The author of The Alchemist Agenda, Marty Weiss!
Chickens, Eggs, and Options…
The Alchemist Agenda was conceived nearly five years ago, though it was just recently hatched. Its long gestation was not only the result of a slow author, but rather a fast changing environment that is transforming how we produce and receive content in the digital age.
I am a filmmaker and had first imagined The Alchemist Agenda as a movie. I wanted to set the action and romance in visually striking locations that I had filmed in and wanted to return to, envisioning a big budget tent-pole franchise with ongoing adventures in the vein of Jason Bourne or James Bond.
But the harsh reality of how difficult it is to get something of that scope made these days set in. Movie studios are making fewer and fewer movies every year, and nearly all of the big ones are based on pre-existing material with built-in audiences such as graphic novels, (Batman, Iron Man, Spiderman), novels (Hunger Games, World War Z), TV shows (Star Trek), theme parks (Pirates of the Caribbean), even video games (Resident Evil). And since I can’t draw, design a video game, or build a ride, the novel was my only option. All I’d have to do was write one (something I had never done), then find someone to publish it, market it, and sell a few million copies (something I had no idea how to do).
But I didn’t worry about such things. I had written several screenplays, short stories, and articles, and I was excited and challenged by the prospect of my first book; the bigger canvas would allow me to delve deeper into the story’s characters and plot complexities. And so I went to town.
It ultimately proved to be an amazing experience, the writing that is, until I had to face the harsh realities of distribution once again: I had no idea what to do with a book, where to take it, or how to shop it—so I stuffed it in my desk drawer and forgot about it. Sort of.
I still couldn’t stop thinking that it would make a great movie. So I sent the screenplay version to Amazon Studios, Amazon’s new film and TV division, and they optioned it (which means that they pay for the rights to develop and make the movie). Over the next two years, I worked with them on several rewrites, and even produced a feature length motion comic for their unique development process. And because of the publicity the project received, a publisher contacted me to suggest that it would make a terrific novel. I told him that I would get right on it, and emailed him the manuscript five minutes later. Sometimes timing is everything.
More than ever, people like having choices in how they digest their entertainment, to read, listen, or watch; Cineplex or stage; print or pad; comic book or animated; audio book or large print; 3D or live. Storytellers now have options to create and distribute content like never before. Music software allows people who can’t play an instrument to produce songs. Camera and editing equipment make filmmaking affordable. And books can be self-published. The Internet opens the doors to the world. This democratization of content, however, does make it harder than ever to find a mass audience – and more likely to become a lost needle in an ever expanding haystack.
A former screenwriting teacher once said that it’s better to bring great meaning to one person, than to leave the masses empty. That sentiment stuck with me. But still, the old belief that size does matter came to mind in two obvious ways. One, the bigger your audience, the more money you make. And two, the bigger your… Actually, I can’t say number two in mixed company, but I think it was that same screenwriting teacher who also said that a character who acquires a lot of money in your story can get the girl in lieu of number two, and vice versa.
I don’t know if it matters what comes first – money or sex, novel or screenplay, chicken or egg – but I do believe that it’s always good to have options.
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