Journalism, Storytelling, Video — August 24, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Hollywood Looks to Print for Stories

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Good Hollywood films like Argo started  as print stories.

Print? Isn’t that a dead medium for storytelling? Not really.

Magazines are becoming script laboratories. The printed publication is where the initial production is done, the story is reported, vetted and published.

Some very smart people in Hollywood understand the value of print. They have started optioning magazine articles on the thought that these stories could someday be  full blown feature films.

It’s a dream tucked in the backs of many journalists’ minds: the article they write becomes a blockbuster movie and they reap a healthy share of the profits, a walk on the red carpet and — who knows? — maybe even an Oscar.

Condé Nast magazines like Wired, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, has put together a unit dedicated to selling printed articles to Hollywood for film development. Hearst, Playboy and National Geographic among them — have sought to diversify into television and movies.

Film is seen as a new source of revenue for magazine publishers. It is also a way to build a business around true stories that can be recast as feature films, bringing in lots of cash.

Condé Nast articles led to the movie “Argo,” which so far has generated $166 million in worldwide box-office sales, “Eat Pray Love,” which made $204 million in global sales and “Brokeback Mountain,” which brought in $178 million. Finding and putting together a good story is often tough.

Joshua Davis, left, and Joshuah Bearman have both sold movie rights to their articles. They are setting up an online literary site that might help others do the same.
Joshua Davis, left, and Joshuah Bearman have both sold movie rights to their articles. They are setting up an online literary site that might help others do the same.

Argo’s creator is Joshuah Bearman. He wrote the Wired magazine story that became this year’s Best Picture winner, Argo.

Bearman and Joshua Davis, his cofounder of the new digital long-form journalism startup Epic Magazine, have, in fact, between them had 18 of their articles optioned for films. The two men are hoping Epic will provide a magazine to Hollywood pipeline, helping other journalists succeed.

Epic is focusing on a becoming a long-form journalism outlet where stories would appear in print, but would be optioned for Hollywood. As David Carr of the New York Times recently noted, “the two men have found a way to make magazine writing work for them.”

The goal behind Epic is bo build a model for long-form journalism where the revenue generated over the entire life of the story – magazine sales, sales on Audible.com and Amazon Kindle Singles, ancillary flim and TV rights, can be used to finance the costs of reporting.

Serious journalism is in trouble. Once financed by advertising, this support has disappeared leading to the virtual destruction of traditional media that once supported long-form investigative journalism aimed at improving society. Epic is an attempt to reverse this slide. I can only hope that Berman and Davis succeed.

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