People often think being a Film & TV Agent must be full of glitz and glamour – that we spend our days hobnobbing with the stars and tottering down red carpets to the flash of a thousand cameras. Perhaps it is like that in Hollywood, but my days are usually filled with less luminous pursuits: answering emails, taking meetings, issuing invoices, giving advice to authors, submitting books and negotiating contracts. However, I do think the role of the Dramatic Rights Agent is fairly unique. We are the conduit between the publishing industry and the world of Film and TV and can provide an exciting side-step in a book’s publishing journey.
Very simply, I submit our agency authors’ books to film, television and radio production companies, theatres, directors, actors and scouts. I regularly meet with producers to build relationships, get a sense of their taste and ambitions and pitch our clients’ books. If a deal is agreed, then I negotiate the contracts and act as a broker between the author and producer whilst the project is in development. Think of me as a glorified match-maker, but every time I make a successful match, I also draw up the marriage license, thrust it in front of the (hopefully) happy couple, officiate the wedding and collect the dowry!
Once a suitable match has been made, I generally take a step back whilst the producer takes over and starts putting together a package that would make a book an attractive proposition for both commissioners at channels/streaming platforms and audiences alike. However, I am generally somewhere in the background of this process and will check in every couple of months to ensure they’re enjoying wedded bliss and ask whether progeny will be forthcoming any time soon!
One of the best parts of the job is meeting production companies. This is fortunate, because there are now so many operating in the US, UK and international markets that I spend a considerable amount of time on Zoom calls or running around London popping into various coffee shops and exposed brick offices. Most producers and development executives are huge cinephiles and generally connoisseurs of narrative craft. It’s a privilege to chat to them about the projects they’re working on, hear about the shows they’re currently watching, which they wish they had made and what stories they’d love to bring to audiences in the future. It is essential I know their taste so I can send them the books they will be most passionate about. Passion is the driver in everything we do and a vital ingredient when matching books to producers.
The development process to adapt a book can be lengthy, and unfortunately, not all books that are optioned make it to screen. I’m often asked if that makes my job depressing. I don’t find it depressing. I find it endlessly fascinating. My job combines reading (the best thing!) with negotiation, problem solving and working with smart and creative people. The industry moves at such a pace that I’m constantly learning and adapting. But I don’t underestimate how lucky I am to be working at an agency which represents incredibly talented authors. Producers know that the books we send out have undeniable screen potential and the past couple of years have really cemented the reputation of our TV and film department on the global industry map. We have excellent conversion rates for books optioned going into production, with three TV projects all with big studios in post-production to be released later this year, an independent film currently filming and, hopefully, another three projects due to begin production later this year. On top of this we have many, many more books optioned, all at varied stages of development, countless with top level producers, actors and directors working to bring them to life.
I think my job has plenty of glamour. Forget red carpets, give me some exposed brick-walls, pot-plants and jute rugs any day! (Have you seen our office? It’s dreamy!)
If you’re interested in learning more about the book-to-screen process, I’ll be going into further detail in a future blog post. So watch this space!