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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Sun 17
Jul
2005

Talk to me, baby

Writing My last blog gave some people the idea that my life is all L.A. movie premieres, shooting hoops with Adam Brody, and doing coke lines off Mary-Kate Olsen’s bare stomach, but sadly it’s not. From an author’s point of view, selling film rights tends to be like this:

Agent: We’ve got a great offer from Legendary Director X!
Author: Oh, cool!

One Week Later.
Agent: Yeah, that didn’t come off.
Author: Oh, damn.

One Week Later.
Agent: We’ve got a great offer from Excellent Production Company Y! Want to take it?
Author: Sure, okay!

Toni writes:

so did you sell all of the rights to Company over to Doubleday or do you get all of the rights? I’m curious about how this whole process works…..do you get a cut of the film profits?

While Nathan, more succinctly, says:

Paramount. Nice. You must be loaded now.

First I should point out that there is no Company movie deal yet; there’s just people talking. That may or may not lead to a deal, but even if it does, it’s unlikely I will be rolling around naked in hundred-dollar bills. Well, I might be, but there wouldn’t be that many of them. Movie rights deals are structured so that they have a front end and a back end. The front end is the money the film studio pays now, which buys them an exclusive period (usually a year or two) in which to develop the film. This is called an option, and the amount paid is relatively small. Exactly how relatively small depends on whether you are, say, Dan Brown, or, say, me.

The back end is the juicy part. This can include a percentage of profits, but mainly it’s just a great big wad of cash, about an order of magnitude larger than the front end, and payable when the film goes into production—that is, when the cameras start rolling. Many, many novels are optioned but never go into production, in which case the option lapses and the author is never paid the back end. (I haven’t seen one yet.) Some authors are more than happy with this, because they get to sell the film rights all over again. (Which has happened to me once.) But this is pretty anti-climactic. I want to snuggle into a soft red movie seat and chew popcorn while a story I once dreamed up is projected in 35mm. Then I’ll shoot some hoops with Adam Brody and go see Mary-Kate about that coke.

Comments

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Henry T. Monkeypimpenstein (#1212)

Location: Wellington, NZ
Quote: "Monkeypimp: Geeky enough to use his lame NS forum name here too."
Posted: 4997 days ago

Wait, which one's mary-kate again?

Matthew (#16)

Location: Columbus, Ohio
Quote: "Unicorn on mountain top. Wind blowing through mane."
Posted: 4997 days ago

She's the dead one, right?

Machine Man subscriber Kramy (#818)

Quote: ""it's the way of the future""
Posted: 4997 days ago

Poor Ashley

Machine Man subscriber Kramy (#818)

Quote: ""it's the way of the future""
Posted: 4997 days ago

So is the book released?

Jan. 2006

Vladimir Zarkov (#866)

Location: Sofia, Bulgaria
Quote: ""God: It's a pity I took a rest on the seventh day. I could have created a much better chaos.""
Posted: 4997 days ago

Hey, why don't you look at this as a period of blissful anticipation? Are you so impatient to see a book of yours butchered in style by Hollywood? The chances for a decent movie are so small that you would not see them even under a microscope.
Well, this said I wish you luck with those tycoons. But Mary-Kate? Come on...

JacksSmirkingRevenge (#1324)

Location: That place where Billy Elliot was comitted, England
Quote: "What can the harvest hope for if not for the care of the reaper man?"
Posted: 4997 days ago

Pfft! If your going to be a celbrity pedophile, you could do much better than Mary-Kate!

OverlordBill (#1197)

Location: ~2B, -4B
Posted: 4997 days ago

Mary-Kate is legal now! So there Mr.... Jacks... Lurking... Nonclevernessitude.

Should we all start calling the movie studios who've optioned you and act like crazed fangirls? A) For kicks and B) some beneficial effect for you I suppose...

