Monday, September 19, 2022

Something About Franchises

You may be adapted. Resistance may be futile.

In the weeks after The House with a Clock in its Walls film (2018), I discussed what other Bellairsian adaptations might look like with a few other fans. I always thought an animated The Face in the Frost would be interesting if done correctly. Also, in these days of serialized television, I could envision a multi-season Johnny Dixon series covering ten episodes per book.

Those conversations went nowhere, and it’s hard to believe it’s been four years since the film.  That is, both the House film and any news of a sequel.

I was reminded of these ideas recently while reading Jason Mosberg’s comments on Hollywood’s desire for intellectual property. On the one hand, I’m surprised someone hasn’t adapted more of the Bellairs stories; on the other, I’m almost glad they haven’t.

Probably the biggest indicator of how important IP is to Hollywood is the fact that there are whole companies of book scouts and literary scouts whose entire function is to read every book and article that comes out and write up reports and send them to producers and agents. Somewhere, some literary scout working remotely from their swanky pad in Montana is reading this very article wondering whether or not it could be a TV show. (I’ll do you a favor: no, it should not be a TV show*). 

I’m not alone in my frustration with the entertainment industry’s obsession with IP. If you were to visit LA and happen to sit next to a few screenwriters at happy hour in Culver City or Silverlake, eventually you’d overhear them making cracks about whatever ridiculous IP had been pitched to them recently. There are only so many books available, so Hollywood has gotten pretty desperate on how to find pre-branded ideas. This is something I learned shortly after I first moved to LA when my best friend started working as an assistant to a movie producer. Like every other production company, they were pursuing IP. Amongst the ideas they explored for movies were the hula hoop and the LaCoste crocodile logo**. This isn’t a joke. They actually looked into these as possible source material for films. The saddest part is that multiple producers are probably reading this and wondering if this anecdote is about them.

Hollywood wants IP because they believe that’s the way to build a franchise. The funny part is if you ask studio execs which one they would choose if they could have the rights to any one franchise (not counting the MCU as a single franchise), most of them would pick Star Wars. But the original Star Wars was based on nothing more than George Lucas’s script! Same with Avatar. Same with Stranger Things. Same with The Fast and the Furious. (Again, there are plenty of huge franchises that did come from IP like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Batman, etc.).

* Neither should this blog. - BM

** Come up with your own Izod/Isaac Izard jokes. - BM

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