EXCLUSIVE: Nick Harris, most recently the co-head of ICM’s Media Rights department, has teamed with entertainment financing specialist Jason Traub to form The Story Foundation. It is a funded company that will create intellectual properties that start as books with ancillary life in film, TV and other multi-platform opportunities. Harris will take a hands-on approach in hatching ideas and guiding writers to hone them. Traub has worked as a financier to banks specializing in entertainment, and most recently has been running his own boutique financing company focused on structured lending in the media world. He is also the brother-in-law of Harris, who has brokered book and movie deals at London-based AP Watt, RWSG and ICM.
Even though the publishing business is in some disarray, Harris said he is convinced — and convinced his brother-in-law — that this was a game worth playing. “You’re asking how did I get a family member to part with money at a precarious time? We look at ourselves as being in the content creation business, so it’s not just a bet on publishing,” Harris said. “People have told us this is a good model, and we have relatively deep pockets. If we see an opportunity in self-publishing, we’ll do that, and if the best option for the property is straight to film, we can do that. The priority is publishing and the response from the East Coast is the agents are excited that we will spend money to support authors. We will figure out the lines of distribution later, how each piece of material should be published. The landscape is always changing, but with change comes opportunity.”
The construct of The Story Foundation sounds similar to that of Alloy and several other companies. But while some of those enterprises have left writers on the outside looking in when the books became movies and TV series, Harris said that The Story Foundation is cutting the authors in for a generous portion of those deals. “We looked at all those companies, and wanted to preempt the criticism coming out of the gate,” Harris said. “We met with many agents and tried hard to deal with those potential pitfalls that left writers feeling hearing, we had the idea, we paid you, and that’s the end of it. We are making writers our partners, and most of the time, we will share 50/50.” The percentage could exceed or be less than that, depending on the writer’s involvement in formulating the idea and other variables. So far, Harris said The Story Foundation has five projects in development, all of which came from his ideas.
Harris continues to manage a handful of longtime author clients like Jodi Picoult, but the new venture is his priority. “After parting ways with ICM, I literally flung myself into this,” he said. “We’ll pay writers, mainly in the young adult and high concept commercial ideas, and we’ll work closely with publishing agents to make a deal and we’ll put money into the marketing over and above what the publisher is doing. We’re hiring an editor who’ll work with us on shaping a proposal, or even a full manuscript.”