Machine Man subscriber Craig Barron (#1276)

Location: Leeds, UK.
Quote: "“Trust Elizabeth to get upset over a donut.”"
Posted: 4997 days ago

advocating drug use? shame on you Max...



ps if you do pull it off (so to speak) can I come?

Loki (#1015)

Location: Maryland
Quote: "I (heart) XY"
Posted: 4997 days ago

if I position the tip of my mouse pointer on the mouse pointer on the desktop of your computer screen in your bio picture, it looks kind of like a horn.

...just thought I'd get that out there...

shabooty (#637)

Location: D.C./V.A/M.D.
Quote: "I will shake your foundation. I will shake the f**cking rafters. Nobody'll be the same -Danny Bonaduce ....& go visit my blog @: http://www.shabooty.com"
Posted: 4997 days ago

this is the case for many comedians
they get hooked up w/ development deals from tv companies for sitcoms
basically say FOX would pay like an Artie Lang a million dollars and it would be a year long deal (exclusive so he couldn't sign on anything else.)
and then FOX would keep coming up with sitcom ideas (usually like him being the fat neighbor) and Artie would get to okay them. during that year long deal...

(the above is based on truth mostly)
so yeah, Max, how's it feel like being the fat neighbor on the block.

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: "www.MidwestRockLobster.blogspot.com"
Posted: 4997 days ago

I've always wondered how much the options sell for, versus the back end or residuals. I seem to recall hearing that David Morrell had a lawyer friend who insisted on reviewing the publishing contract for 'First Blood.' I don't know how much of this is myth created after the fact, but supposedly, Morrell was upset at paying $500 in legal fees to have the contract rewritten so the publisher of the book didn't get first dibs on the majority of the movie and product licensing money.

Morrell (rightly) thought 'First Blood' was unlikely to be made into a movie. If they'd faithfully adapted the book.

But since they made 'Rambo' instead, Morrell made a bunch of loot of plastic Rambo knives sold by mail order, movie residuals, etc.

The bad part is that he went from a guy with a promising debut novel, to the writer of sub-Ludlum crapola. IMHO.

But he's probably rolling around naked in more than a few C-Notes.

Sean Gant (#201)

Location: USA
Quote: "I saved a girl from being attacked last night. I controlled myself. --Rodney Dangerfield"
Posted: 4996 days ago

I just noticed that there are a lot of people on here from Indiana, but that myself and my roommate were the only ones at Max's booksigning in Chicago last year. Guess we know who the real fans are. (Let the hate pour over me)

Also, Max I let my ex-girlfriend read _Syrup_ and she loved it.

Machine Man subscriber Machine (#957)

Posted: 4996 days ago

If it's coke you wanted you should have come and seen me, you've got my number. Mary-Kate might take me a little longer to organise though.

Matthew (#16)

Location: Columbus, Ohio
Quote: "Unicorn on mountain top. Wind blowing through mane."
Posted: 4996 days ago

Dear Sean Gant,

I have a lower number than you so I guess I am a bigger/truer fan/whatever.

Blah to you.

-Matthew

Yenzo (#829)

Location: Secret underwater pyramid base in the Pacific
Quote: "In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe (Carl Sagan)"
Posted: 4996 days ago

The guy who lives in the Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris got like 250.000 bucks so that Spielberg could make "The Terminal".

That guy didn't even really do anything. He got stuck in an airport. He didn't think up a novel or something.

I must admit that surviving some years at Charles De Gaulle is something like an art form. I had a hard time just surviving a few hours there without strangeling myself. But a quarter of a million? Wouldn't it be appropriate, then, to pay an actual author like a billion dollars or something?

I guess a movie is the best thing that can happen to an author, at least moneywise. No matter how much they screw up your story, there's still gonna be a gazillion people watching it in the theatre and your name will spread like a wildfire. Money will fall from the sky like snow and Mary-Kate and Ashley will succumb to your every whim.

Jennifer Garner probably too, which might not be a bad thing.

