Hollywood has devoured up guide rights in the course of the pandemic. Here is why

The lickety-split deal-making for Alam’s novel is only one instance of a bigger pattern that has performed out within the leisure enterprise in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic: a surge in offers for studios to adapt books for movie and TV.

With movie and TV productions stalled, studios have devoured up the rights to a whole lot of novels and non-fiction tomes that they hope will underpin future hits.

We have had extra examples of getting one thing pitched on a Monday and bought by a Friday than ever earlier than.

Michelle Weiner, Artistic Artists Company

Like housebound people the world over, studio executives, filmmakers and actors have had way more time to learn books. That newfound availability, coupled with streaming providers’ and media firms’ insatiable urge for food for recent materials, has led to a considerable uptick in gross sales, in line with brokers and producers.

CAA, as an illustration, has packaged and bought about 175 guide titles for movie and TV up to now this yr – about 5 occasions the company’s quantity throughout the identical time frame in 2019, the corporate mentioned. Rival businesses, together with WME and United Expertise company, additionally reported important bumps.

“We’ve had a unprecedented improve in quantity over the past 5 to 6 months,” Weiner mentioned. “There are administrators and actors and creators and producers that all of the sudden and with out discover discovered themselves accessible.”

Shortly after CAA started working remotely, MGM purchased the rights to The Martian writer Andy Weir’s upcoming novel Challenge Hail Mary with Ryan Gosling set to star. The company additionally bought Brit Bennett’s bestseller The Vanishing Half to HBO, after a bidding struggle. In August, Netflix acquired the function movie rights to Femi Fadugba’s debut novel The Higher World, a deal that was accomplished inside per week of pitching studios, in line with Weiner.

Ryan Gosling is set to star in the film adaptation of Andy Weir's upcoming novel Project Hail Mary.

Ryan Gosling is ready to star within the movie adaptation of Andy Weir’s upcoming novel Challenge Hail Mary.Credit score:Invision

“We have had extra examples of getting one thing pitched on a Monday and bought by a Friday than ever earlier than,” Weiner mentioned. “It displays each the bandwidth and the parallel urge for food of patrons to maintain their improvement slates strong.”

Esmail was in the midst of capturing Angelyne, a TV miniseries concerning the mysterious Los Angeles billboard icon, when the specter of coronavirus shut down movie units in March. With Mr. Robotic having concluded in December, he was in search of new tasks. Later within the US spring, a duplicate of Go away the World Behind crossed his desk. He rapidly devoured it, thrilled by the story of a white couple whose journey is disrupted when their vacation rental house’s black homeowners unexpectedly return.

Seeing the cinematic potential, he texted Roberts, whom he’d befriended whereas directing the 2018 debut season of Homecoming for Amazon. Roberts learn the novel inside days, agreed to take part, and later despatched the guide to Washington, her co-star from 1993’s The Pelican Temporary.


For Esmail, who usually avoids diversifications, the velocity at which a staff coalesced across the challenge mirrored timeliness and high quality of the supply materials.

“This does not occur with out the guide being actually improbable,” he mentioned. “I used to be so excited by the tip, and I feel it was the identical for Julia. It is received a number of layers, and it is speaking about a number of themes in a deep means, but it surely does not really feel didactic. It does not sacrifice any leisure worth for all of that.”

The increase in books represents a vivid spot for expertise businesses which have seen different components of their companies ravaged by the continued coronavirus disaster. Brutal disruptions for movies, reside occasions and concert events lower off income streams for businesses, main storied establishments together with CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Companions to put off workers and slash pay.

The 2 largest expertise giants – WME and CAA – are nonetheless making an attempt to resolve their extra than-a-year-long standoff with the Writers Guild of America over longstanding company practices equivalent to accumulating packaging charges and investing in affiliated manufacturing firms. Working with guide authors is a technique businesses have been in a position to proceed packaging tasks in the course of the feud.

The intense facet for businesses is that studios and streaming providers are nonetheless salivating for mental property, and books are ultimate targets.

Gross sales of guide rights have climbed steadily over the past three to 5 years, because of the rise of prestigious drama collection which have come to dominate streamers and cable networks, taking the mantle from old-school procedurals, in line with Weiner.

Large Little Lies garnered awards consideration and eyeballs for HBO. The community’s adaptation of I Know This A lot is True, the novel by Wally Lamb, earned a lead actor Emmy for Mark Ruffalo final month. The Handmaid’s Story, primarily based on the Margaret Atwood guide, helped put Hulu’s unique content material enterprise on the map. The Disney-owned streaming service additionally launched a collection adaptation of Celeste Ng’s Little Fires In every single place this yr.

The hunt for subscribers and awards season glory has resulted in main alternatives for authors. Streaming providers are providing writers $1-million-plus offers with growing frequency, mentioned former Lionsgate movie government Erik Feig, who runs the Los Angeles-based manufacturing firm Picturestart.

Author Glennon Doyle will co-write the first episode of the TV adaptation of her memoir, Untamed.

Writer Glennon Doyle will co-write the primary episode of the TV adaptation of her memoir, Untamed.

“Thank God these authors have discovered the market that basically values them,” mentioned Feig, who focuses on younger grownup materials, and produced the latest HBO Max book-to-film adaptation Unpregnant. “What I truly love is the authors are having extra company within the offers as nicely.”

