I am up to mid-eyeball (as usual), working on #MOBY (aka WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD (“My Own Heart’s Blood” = MOHB = MOH-B = MOBY Geddit? WIMOHB just doesn’t have the same ring to it), and my friend Loretta has very thoughtfully drawn up a coherent FAQ about what-all actually goes on with regard to books and film rights. She did such a great job that I didn’t see any point in adding to it or rewriting it, so have just added the occasional comment here or there. [DG]
To start with:
Sony Pictures TV leaked information on July 17, 2012 that they are working on an OUTLANDER series for cable TV, along with Ronald Moore and Essential Entertainment. After someone tweeted Diana about it, she cautiously answered that a project is in the works (but not final yet) on Facebook. Then fans and the web reacted with great excitement at the news, with over a quarter of a million people viewing the facebook post! [Actually, it’s up to some 900,000 at the moment….gracious. And by "not final yet," I mean that while there _is_ an agreement, we haven't yet signed the final contracts, as the legal language has to be worked out. DG]
The project is still developing and evolving, so to keep everyone up-to-date, here is the latest information on the OUTLANDER TV series or movie project:
Are they really making a miniseries or film about OUTLANDER?
A production company called Essential Entertainment has purchased the option on the OUTLANDER books awhile back and has been working on the possibilities of either a feature film or a series for cable TV (like “True Blood” or “Game of Thrones”). Sony Pictures TV is now involved in the deal, as well, and Ronald Moore was chosen to develop an OUTLANDER series for cable TV. The next step is to find a cable channel interested in funding and airing the project.
On July 17, 2012, Deadline Hollywood announced:
Sony Pictures TV has closed a deal for the rights to Outlander, Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling fantasy/romance/adventure series of books. Battlestar Galactica developer/executive producer Ron Moore will write the series adaptation, with Jim Kohlberg’s Story Mining and Supply Co producing. The project was pitched to cable networks. [see “pitch,” below. DG]
It’s important to realize that the road from a book to a movie or series is complex one, and a project can be cancelled at any phase. (Details on the process are given below in “How is a movie, miniseries or series made?”) No official contracts have been signed yet. At this time (July 19, 2012), the series for a cable TV channel is the project being developed.
On November 6, 2012, it was announced that the Starz cable channel has signed up to fund and air this series. See the update at the bottom of this web page.
Who is Ronald Moore? How is he involved?
Ronald Moore (right) is a successful scriptwriter and producer for television. He has been hired to be the showrunner of a possible OUTLANDER series, which means he will coordinate the project and work the OUTLANDER story lines into a TV series format. If the project is successful, he will write or oversee episode scripts, and manage the development, flow and continuity of the story from episode to episode.
Ron Moore has extensive experience developing and producing TV series. OUTLANDER’s time-travel theme has attracted many science fiction fans, who know him from his scripts and work on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. On Warner Brothers’ Roswell, he served as co-executive producer and co-showrunner, and was the executive producer and showrunner for HBO’s Carnivale series. Moore was also the executive producer and developer for the popular Battlestar Galactica remake series.
Will Diana get to control the making of a movie or miniseries, so that it will be absolutely faithful to the books?
No, but the production company is consulting with Diana, and should the show happen, she would be a co-producer. An author may be invited to be a consultant or even co-producer of a movie or series, but does not control the production once the rights are sold. (The production company decides whether to include input from an author or not.)
[Yes, yes, yes, I _know_ that JK Rowling got to have Absolute Control over movies made from the Harry Potter books. I'm not JK Rowling. For that matter, I don't think I'd _want_ Absolute Control over a process that I don't normally work in and am not familiar with. I know people who work in film, and I think it would suck my soul, waste my time, and prevent me from writing books. DG]
Fans will be happy to know that the OUTLANDER showrunner (or series coordinator), Ron Moore, is certainly working with Diana and obtaining her input for a possible TV miniseries. Ron is known for his work on the recent TV series, Battlestar Galactica, among others.
On July 18, 2012, Moore stated on his facebook page that he is a “Big fan of Diana Gabaldon‘s Outlander books for many years” and he is “excited for the opportunity to do a FAITHFUL interpretation!”
Diana reported on her facebook page:
“Actually, Ron and his chief production assistant came out and spent a weekend with me last month, discussing the books, the characters, various approaches, structural principles — i.e., where it might be best to break the content of a book for a season, an episode, etc.— the background from which I wrote the books, asked if I had any out-takes or background material written for any of the minor characters that might be useful, etc., etc. He’d read everything, including THE EXILE. <g>.”
As of July 19, 2012, Sony Pictures TV is now working on the next step, and is “pitching” the series to cable TV channels in an effort to find one interested in developing the series. (It’s not a “done deal” yet!)
On November 6, 2012, it was announced that the Starz cable network will further develop the series, and probably produce at least a pilot. See the update below.
Will Diana get to choose who will play the characters in an Outlander production?
No. All casting will be done by casting agents and the production team.
[One of the nice things about a TV series is it’s much more likely to include unknown actors— and almost certainly wouldn’t use very visible film actors, as these actors as a rule are a) a LOT more expensive, and b) very unlikely to want to sacrifice a burgeoning feature-film career to commit to a series schedule. Possibly this will make people stop insisting that Chris Hemsworth would be a great Jamie. I’m sure Mr. H. (right) is a very fine actor, but I really don’t like widow’s peaks on men. DG]
What about all those trailers for an Outlander movie that are found on the web and YouTube?