Airborne (#1471)

Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Quote: "C 1/501 Artic Airborne Infantry "Geronimo!""
Posted: 4995 days ago

Hey, whooooo. Ya, Max, your the greatest author I never read! Your writing on this site seems so interesting, and I'm sure you wrote a good book or two... or seven. I've been dabbling on writting myself, and reading this blog has given me the courage to curl up into the fetal position and give up writing for the night; better to try again tommorrow.



Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 4995 days ago

Heheheh, funny comments. They're the only reason I visit this site.

Matthew (#16)

Location: Columbus, Ohio
Quote: "Unicorn on mountain top. Wind blowing through mane."
Posted: 4995 days ago

Now, that's actually funny.

+one more respect point, Max.

Don't spend it all in one place, OK?

B!teM3 (#1473)

Location: Wales (UK)
Posted: 4995 days ago

That is real cool that it's goona be made into a Film (as we say over here in the UK). Hope the book comes out first though. And you must have words with 'them' if they wanna change your ending (eg. Fight Club!)

Reggi (#774)

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "it's not the men in my life that counts -- it's the life in my men. - mae west"
Posted: 4994 days ago

i don't know if someone's already mentioned this, but anyway.
i love the fact that you allow comments on the site, max, but have you ever thought it might be interesting to start a forum?
message boards are always an interesting medium, and while it's probable that the number of comments left on your blogs would decrease, the actual discussion on your books between readers might be worth it.
of course you'd have the problem of moderating, but there will, i'm sure, always be those of us with far too much free time on our hands who'd be happy to volunteer for the job.
anyway...just a thought i'm throwing out there.

JacksSmirkingRevenge (#1324)

Location: That place where Billy Elliot was comitted, England
Quote: "What can the harvest hope for if not for the care of the reaper man?"
Posted: 4993 days ago

If this film adapted even half as well as Fight Club it'll be good. Hell, even Chuck Palahniuk who wrote it said that the changed ending was better than the one he thought up!

Yenzo (#829)

Location: Secret underwater pyramid base in the Pacific
Quote: "In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe (Carl Sagan)"
Posted: 4992 days ago

...and he's right about that, too (IMHO). Nowadays, I consider the novel, the screenplay and the movie of Fight Club as three distinct works, because, if you think about it, there were a lot of fundamental changes at every stage.

Good example of things that you actually have to change in order to transform a novel into a good movie.

Sophie (#891)

Location: Devon
Posted: 4991 days ago

The Fight Club transition into a movie was awesome-o. I think they should have shot a 'director's cut' of Fight Club, with the alternate ending from the book. But the casting was absolutely perfect.
However, I think a move version of Jennifer Government could equal or even surpass Fight Club in terms of awesomeness. Its easily one of my most anticipated movies of all time and its not even being made yet.
Speaking of which ... if you could cast ANYONE in the main roles, who would they be? I think Jessica Alba might make a good Jennifer Government (if she became a better actress, that is.)

Sophie (#891)

Location: Devon
Posted: 4991 days ago

Wait ... what about Ashley Judd as Jen Government? Hmmm...

Yenzo (#829)

Location: Secret underwater pyramid base in the Pacific
Quote: "In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe (Carl Sagan)"
Posted: 4989 days ago

Nah... she's too close to Wil Wheaton, career-wise. Gives Max the heebie-jeebies. :->

I'd go with Jen Garner. I think I mentioned here earlier in this thread, didn't I? Just a little psychological priming on my side.

Or wait 10 years and take Natalie Portman - even though she might be a little too expensive by then, what with her Academy Awards and all. :->

Galen (#1516)

Location: In a land far, far away, sometimes referred to as college.
Quote: ""It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious. " - Oscar Wilde"
Posted: 4969 days ago

Wait... we're picking people for parts already? Can't that wait until there's actually a movie, and we can just criticize the choices that are already made?

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