Hello Beautiful Friends,
I write with good and fine news: my debut novel “We All Looked Up” has been optioned for film. This process has been taking place for the past couple months, and I wasn’t able to announce publicly (though many of you already had some word) until now. The official announcement can be read at Deadline over here, though I’ve pasted the text below:
Paramount Insurge Options Apocalyptic Novel ‘We All Looked Up’
EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Insurge has optioned rights to Tommy Wallach’s forthcoming debut novel We All Looked Up, I’ve learned. The science fiction tale is set two months before a meteor is set to pass through Earth’s orbit with a 66.6 percent chance of striking and ending all life on the planet. Against this backdrop, four high school seniors – the athlete, the school slut, the slacker, and the overachiever – find their lives intersecting on the eve of the cataclysmic event.
It’s an early deal on the book, which doesn’t hit stands until March 31, 2015 via Simon & Schuster. Chronicle producer John Davis will be producing for his Davis Entertainment banner while Brittany Morrissey is overseeing for the company. Alison Small is overseeing for Paramount Insurge, the microbudget branch at Paramount whose upcoming projects include The Cellar with Bad Robot. We All Looked Up marks the second recent genre deal between Insurge and Davis Entertainment after the companies teamed on sci-fi script Prism last fall, with Davis set to produce. Wallach is repped by Greenhouse Literary and Resolution. Paramount did not comment on the deal.
It turns out that selling a book to the movie folks is a long and complicated process, and I thought I’d use this opportunity to explain it. If that sounds boring to you, I recommend you watch some Strong Bad Emails or something instead.
Step 1: The larger literary agencies out there have their own dedicated film agents on staff. Film agents are distinguishable from normal agents by the way that they wear sunglasses indoors and call everyone “Babe.” My agency does not have a full-timer such as this on staff, but most good literary agents know at least a few people in Los Angeles they can call up. The conversation usually goes like this:
Literary Agent: Hello!
Film Agent: What’s the word, Babe?
Literary Agent: I have this novel you might be interested in representing. It’s good.
Film Agent: But is it hot, Babe?
Literary Agent: Um…yes?
Film Agent: Alright then. Send it over and I’ll give it a read.
(Eons pass; Film Agent calls Literary Agent back)
Film Agent: I love it, Babe! It’s hotter than Vesuvius. Let’s make a movie!
Literary Agent: That’s great news! I’m so excited to be working with you. Does this mean I can call you “Babe” now?
Film Agent: Don’t you fucking dare.
Step 2: After the film agent has decided to represent (or “rep,” in film parlance, because people in Hollywood don’t have time for polysyllabic words) the film, they open up the old Rolodex (“dex”) and telephone (“tel”) their producer friends (“fr”). These producers are people who sit around in offices all day waiting for film agents to call them. The conversation between a producer and a film agent usually goes like this:
Film Agent: Hey, Babe!
Producer: Hey, Babe!
Film Agent: So I got this hot property on my hands. Ouch. It just burned my hands. Hold on while I put on some oven mitts. (Time passes.) Okay, I’m back.
Producer: That sounds hot. Send it my way and I’ll read it.
(Eons pass; Producer calls Film Agent back)
Producer: Take me to the motherfucking burn ward, Babe, because this book is like FIRE.
Film Agent: What did I tell you, Babe? That book is like an oven on the self-cleaning setting. It gave me third-degree burns on my heart.
Producer: Word. Aight, Babe. You hold tight while I bring this to the studio.
Step 3: Film agents have this conversation with many different producers, many of whom have what’s called a “first look deal” with a given studio. That means that any project the producer wants to develop has to be brought to that specific studio first (and if the studio passes, the producer can then present the project to other studios). The conversation between producers and their associated studio usually goes like this:
Producer: I’m calling you on a hands-free telephone, Babe, because I’ve been holding on to a property so hot it melted my fucking fingers off.
Studio Executive: Ooooo, that sounds hot.
Producer: It is hot. It’s hot like Hansel. Hot like a couple of crossed buns. Hotter than a sauna in the Sahara in the summertime.
Studio Executive: Send it my way, Babe. And pack that shit in ice.
Producer: On it. It’s coming to you in an Igloo cooler like a motherfucking picnic lunch.
(Eons pass; Producer calls Studio Executive back)
Studio Executive: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! MY FUCKING EYES! IT’S HOTTER THAN A SUPERNOVA! IT MAKES THE SURFACE OF THE SUN LOOK LIKE THE SURFACE OF NEPTUNE! YOU COULD ROAST A TURKEY ON THIS THING!
Producer: What did I tell you, Babe?
Studio Executive: Alright. Here’s a bit of money and a contract, Babe. Go give it to that author and tell him we’re going to do our damndest to get this searing hot property into movie theaters.
Producer: Hell to the yeah, Babe.
Step 4: This money is known as an “option fee,” and it gives the studio the right to attempt to produce the movie for a given period of time (usually a year). In this year, the studio has to locate a screenwriter, director, and a primary cast. Conversations with prospective screenwriters usually go like this:
Studio Executive: Babe! I got a match made in heaven right here. You’re a hot screenwriter. I got a hot book. Let’s put you together and watch the temperature rise.
Prospective Screenwriter: I am an artist. I won’t get involved in any project that doesn’t inspire me, you corporate parasite.
Studio Executive: I love the passion, Babe! I’m sending it over pronto.
(Eons pass; Prospective Screenwriter calls Studio Executive)
Prospective Screenwriter: The book is…adequate. I shall begin the screenplay immediately. It will take a year.
Studio Executive: You’ve got 6 weeks, Babe.
Prospective Screenwriter: Impossible.
Studio Executive: You wanna get paid, Babe?
Prospective Screenwriter: …yes.
Studio Executive: Then you’ve got 6 weeks, Babe.
Prospective Screenwriter: Very well.
Step 5: If a screenwriter, director, and cast are successfully secured, then the studio will make a final decision about whether to fund the project. Once it’s funded, the movie is “greenlit” (or “greenlighted,” if you’re an old school grammarian who shuns the shortened form of the past participle) and goes into production. At that point, everybody gets paid a goodly sum of money, and there is much merriment.
To be clear, the “We All Looked Up” movie is currently at the beginning of Step 4, so there’s still a long way to go between here and an actual film. But I couldn’t be more excited. The studio that optioned the book (Paramount Insurge) has never optioned a property before, and I know they’re going to do everything they can to make this movie happen (many big studios option properties that they have no real intention to produce, just to make sure no one else produces them). To have this happen for my book 7 months before its publication date is more than I ever could’ve hoped for.
In closing: Big thanks to John Cusick at Greenhouse, Adrian Garcia at Resolution (Hey, Babe), Brittany Morrissey at Davis Entertainment, and Alison Small at Paramount Insurge.