It’s the only first-look deal Brian Grazer recalls giving out since he and Imagine Entertainment partner Ron Howard hooked up 28 years ago. And it’s with a company that hasn’t yet made a film. But Blacklight Transmedia gives Imagine a foothold in “transmedia storytelling,” an area Grazer feels will have an increasingly important place in how producers maximize franchises by simultaneously rolling them out in multiple platforms.
Post-Sundance, Blacklight Transmedia will begin shopping 20 intellectual property creations. But rather than limiting them to film, the company will have fully-fleshed storylines and designs that will also be shopped for videogames, TV, graphic novels and new media deals. The firm was formed last year with that strategy by Zak Kadison and Eric Lieb (former execs from Fox and Fox Atomic) and veteran Seattle-based vidgame developers Mark Long and Joanna Alexander. Kadison showed Grazer 10 properties, and Grazer will likely become film producing partner on most of them.
The properties, which are designed to sustain three films, span genres from horror to epic scifi, each focusing on a world and not a central character, with each venue supplying separate but complementary storylines that will keep consumers interested in each platform. While Kadison wouldn’t disclose specific projects, he said the creatives working on them include Chad St. John (Sgt. Rock), Skip Woods (A-Team), Marc Forster (Quantum Of Solace), Dave Semel (Heroes), Kyle Ward and Mark L. Smith.
“The projects I saw were well thought out concepts with strong underlying symbolism and archetypal foundations, with graphic novels and designs that were exquisite,” Grazer told me. “We can’t afford to buy to buy Marvel, so the key is to find another generating source for movies in that universe. Zak was enormously charismatic and his ideas were different from the typical movies Imagine has made. I wanted to bet on him and his team.”
Kadison oversees film and TV projects, while Lieb runs the comic and graphic novel creations. The vidgame execution is spearheaded by Long and Alexander who are co-CEOs of Seattle-based Zombie Studios, which has been around since 1994 designing and producing 28 games on every platform.
Though Imagine itself is a prolific self-generator — Robin Hood gets released in May, Cowboys and Aliens will shoot this year as will the Allan Loeb comedy Howard will direct with Vince Vaughn — Grazer said his focus has been to succeed exclusively in one medium like film or TV. He admired how properties like Star Wars and The Matrix expanded successfully beyond films, and liked Kadison’s proactive expansion approach. “Studios gobbled up pre-branded properties like Asteroids and Battleship, but as an exec I would hear pitches from writers and see nobody coming with visuals, and there was nobody at the studio managing intellectual properties over all divisions,” Kadison said.