages. (As a side note, this episode has taught us that there are numerous amateur creatives who prefer to generate material “from scratch,” as it were.) More unfortunately still, we had reached out to the publisher with a generous option offer before we realized that “Blank Book” was a blank book. Our offer was accepted within the hour, without the need for any negotiation. In retrospect, this also should have been a sign that something was amiss. Alas, by that time we had entered the studio into a legally binding agreement.

While simply letting the option expire in six months and putting the whole thing behind us as a learning experience is a legitimate course of action, it feels a bit irresponsible, financially. Better, perhaps, would be to move the project forward, turning the property over to one of the screenwriters under contract and seeing what they can do with it. We’ve made some preliminary inquiries, and we’re pleased to be able to report that Jeremy Renner is “intrigued” by the possibility of playing supersecret superagent “Frank ‘Blank’ Booke” in a three-movie franchise, if the character is sufficiently likeable. Alternatively, we could explore producing a very high-concept film through our specialty “art house” division. Perhaps each page of an actual copy of the book could be filmed and…well, let’s leave that to the director.

But that’s where things stand, for better or worse. Knowing what we know now, if we had it to do over, we likely would have made some decisions differently. We probably would not have spent two million of the studio’s dollars to acquire the rights to a large, but admittedly empty, work in print. What happens next is up to you… and whatever you decide, we will abide by your decision. In the meantime, we will be in our office, sitting very still and certainly not buying anything else. Not even lunch. Skipping lunch today is the very least we can do to start making this disappointing situation right.

 

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