Celluloid free thighs in thirty days

About ten years ago when I was a Big Deal in film development, finding out whether or not a book's film rights were available was a simple proposition. Call/fax the publisher and you'd get a simple one-sentence response in a few days. Or you could call the agent, and voila, someone -- an underling, an intern, anybody -- would get back to you.

What the hell happened? Now I'm doing some freelance work for a biggish production company here in L.A. and i'm trying to find out whether the rights are available for a certain well-received but decidedly mid-list novel.

I contact the publisher and am informed that they will get back to me within 6-8 weeks. Let's be real -- an entire studio regime can rise and fall in that time. So I track down and call the agent, and a week has gone by without a call back.
In my experience, this first step used to be just that -- a first step. I'm not pitching, I'm not buying, I'm just asking for info.

So what gives? Why has the process become so difficult? Or is it just my bad karma? (Hey, I am from L.A.)

It's you. Ok, not exactly you, but your ilk, LA babe. Sorry but it's true.
First, recall that "big time" and "freelance" are different places on the food chain (Miss Snark of course is not ON the food chain..she orders take out). Part of this may be that.

Second, I blame LA for all the rampant bad manners in the industry. It's convenient. It's based on a nugget of truth, and it means *I* am not to blame..always a good thing. I've made 365 calls to an LA lawyer for rights clearance none were returned. One a day for a year and a half.

First, you'd never call a publisher. No agent in their right mind sells film rights to a publisher.
Second, I'd look up the literary agent and call their associated film agent/s (Miss snark has three...all impossible to reach).

But the core of the problem is that people are lax about returning phone calls and emails. It's a rampant problem. It's an insane way to do business if someone wants to BUY something from you. It happens all the time.

An interesting side note is that about 40% of the people who sue doctors for malpractice say they just wanted to talk to him/her and get some information but the doctor never got back to them. You'd think someone in the medical field, let alone insurance, would have recognized THAT nugget and mandated people call patients back.

Literary and film deals aren't quite the same as saving lives, but the concept holds. Not returning legitimate business phone calls or emails makes people nuts.

Now, just to be snarky before nine am, do you return all your phone calls on the same day?
(Miss Snark pleads nolo contendre to that one..and is prepared for incarceration in a phone booth on Madison at 57th till she completes her sentence.)


Shadow said...

As a matter of fact, my doctor returns all her phone calls the same day. Plus all the test results she got back that day. She's just complusive about clearing her desk before she leaves for the evening.

Unknown said...

Do these rights agents handle all ancillary rights - or do some just just film rights? Back in the day, I only recall calling the main agent and then being able to get an answer on were they available - or not. I do not recall having to go to a third party just to find that out.

And the couple times I had to start negotiations, the agents were with big agencies - Morris comes to mind - where they did that in-house.