EXCLUSIVE: In the latest attempt by a book publisher to produce what it publishes, Macmillan Publishers has launched Macmillan Films, a new shingle that will be spearheaded by Brendan Deneen. A former Hollywood development and production executive for Scott Rudin and Harvey & Bob Weinstein, Deneen will start the venture while continuing as an editor at Thomas Dunne Books. Macmillan Films kicks off with a deal with Summit Entertainment for Tempest, a manuscript by Julie Cross that is meant to be the first in a trilogy. The book about a 19-year old time traveler who witnesses his girlfriend’s murder just as he jumps back two years will be published by Thomas Dunne Books, a division of St. Martin’s Press. Sonny Mallhi is producing while Deneen will be executive producer with Roy Lee. Macmillan Films joins Random House Films and Alloy Entertainment as publishing-based enterprises intent on staying involved in certain projects during the filmmaking process. Each has a different strategy: Random House Films, headed by longtime editor Peter Gethers, co-finances films in a joint venture with Focus Features. So far, RHF has teamed with Focus on Reservation Road but there are promising projects in the offing. Director Lone Scherfig just wrapped the Anne Hathaway-Jim Sturgess drama One Day, based on the David Nicholls; Brad Pitt and Darren Aronofsky just became attached to an adaptation of John Vaillant’s The Tiger, Stephen Frears will direct an adaptation of the Beth Raymer memoir Lay the Favorite, and Dreamgirls’ Bill Condon and Laurence Mark are adapting the Arthur Phillips The Song Is You into a musical.
While RHF takes on books published by the company, Alloy Entertainment comes up with the ideas for properties in-house and then makes writer-for-hire deals to see them through. Those writers often are on the outside looking in as the company has scored big deals on Gossip Girl, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and The Vampire Diaries. Beyond book publishers, media companies like The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have agencies brokering film and TV deals based on copyrighted articles, with those companies taking part financially. Works of big authors or top contract journalists are generally excluded from these arrangements, as they have agents who make the deal and don’t involve the publishers.
Deneen said that Macmillan Films will be somewhere in between Random House Films and Alloy Entertainment. If books come through Macmillan divisions, fine, but Deneen sees most of the properties coming from ideas generated in-house.
“We are mostly looking to develop book ideas that work both as novels and movies and TV shows,” Deneen told Deadline. “We will develop the ideas in-house, and hire writers who’ll share in the success of the projects. We will retain all rights and hopefully set them up.” Macmillan Films properties will be shopped in Hollywood by Sylvie Rabineau of RWSG.
Beyond The Tempest, Macmillan Films hatched a 6-page treatment for a submarine thriller they’ve started to shop around, as well as Grimm City, a thriller based around “a number of hard to find Grimm Fairy Tales, that’s Sin City meets Neil Gaiman,” Deneen said. Ideas and concepts need approval from Deneen’s boss, Thomas Dunne, to make sure the properties will work as books.
“It’s a new way to control intellectual property because in this changing world, he who controls IP wins,” Deneen said. “Books will always be the core business here, but if you can be attached to the movie, the videogame and the Happy Meal, why not?”The protagonist is a 19-year old time traveler who witnesses his girlfriend’s murder just as he jumps back two years. Stuck in the near past, he’s recruited by a shadowy government agency run by the man he thought was his father. He vows to save his girlfriend no matter the cost.