There are no “real” Outlander movie trailers on line or anywhere else. All of the videos currently on line are created by enthusiastic fans, who enjoy thinking about and displaying who they would cast in an OUTLANDER movie. About this, Diana said on Facebook on February 17, 2012:
“Many (manymanymany) nice fans have exercised their creativity by making “casting videos”, which they put up on YouTube. There are hundreds of these, ranging from the sublime to the absurd. THESE ARE NOT MOVIE TRAILERS (and I am rather surprised that so many people can’t tell that. Have you ever seen a movie trailer that didn’t have the name of the production company, release information, and an info website on it?). I have a YouTube Channel, on which we collect quite a number of these (as well as video interviews with self) at:
How is a movie, miniseries or series made?
This can certainly vary, but in the making of video versions of books the process can follow a similar path. It is important to note that any movie or series project is not a sure thing, and can be cancelled at any phase of its development. (Deals are made all the time for new series or movies, or remakes, and then many are canceled or abandoned.)
Though an OUTLANDER miniseries is in the works, it has a ways to go to be a sure thing. Here is a look at the steps often taken in making movies and miniseries, with current news about the OUTLANDER series:
1. Rights Are Purchased or Optioned: First, rights to a book, series or story are purchased (or more commonly, optioned) from an author or author’s estate by a production company. An option means that the production company has a finite period of time in which to try to put together a production deal; if they can’t do this by the expiration of the option period (anything from one to several years), the rights revert to the author.
If the financing for a production can be arranged, the option contract provides for the actual purchase price of the film rights, which usually are permanent—i.e., when a option expires, rights revert to the author. If the rights are purchased, the production company then owns the film rights, usually forever. [Which is why you want to be dang careful who you do option agreements with. DG]
The author usually gives up control to the production company. It’s interesting to note that many books and book series are “optioned,” or their rights sold, but few actually make it to the screen or TV. Also, works can be optioned over and over again by different production companies!
[We’ve optioned the OUTLANDER series just four times in the last twenty years. See “dang careful,” above. DG]
For Diana’s OUTLANDER series, a production company called Essential Entertainment purchased the option (with renewals) several years ago and has been working on the possibilities of either a feature film or a miniseries.
2. The Film or TV Version Is Developed:The production company may hire personnel to create “treatments,” which show in rough form how a TV series, miniseries, or film might appear. Research may be done to see how popular the film or series might be, and tries to determine the target audience a project would appeal to, and whether it is likely to be financially successful. At this point, the production company decides whether the story would work best as a theatrical movie, a potential multi-year TV series, or as a finite miniseries.
What is the difference between a series and miniseries?
A TV series is ongoing and usually begins with a pilot episode, then has weekly episodes that are planned in yearly increments. Episodes may be a half-hour or hour each week during the TV season, and new episode scripts may be added throughout the production. A TV miniseries is completely scripted from the beginning and planned with a finite number of episodes from the outset. A movie or filmis a 2 to 3 hour production designed for showing in a theatre or on a TV channel.[Well, that’s not _quite_ right, but pretty close. There’s a difference between regular non-cable weekly TV series, which Loretta is describing above, and the special series (usually of 13 episodes per season, but might be fewer) done for cable TV (HBO, Showtime, Starz, Netflix, whatever); these may run for several seasons.
As pointed out above, Ronald Moore, who is signed with Sony Pictures TV, is developing a cable series of OUTLANDER as the showrunner.
3. A Draft Script or Outline:A movie script draft or series pilot script draft may be written by screenwriters or a series coordinator. For a series or miniseries, the coordinator may create an outline of possible episodes and seasons. [In the case of a TV series, the pilot script usually comes _after_ the pitch. DG]
4. The Pitch and Funding Process: Once the movie or series idea is developed well enough, the production company tries to find funding and a movie or TV company to sponsor the project. The movie or series idea is pitched to TV or movie production company executives. In this step, the production personnel and maybe the script authors present their draft scripts and ideas to executives. Possible actors for the work may be mentioned if their casting will help with success of the project. The funding company [or companies] usually provides the major funding and handles distribution of the work, when it is to be released and where, future DVD and web showing rights, licensing of products associated with the production, etc.
5. Pre-production: Once funding is obtained and the deal is worked out, the pre-production phase proceeds to start casting actors, choosing sites and studios for shooting, working out shooting schedules, all that movie or TV work stuff.
6. Production: In the production phase, a movie or series is filmed. With a TV series or miniseries, production and release of the work to a TV channel may begin while still in production. In a movie, there is a finite production period.
7. Post-Production: Movies typically have a post-production period that occurs after all shooting is done. Special effects, credits, etc. are added at that time. In a TV series, the post-production work may have to be completed on each episode before it is released, while other episodes are still in production.
[I’m sure there’s a lot of stuff that neither Loretta nor I know yet, but so far as I do know, this is pretty much right so far. DG]
Update: The Starz Cable Channel Will Develop Outlander Series
On November 6, 2012, it was announced that the Starz cable channel will develop the Outlander miniseries with Sony Pictures TV and Ron Moore. Ron Moore will write the series adaptation. This means that at least a pilot episode will probably be developed in 2013. Click here to read the article on Deadline Hollywood’s web site.
This page last updated on December 16, 2012 by Loretta.
References and Thanks
- Some information courtesy of outlanderfan.com at http://outlanderfan.com/outlander-movieminiseries-news/
- Moore Reups With Sony Pictures, by Nellie Andreeva, TV Editor, Deadline Hollywood, Thursday, March 29, 2012.
- Ron Moore to Adapt OUTLANDER Novels into Cable TV Series, by Nellie Andreeva, Deadline Hollywood, Tuesday, July 17, 2012.
- Starz to Develop Series Version of OUTLANDER Novels From Ron Moore and Sony. by Nellie Andreeva, Deadline Hollywood, Tuesday, November 6, 2012.