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Break All the Rules and Go for the Dream: Securing TV and Film Deals

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by Ron W. Mumford, Head of Marketing, 3rd Coast Books, LLC —

film tv deal

Ron Mumford

As a passionate indie publisher and author, I can identify with author goals and dreams. The goal is universal: to have a bestselling, widely read book. Easier said than done.

After two and a half years of depending on social media marketing, I joined worldwide reader groups with membership totaling almost 11 million. I sent out so many posts with author book covers, synopses of the book, and links to Amazon that I was actually put in Facebook “jail” more than once. I marketed to genre groups, e-book groups, specific genre reader groups, and every group on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn known to mankind. NO BOOK SALES!

I’ll be honest with you, I became very discouraged. 3rd Coast Books is proud of the fact that we market author books, and it didn’t work. Why should we even continue? We could not accomplish our authors’ goals.

In the midst of my temporary pity party and being a warrior spirit at heart, I decided that we would not be defeated. It’s time to break every rule in the book; after all, we’re indies! We deserve our shot at success in spite of the many barriers to entry with the Big Five publishers in Lower Manhattan and major producers in Hollywood. Fight for our authors! Find a way! If we couldn’t accomplish the goal, go for the dream: a film/TV deal.

In the late 1990s, I had been a small literary agent. I went to Lower Manhattan, called on many big publishers, and even met Steven King’s editor at Simon & Shuster. From there, I went to Hollywood pitching several screenplays that I represented. It was difficult getting to major producers, but indie producers had their doors wide open.

Here is the key that I noticed one night when I went to watch a movie on TV and noticed that most of the movies were five to 25 years old and I had seen them many times: There is a lack of content for film/TV features and documentaries.

This fact alone gave me new hope. I began a six-month effort securing personal emails of both indie and major film producers, directors, and development managers. At the same time, since I had written several screenplays and screen treatments myself, I sent templates of screen treatments out to my 3rd Coast authors and asked them to write their own treatments.

Nobody knows their work better than the author. Our authors did a sterling job following the template, adding their own loglines, and breaking down their fantastic stories into listing protagonists/antagonists, brief back stories on each, settings, then doing a three-act synopsis of Act 1: The Setup, Act 2: The Conflict, and Act 3: The Conclusion.

Next, for author protection and for legality sake, I registered my author books and screen treatments with the Writers Guild of America (West) and received written registration numbers to place on the treatments. Then our IT manager/partner, Mario Rosales, placed the registered treatments on the 3rdCoastBooks.com website for anyone to see and download. Believe me when I tell you, this is breaking every rule in the book!

Hard Decisions

With many great stories by our authors, as a publisher, I had to choose what I thought would be the strongest story for film/TV pitches with the idea in mind if we could place one book, we could place others in our stable of authors. I chose a narrative nonfiction book by Henya Shanun-Klein titled Have You Seen a Dark-Haired Man with Burning Eyes, a true story of her mother’s 20,000-kilometer, five-year quest over two continents to find her husband who had been unexpectedly taken to a Russian work camp near the end of World War II. An astounding story of love, faith, and perseverance.

I wrote six different pitches for this story and began the search for the producer looking for this genre. I sent the different pitches to 100 producers and got an almost 5% return. Here are some of the responses I got from producers, directors, actors, and development teams:

    1. Kevin Sorbo (Actor in God’s Not Dead and other films). “I’m on the golf course and wanted to thank you for reaching out to me. Currently, I’m buried with work, directing, starring, and I have 12 scripts on my desk.”
    2. “I’m interested in this story but will not have time to review it until mid-summer when my current film projects will be finished.”
    3. “If you can raise $50M in your bank account, a business plan, a well-written screenplay, and actors attached, I may take a look at this project.”
    4. “I’m interested in this project. For your due diligence, please see my website with all of our clients, credits, and productions. Let’s talk next week. Here is my contact information.”

I checked out the producer’s site, which contained many feature and TV documentaries for about 35 major clients all over the world. This producer was the “real deal,” with entrees into many film distributors that would have taken me months to find and establish relationships. This was a dream come true. Now we begin to pitch our other author’s books.

Contracts and Agreements

I sought wise counsel from Belinda Davis-Wright, JD, now a partner at 3rd Coast Books and a former criminal defense lawyer/contract negotiator, along with a longtime friend, Chip MacGregor, who is a successful literary agent in Oregon.

When we set up an initial call with the producer, we began to talk about the agreements to be signed. The first is a 15-month exclusivity agreement for the producer to contact their clients, pitch the book to them, and receive funding and the go-ahead to produce the film/TV documentary. This producer has their own production company. In our initial conversation with the producer, their group was very open to explain different funding budgets for feature films, scripted and unscripted documentaries, per episode.

Another agreement would be signed after the producer gets funding and knows their production budget. This agreement contains all compensation to author, publisher, and the percentage of the production budget everyone would get with full details on other rights.

From initial contact with the producer to signing the first agreement took less than eight weeks and was a pleasant experience for all of us here at 3rd Coast Books. We are about to make one of our author’s dream come true. And, as for the author’s goal of being a bestseller, the producer wants our marketing team to tell the world when the film/documentary will air and on what distribution network along with their own marketing.

Hopefully, 3rd Coast Books will accomplish the author’s goal of being a bestseller when millions of people around the world see the film/TV documentary. As an extra exciting thrill, the author will be asked to be on set to give insight to the director on her book. How cool is that?

In conclusion, when you can’t first accomplish your goals, break all the rules and go for the dream. I read a Google article about what Hollywood wanted: “Great screenplays and ideas.” We are authors and publishers; we don’t write screenplays or just have great ideas. We write and publish passionate stories by astute authors. Let the movie makers do their thing; we’ll do ours. Long live the indies!

Ron Mumford is the publisher and head of marketing at 3rd Coast Books, LLC. He is the author of a nonfiction book Finding Your Soul Mate, God’s Way, an action thriller; Gray Justice; and a fantasy trilogy that includes Wayne’s Angel, Betwixt, and Z-Gen, published by 3rd Coast Books. 3rd Coast Books editors seek passionate stories written by astute authors that we can pitch to our many producers, directors, and development contacts.

To learn more about how to get your books on the big screen check out our IBPA Independent article, “Basic Moves for Movie and TV Deals”.

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