Years in the past, Hollywood tended to carry guide authors at arm’s size, usually giving them little say over how the movie and TV variations of their artwork turned out.

However the surge in demand has given authors new leverage within the leisure enterprise. It has turn into the norm for novelists and non-fiction writers to safe producer roles on reveals primarily based on their work. It is also more and more widespread for authors to adapt their very own work for the display, one thing that was a rarity within the enterprise.

Jill Gillett and Sylvie Rabineau, who co-head WME’s literary packaging division, mentioned the entire offers they’ve finished within the final six months have given the authors some involvement within the tasks, both as producers or writers. That wasn’t at all times the case earlier than the pandemic.

J.J. Abrams’ Unhealthy Robotic Productions lately gained the rights to adapt Glennon Doyle’s fashionable memoir Untamed, with the writer set to co-write the primary episode with Little Voice creator Jessie Nelson. Moreover, WME orchestrated a deal for Village Roadshow to provide Emma Brodie’s novel Songs in Ursa Main, with the writer adapting the guide.

Producers usually need authors concerned as a result of they’ll convey extra layers of perception to the characters. A 300-page guide is commonly whittled down from 500-plus pages of fabric, a possible goldmine for concepts.

We’re not simply excited about the movie and TV offers, we’re excited about the holistic careers of the authors.

Jill Gillett, WME

“There was at all times this knee-jerk response that authors are very treasured about their materials they usually could not be trusted to adapt their very own work or be concerned within the course of, and I feel we have confirmed everyone mistaken,” Rabineau mentioned. “That pendulum has actually swung, the place most studios and producers completely worth the providers an writer can present even past the underlying materials.”

Studios are additionally extra prepared than ever to spice up the authors’ careers by together with “primarily based on the novel by” language in commercials for reveals and flicks. Networks, studios and streamers additionally use tie-ins to hype the books and flicks, equivalent to releasing the guide forward of a present’s premiere with cowl artwork from the manufacturing. These varieties of selling commitments have turn into extra routine for sellers to demand throughout negotiations.

“We’re not simply excited about the movie and TV offers, we’re excited about the holistic careers of the authors,” Gillett mentioned.


The rising energy of TV collection over motion pictures has additionally modified the dynamic for authors. Now, nearly all of the massive offers are coming from the TV facet of the enterprise, because of the explosion of cable and streaming collection often called Peak TV.

One good thing about tv is that it provides creators extra freedom to adapt novels that do not essentially match the construction of a two-hour, three-act film, mentioned Bruna Papandrea, the Australian founding father of manufacturing firm Made Up Tales.

“For TV, it is a lot about world-creation and voice,” mentioned Papandrea, who specialises in guide diversifications and is government producing tasks together with a miniseries primarily based on 9 Good Strangers by Large Little Lies writer Liane Moriarty. “One thing TV can do brilliantly, rather more so than movie, is evoke specificity of voice.”

In the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdown, patrons had been most focused on bidding on feel-good tales, mentioned Mary Pender, an agent in UTA’s media rights division, which represents guide authors, journal writers, life rights, podcasts and different underlying materials.

One of many company’s early gross sales in the course of the pandemic was Indonesia-based writer Jesse Q. Sutanto’s guide Dial A for Aunties, which Netflix is popping right into a romantic comedy with Recent Off the Boat creator Nahnatchka Khan.

Issa Rae will be one of the producers of a feature film based on Tanya Smith’s upcoming memoir, The Ghost in the Machine.

Issa Rae will probably be one of many producers of a function movie primarily based on Tanya Smith’s upcoming memoir, The Ghost within the Machine.Credit score:Jordan Strauss/AP

However because the manufacturing pause dragged on, the offers expanded past lighthearted fare to a greater variety of genres, together with thrillers and heavier literary fiction.

“That was most likely till Could-ish, once we realised [the pandemic] was going to proceed, and the floodgates simply form of opened on all the things once more,” Pender mentioned. In August, UTA introduced an settlement for Issa Rae and David Heyman to make Ghost within the Machine, Tanya Smith’s upcoming white collar crime memoir, for Netflix.

Due to the months-long manufacturing delay, it is unclear when any of the tasks acquired in the course of the business’s book-buying spree will truly be produced, not to mention premiered.


Studios are flush with unfinished tasks they should full. They’re cautiously returning to movie and TV units, prioritising tasks that had been mid-shooting when COVID-19 hit, in addition to extra pandemic-friendly productions, together with actuality TV and documentaries. For months, they’re going to be coping with a large backlog of productions determined to get off the bottom.

Brokers anticipate the stream of offers to ebb considerably as manufacturing resumes.

“It is actually been a gold rush,” mentioned Kassie Evashevski, a producer and supervisor at Nameless Content material who joined the corporate from UTA in 2017 to determine its literary rights division. “I think about it might decelerate somewhat, as a result of it has been a extremely frantic tempo.”

Alam, for his half, has noticed the uptick in guide offers, understandably noticing the tweets and commerce publication headlines saying when his fellow authors promote their work to HBO and different patrons. He sees Hollywood’s growing curiosity in novels as an indication of the artwork kind’s continued energy and relevance in tradition.

“It is sensible that individuals are turning to books for storytelling,” he mentioned. “There’s a number of thrilling up to date writing. I feel it reveals that the literature could be very wholesome.”

Los Angeles Occasions

Most Seen in Tradition