I'm a novel writer (unpublished, but soon to write my first real novel). I've skimmed the surface of screenwriting, just enough to know that I would far rather write novels.

I recently came across a picture book I had read as a kid. I flipped through it again, and realized that it actually has a well-structured plot, with all the points a good novel needs. It would need to be fleshed out a bit, as a lot of character development is missing (because it's a picture book for young kids), but I can easily see it as a movie. For some reason I can't get this idea out of my head.

Is there anything I can do to make this dream a reality? I didn't write the book, and I don't know the first thing about movie production. I'd like to write a screenplay for it, but I'd need someone who actually knows what they are doing with all the timings and everything, as I do not. Who do I talk to if I want this book turned into a movie? Obviously the author/publisher has to get involved at some point, but I'm not sure if I would contact them first, or try to find a producer interested in creating the movie first.

Or am I just asking for trouble if I try to get involved in something I - to be perfectly honest - have no say whatsoever in?

closed as off-topic by Paulie_D, Sayan, Darth Locke, Meat Trademark, BCdotWEB Jul 2 '18 at 19:31

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    You do not have any rights here...you must contact the author/publisher first. – Paulie_D Jul 2 '18 at 15:17
  • @Paulie_D That's what I was looking for, thanks. Put that in an answer and I'll accept it. – Thomas Myron Jul 2 '18 at 15:17
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    @KeyBrdBasher & DarthLocke & MeatTrademark How did you get the idea that this question would be remotely appropriate on Movies & TV Meta? – Napoleon Wilson Jul 2 '18 at 19:52

Put some effort into seeing if anyone holds the rights to it first. The chances are that if it's a good book, someone will own the rights to make it into a movie. Then hire a lawyer. A good one.

Many books have screenplays kicking around Hollywood, being held up for many different reasons.

If you think it's good enough to be a film, the chances are that a hundred other people do as well, and they're ahead of you in the queue.

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    It's worth stating that the author will definitely have the rights unless they have been sold,,,,there's no "chances are" about it. – Paulie_D Jul 2 '18 at 15:57

You'll want to contact the author or their agent first. You will need to ask if the rights have ever been sold to anyone for a movie version of the book. If they are, you can ask if you can lease the rights to the characters and write a different version of the story, "based on characters created by Joe Schmoe".

If the rights to the specific story have never been sold, and you want to obtain them but don't have a lot of money, you can ask if you can write a screenplay based on the book, with a contract written to include a fair split of the profit if the script is purchased by a studio. Depending on how successful the author is, they may show interest in that.

Then, you have to write the script and most likely hire an agent who can shop it for you. First time script writers are a dime a dozen, so expect an interested studio to offer $50K, maybe less. If it makes them money and you write another, you have a lot more wiggle room and can see that number tripled pretty easily, if not more.

  • What if I don't want to write the script though? I'd be happy to write the story (as it needs to be fleshed out to be a full movie) but there's a lot of technicality with actual screenwriting which I don't know how to do, and wouldn't want to mess up by doing something I know nothing about. Basically I'm just trying to start a process here - I don't specifically have to be a working part of that process. – Thomas Myron Jul 2 '18 at 17:03
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    So all you want to do is flesh out an existing story? There's not much point in that. I don't know that there's a need for a middle guy who randomly fleshes out stories. Or, at least that's not where it starts. It might start with a guy who buys the rights to a movie and writes a script, and the production company buys the script but wants it fleshed out a bit so they hire a guy like you. – Johnny Bones Jul 2 '18 at 17:16
  • No, all I want to do is see it made into a movie. I was just adding that the story needs to be fleshed out, but that's beside the point. I was just saying that's the only part of the process I would feel comfortable with. My main goal would be to get it made into a movie, or determine why that can't happen (if such is the case). Sorry if there was any confusion. – Thomas Myron Jul 2 '18 at 18:20
  • It's common that various people are involved in getting a movie made, in various capacities, so you don't need to write the screenplay. However, a good screenplay is necessary (not always sufficient) to be taken seriously, so you might look for a like-minded screenwriter who's willing to write on spec. – professor_feather Jul 3 '18 at 22:34

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