IP Picks🔎: These Stories Kill
A gothic Nazi thriller, a summer camp killer and the sting that brought down the Dark Web's biggest opiate dealer
Welcome to The Optionist! As always, thanks for reading. I dropped in on The Ankler & Advertising Week’s NXStream Global summit at UTA on Wednesday. Learned a ton there at the various panels. Black List founder Franklin Leonard hosted an informative discussion on IP with Skydance's Jesse Sisgold and Hartbeat CEO Thai Randolph. They talked quite a bit about bringing the Air Jordan saga to the big screen in Air. It got me thinking about the difference between stories we traditionally think of as IP (a book, a Marvel comic, an article) and stories that are more akin to branded content (Air Jordan sneakers), and the interplay between those two categories right now. We’ve had movies based on toys (Transformers), theme park rides (Pirates of the Caribbean) and some unlikely consumer products (2015’s Joy, about the inventor of the self-wringing mop). Still, it strikes me that Skydance is trying something a little different with Air, where Michael Jordan (never seen on screen) and Phil Knight (Ben Affleck) take second billing to the iconic basketball shoe that is the movie’s true star. (FYI: Jesse, I wear an 8.5, for when you do drop those custom movie tie-in Jordans you hinted might be coming.) It’ll be interesting to see how many others pick up on this idea and iterate it in other films (Sony Walkman: The Motion Picture, anyone?) Thinking about IP expansively like this could open up a world of new possibilities.
I also enjoyed Lucinda Treat, the CEO of Crooked Media, talking about where podcasting is heading next — I hadn’t realized just how aggressively Crooked is moving toward developing scripted content. Jeremy Zimmer added insight about a potential strike — he's on the writer's side — and how exactly we got to this impasse.
During one Q&A, an audience member asked the panelists how gaming is supposed to figure into the Hollywood framework. Judging how tentative the response was, I got the sense that the panelists, like many others in the industry, are still wrestling with the same question. There's clearly an appetite for good game-derived content (as witnessed by the success of The Last of Us), but as Zimmer noted, despite its size and cultural power, gaming IP hasn't been well integrated into Hollywood. Certainly, there’ve been some notable successes like the Tomb Raider movies and some notable flops such as Sonic the Hedgehog. But gaming still feels like a separate business, a huge one no doubt, but a separate one. The one great exception that comes to mind is Star Wars, where the gaming component is tightly integrated into the overall franchise and is cross-generative with everything else. Seems strange to me, given the synergy we’re missing out on — an instant audience of gamers for a movie or series adaptation, a potential expansion of the gaming audience as smitten filmgoers and series viewers splurge for their first Xbox so they can dive into the story as active players. I've been trying to understand why that is and what could change the status quo (and of course how that will affect the market for gaming IP). I’ll be following up on this down the road.
Now on to this week’s picks. We’ve got two fab but very different horror thrillers, an awesome true-crime tale and a lighthearted romp about a child detective who’s now all grown up (sorta). Here’s the lineup:
A gothic thriller set in Mexico City that involves magic, film, Nazis and the occult.
A slasher film homage set at a summer camp.
The true-crime tale of how a young Iraqi immigrant became the Dark Web’s fentanyl king.
A new coming-of-age space opera centered on an alien circus, that features some fabulous world-building.
A fun story that projects what would have become of a junior sleuth like Encyclopedia Brown or Harriett the Spy — all grown up.