Leading film scouts and agents gave New York Rights Fair attendees an in-depth look at the state of the industry on Thursday, sharing trends and advice for a packed audience.
Panelist Angela Cheng Caplan—the president of Cheng Caplan Company, Inc., an independent literary/talent management and production company—explained the value that the panelists bring to an author or publisher. “It’s about creating opportunities specifically for my client,” she said, explaining how she tirelessly champions an author or creator to the film industry. “If there is something that really moves me in the storytelling, then it’s something I can talk about 10,000 times a day. I can get 10,000 ‘no’s,’ but I still want to keep talking about it.”
Howie Sanders, the co-head of media rights at Anonymous Content, has seen a huge boom in episodic adaptation. “Five years ago, I probably did about 75 percent film. Now I do 90 percent television,” he said, explaining how streaming services had reshaped the landscape. “The market has changed dramatically. You can make a television deal now that is the equivalent, if not surpass a film deal from a couple years ago.”
A few panelists discussed how film and TV adaptation drives readership for a book. Moderator Marcy Drogin, a literary scout and president of Maximum Films & Management, stressed that films can also drive significant book sales. She shared an example from her own career, how the 2016 film adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train drove book sales for the psychological thriller. “Since Dreamworks bought Girl on a Train super early, they were able to get into production quickly and capitalize on the book becoming a massive bestseller. The movie drove the book and the book drove the movie,” she said.
Conner Literary founder Emily Conner said that Hollywood is currently exploring back catalogs, looking for stories that might have fallen through the cracks. “We’ve recently seen a lot of clients who wanted to focus on the backlist,” she said. “There’s growing interest in untapped gems and things that have been eclipsed. They see those as really valuable properties.”
James Literary Consulting principal Mark James added that articles and other short content can also find success in the booming rights marketplace. “Now that Netflix and Amazon have pledged literally billions of dollars to make content, the amount of money being given to authors are things I’ve never seen before,” he said. “In the last six months, there are magazine articles selling for $250,000. In the past, that would have been $5,000 or maybe $10,000. The amount of money that these companies are giving directly to authors for their content is life-changing.”
Sanders agreed, but also celebrated the role of film scouts and co-agents in making any piece of content come alive for a producer or studio executive—driving these major deals. “One of us has to shape the narrative or the story. We are selling an idea. We paint the picture of what the show or movie looks like to the buyer,” he said.