Saturday, January 15, 2005


You Ought Not To Be In Pictures

An intriguing failed effort to bring a book to the screen is described by The Guardian:

A film company which asked Catherine Cookson fans to stump up £3.2m for her latest adaptation has abandoned its plans after raising less than a 5% of the budget.

Producer Ray Marshall, who has brought 18 of Cookson's books to the screen over the years, appealed to fans of the romantic fiction writer to pay £15.99 each. The money was to be taken as pre-payment for a video copy of the film when it was eventually made. When 200,000 of them sent in their money, he would have the £3.2 million necessary to make a new film of Cookson's novel Katie Mulholland. But, three months on, Marshall has received fewer than 10,000 orders.

Granted, it was a flop: and granted, it was for a movie I'd never go see. But the idea is an provocative one, not least because -- though not noted in the Guardian article -- having such a large number of small stakeholders, all being reimbursed through DVDs, would change the dynamic normally associated with appeasing producers. Namely, no backer would interfere with how the film was written, cast, edited, or marketed. (You think your £15.99 gets you a vote on rewrites?) Moreover, if a DVD was the only thing promised to backers, then remaining profits would flow to the director, actors, and maybe even (gasp!) the author.

In movie days of yore, rounding up thousands of backers would have been impractical: but now, with online communities, paypal, and cheap-to-mail DVDs? The problem might not have been the idea so much as the author. I think it's safe to say that Cookson's fans are not, ahem, text-messaging each in high school classrooms. But for an author with a younger, more devoted, and more wired following... who knows?

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