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The Cross Media Conversation: From Book Fairs to Film Festivals
Frankfurt, Berlin, London, Taipei, Hong Kong and Seoul
By Jeff Sharp, Open Road Media
Throughout my career as a film producer, I have been drawn to literary material as the basis for my movies. EVENING, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, and NICHOLAS NICKLEBY to name a few. While this may not sound like a revolutionary idea in the film industry, it was my great affection toward books and authors that led me to look for better ways to integrate the film and publishing industries and in the process co-found Open Road Integrated Media with Jane Friedman in 2009. Open Road is a digital content marketing company that develops stories across all screens with Ebooks at the center of everything we do.
Personally speaking, for me, the inspiration behind Open Road began a number of years beforehand, when The Frankfurt Book Fair, in 2003, started to expand the conversation around literary adaptations. It was that year when Frankfurt introduced the Film & Media Forum. And then, shortly thereafter, a visionary partnership was struck with the Berlin Film Festival to create Books at Berlinale – which has gone on to become the major global meeting place for publishers, agents, authors, producers and film and television executives. The Film & Media Forum – now known as Storydrive — is a series of panels, one on one meetings and receptions which take place during the Frankfurt Book Fair every October, and the Books at Berlinale, which helps facilitate meetings between film producers and financiers and book-related film projects – coincides with the Berlin Film Festival every February.
As Juergen Boos, Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair explained to me: “Books and films have a lot in common. Both media express the insatiable hunger people have for quality information and exciting content. That content constitutes the raw materials traded by the creative industries of film and books…As many as one third of all films are based on original versions in literature – a trend that continues to grow internationally…Meanwhile, book publishers benefit not only by selling the rights, but also from the additional marketing effect.”
In 2005, The London Book Fair leveraged its rights fair to include one on one meetings between book publishers, agents and filmmakers. Alistair Burntenshaw, Director of Books & Publishing, Reed Exhibitions and Director, for the London Book Fair explained: “[We] launched a TV-Film programme back in 2005, as a result of feedback from the international rights community and members of the TV-Film community…Film and television and the book industry work very closely together…It is no surprise then, that all the major studios send scouts to the big international book fairs. The money and the effort isn’t in the hope of finding the next hot book (although that’s always useful) – really The London Book Fair provides the same service to film and TV producers as it does for everyone – the opportunity to develop relationships with agents and publishers, as it is these crucial relationships that can give rise to a lead on the next big thing, the next big step, the next hot book or trend.”
Inspired by successful events at Frankfurt, Berlin and London, film festival programmer and book fair veteran Jane Yu, approached Director Pao Ping, Director of The Taipei International Book Exposition about starting a book and film program for Chinese language content called Books Meets Film in Taipei in February, 2012 with a related program in Hong Kong at the Hong Kong Filmart in March, 2012. Both events were a success and point to yet another development on the expansion of the international book fair model. As Jane Yu told me, “As a programmer, I had attended Berlinale many times, and noticed the “Books in Berlinale” in the film market, and its connection with Frankfurt Book Fair. In recent years, there have been many successful cases of book adaptations in the booming development of the Chinese film market, such as “Let the Bullets Fly”, “Aftershock”, “The Apple in My Eye”, “Warriors of Rainbow: Seediq Bale”, “Starry Starry Night”, etc. These trends inspired me to organize a platform to encourage adaptations of Chinese publications to the big screen. I proposed the idea to the Taipei Book Fair Foundation, and received a very positive response.”
While the day to day objective of this new breed of media conference offered a platform to promote the creation of film and television projects from books, the end result has been far greater than any one movie . It has created new communities of artists, authors, filmmakers, game developers, movie and television producers, publishers, editors and agents. Pao Ping from the Taipei International Book Fair says it best: “Films need good stories, and publishing is the most important source of stories. A good story should be not only fit to print, but even better to be adapted into films.”
And the convergence continues to evolve.
The Frankfurt Book Fair is expanding upon the concept that it helped to create in China by recently hosting Beijing StoryDrive which included panels and discussions around cross-media rights, licenses and cooperation deals, while establishing a cross-media coproduction area. Several other new events have emerged in recent months and several more are on the horizon as our industry continues to change and evolve. For instance, Digital Book World’s StoryDrive celebrated its launch this past fall in San Francisco and is heading to Los Angeles this October, 2012.
This week, I am looking forward to speaking at the Seoul International Book Fair about Publishing in the Digital Era, Cross Media StoryTelling and Selling. It’s an exciting time. I look forward to seeing many of you here in Seoul or at one or more of these upcoming events in 2012 and encourage those of you who have not yet participated, to join us in exploring cross media in all of its new directions.