The Waiting Game

If you recall, ma’ams and/or sirs, Empty Set Entertainment currently has two properties optioned for TV series. NOCTURNAL is being developed by Lloyd Levin (producer of HELLBOY, DIE HARD 2, THE WATCHMEN), and INFECTED is being developed by Timberman/Beverly Productions (JUSTIFIED, ELEMENTARY). What, you say? You have two series in development?  Yes. We are fat cats. We are wheeler-dealers. We drive limos and smoke big cigars.

Well … not so much. Consider us Fat Cats in Waiting.

And waiting. And waiting. And … (wait for it) … waiting.

Welcome to the reality of Hollywood, folks. Some people call this “development hell.” We’re so deep in it, I think I’m growing a forked tail. A little farther down this post, I’ll give you the timelines involved, so you can see how it’s simultaneously not so bad considering how the industry works, and fucking maddening a tad frustrating since I have the attention span of an ADD flea.

The thing is, these things take time. A SONG OF FIRE AND ICE, Book I of the GAME OF THRONES series by George R.R. Martin, came out in August of 1996. First episode the TV adaptation? June of 2011. For one of the biggest fiction series of all-time, there was a 15-year wait. Another heavy hitter, Diana Gabadon, had to wait even longer to see her biggest success hit the small screen. She published OUTLANDER in 1991, and the first episode of that adaptation premiered on Starz in late 2014 — a twenty-three year wait.

With my hard livin’, I won’t last another two decades, folks, so let’s hope this happens sooner than that.

My point is that even monstrously successful series can take decades to hit. INFECTED was published in 2008, NOCTURNAL in 2013, so both books are still early in the process, comparatively.

The Expanse on SyfyThen again, some authors have the right book at the right time, like James S.A. Corey. Corey, who I hate because I am jealous love, is the author of THE EXPANSE series. The first book, LEVIATHAN AWAKES, was published in the oh-so-long-ago time of 2011, and it’s already coming out as a SyFy series later this year. In book-to-TV time, this is like a toddler entering the Olympics and nailing the gold medal in diving with a Triple Lindy. I’m ready to strangle someone with barbed wire made from pure envy really excited for this show.
Blake Crouch Wayward PinesAnd there’s Blake Crouch’s WAYWARD PINES series, due out from Fox TV on May 14 of this year. Crouch published the first book, PINES, in August of 2012. Maybe you haven’t heard of Crouch, but Kindle readers certainly have: the dude sells a crap-ton of 1s and 0s. The TV series is produced by M. Knight Shymalan, who — like him or hate him — has tons of of production juice despite domestic box office disappointments. From publication of Book I to TV show in less than two years? Amazing.

So, yeah, TV adaptations can run the gamut of a couple of years to decades. Means I shouldn’t panic about INFECTED and NOCTURNAL, right? I know that. My head knows that. But try telling it to my Everyone Is Out To Screw Me Lizard Brain™.

NOCTURNAL was optioned back in July of 2013 (here’s the announcement from this very website), but we’ve been working with Levin since April 2012.  INFECTED is more recent, optioned around August  of 2013 (and here’s that story). Realistically for the TV industry, three years (for NOCTURNAL) and not even two (for INFECTED) isn’t a big deal. But in the Internet Age. Man, that feels like a ton of time.

We came very close with NOCTURNAL, and almost had a deal with the production company eOne (they make the shows BITTEN, HAVEN, HELL ON WHEELS and more). It fell through at literally the last possible second, and we had to start over. Frustrating to get that close? Damn right it is. Meetings, concepts, lots of calls, excitement, then when it came time to get the show on the road, eOne decided it wasn’t for them. Nothing to get mad about here, this happens — when you are about to drop big bucks on producing a series, everything has to be just right, and if it’s not, you don’t make the deal. It’s that simple.

INFECTED is still at an earlier stage. ARealGirl and I have met with Carl Beverly of Timberman/Beverly, but his company is so busy from massive success that he just hasn’t had time to put the package together and take it to market. Recently, he had his hands full with JUSTIFIED’s final season, and now, he’s shooting a pilot for DOUBT, a series that will be on CBS. Yeah, dude is killing it right now. Not much we can do but wait for our at-bat to come up in the rotation. When will that be? We have no idea, Junkies.

What makes the waiting game harder is the growing number of networks doing hard scifi and/or horror. With THE WALKING DEAD and GAME OF THRONES still leading the charge, genre fiction adaptations are getting their shot if not outright doing great, i.e. THE STRAIN, GOTHAM, SLEEPY HOLLOW and more.

But to make the waiting even more nails-on-a-chalkboard are the new places popping up where shows like NOCTURNAL might flourish. These are companies with money to invest in original programming, places to watch shows that didn’t exist even five years ago:

  • XBox Network (untitled HALO series)
  • Playstation Network (POWERS)
  • Hulu (BRAQUO [okay, not genre, but still, original drama with guns and what-not]).

And that’s in addition to the big three, the cable channels, HBO, the aforementioned Starz, etc. As the writer, you’re all like, there are FIVE MILLION places you could get this show sold, what’s happening already? Of course, if it was that easy, everyone and their sibling would have a show. Guess what? It’s not that easy.

Levin is out there swinging for the fences. If anyone knows monstery goodness, it’s the guy who got HELLBOY made. Timberman/Beverly is a red-hot company right now, with multiple successful shows on the air. That won’t last forever (it never does in the TV biz), but right now they have a great chance of getting INFECTED made.

No, we don’t have a show even close to being made, but we’re in a good spot, and our chances are still decent. So, we wait. And we wait. And we …

(wait for it … )

Oh, you want to know what Harrison Ford in TEMPLE OF DOOM has to do with the INFECTED series? Not a damn thing. But it sure looks cool, don’t it?

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  1. Brett Morgan

    This may sound stupid and I get that dollar wise it’s WAY down the road. But, have you ever considered animation for the GFL? Whether a blockhead kid or a transforming robot, everything costs the same in animation.

  2. Marha Cummins

    I would love to see the GFL as a series! I picture the non humans but to see what they really look like would be great! Just think of the actors to play the parts! lol You write great stories! Wish you all the luck !

  3. Chris Toohey

    I suspect you used the ToD image because going through this whole experience feels like a villain trying to rip your heart out!

    The way I see it, it took non-traditional publishing and distribution to bring us these stories, so it’s only fitting that they find a home in this evolving medium of original programming distribution.

    … and I say “fitting that they find a home” and not “[hopefully will] find a home”, because the only variable is time.