by the Emmy Award-Winning Journalist and Entrepreneur, Ana Bencomo
MIAMI, FL - Walls, walls, walls! It seems they're everywhere now. They cause the longest shutdown in our country's history and became the topic of endless memes. But long before President Trump promised to build one, there were already invisible walls that divided the business of entertainment. But like the typical science fiction villain, let me lay down some back story and tell you about a place where there are no walls (or, at least not yet): the planet Mars.
You see, long before the #MarsLanding was trending in the news, Andy Weir was writing a story called The Martian about an astronaut stranded on Mars; which then became a bestselling book that was adapted into a screenplay by Drew Goddard; which then became a feature film that was nominated for multiple Academy Awards (including Best Adapted Screenplay) - and there, in one paragraph, is the full cycle of a story, from page to screenplay to screen. Now cue in the new entertainment giants like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon and then fast-forward to a future where stories are no longer born in just one medium and then get "adapted" into another, but rather, they're born as one literary property, say a play or a book, then evolve across the page—from a play to a video game, or a web series, or even a feature film—and each of these new layers adds on a whole new side to the story that would have been otherwise impossible to discover had the story just remained in one, singular literary plane.
So where do these magic walls come in? I wanted to ask one of those writers, so I sat down for coffee with Gloria R. de los Reyes, a fellow journalist and cross-genre author who is the current Showrunner for Across The Page Club, a new subscription box service that is the first in the market to target screenwriters, playwrights, and cross-genre writers. "Although we poke some fun at the Network Execs on the site, making them the literal villains of our story," jokes Gloria, "I have friends who are or have been Network Executives and who are amazing people, so that's not the issue. The walls we were all hitting, both literally and figuratively, were the ones built around each sub-industry, making it much harder to successfully cross-over." A fact Gloria knows first hand. With twenty years in the business, including multiple news and non-fiction TV credits under her name, she hit one of those invisible walls when she decided to cross-over into fiction in 2018. "It was like literally starting over from scratch, which surprised me a bit. Although in hindsight, I suppose it shouldn't have. The entertainment industry can be very territorial, it's the reason cross-over writers like Shonda Rhimes and Aaron Sorkin are such rare beasts. But this is 2019, the world of Amazon and Youtube! Writers shouldn't have to wait anymore for a Network Exec to buy their story to be able to transform them across these multiple platforms. Like Shonda Rhimes says, writing is the one job you don't have to get hired to do. It's just a matter of wanting to push your story beyond the expected norms, for the word is certainly mightier than the Network Executives' purchasing budgets."
But haven’t super franchises like Star Wars and Harry Potter already evolved far beyond their original medium—pushing the boundaries of the original tale with each new version? I had to ask and Gloria was quick to answer: “Yes, but the future may hold similar evolutions for smaller, non-franchise stories if their writers are willing to invest in going beyond one literary dimension, to grow the story and characters across the page, stage or even digital screens. And that’s precisely the future that we predict and want to help build. Our main subscribers are writers who truly enjoy dissecting the science behind their art, across the full evolution of a story."
But the club's start has been a bit rocky. They failed to garner enough attention for their first Kickstarter campaign in December 2018 and then missed their scheduled launch date in January by two weeks. "Apparently, I'm SEO stupid so we ended up hiring outside help for that, but it was too late for the campaign." Answered Gloria, "Despite our best effort, sometimes things don't go exactly as planned, I guess. Which is why, in honor of those first screw-ups and the recent Mars Landing, The Martian seemed like the perfect choice to feature in our first Box, which included a copy of Andy Weir's book, The Martian DVD, as well as a copy of Goddard's screenplay." Gloria also interviewed Andy for ATP's 4-Question author insights and was inspired to do something a little impulsive.
"Well, based on the off-hand remarks of some screenwriters and agents, it's still a little taboo to self-publish if you want to be considered by Hollywood. Again, the walls, right? But Andy's book is really a testament of what readers are able to do if they really love your story, and sometimes you just have to reach for the stars. So I decided to publish my dystopian holiday manuscript, The Olive Tree, as an e-book in December, whether it grows beyond that is a story for another day. Because if you get me started about my own writing, we'll never finish this interview!"
Needless to say, breaking down any wall is certainly no small feat, and if the current political climate is any indication, there are those who would insist on their necessity. But what is a story without a good conflict and the suspense of things yet to come? Which leads us to ask, like the closing teasers of one of those old radio programs: will the Across The Page Club meet its lofty goal or are they a little too ahead of the game and the cross-genre world is just not ready? Will Gloria's e-book find enough readers to launch it beyond the dreaded self-published e-book status or will it linger in the catacombs of Amazon forever?
Dramatic, I know, but isn't that what the entertainment industry is all about? For like any great story, we'll just have to wait and see if our protagonists got the timing right on this one. But no matter the outcome, just opening the topic up for discussion has already sparked some of us to start thinking "outside the box," if you'll pardon the (very cliché) pun. So if you’re a cross-genre or cross-platform writer, the future may be looking exceedingly stellar. As Gloria would put it, just "reach for the stars!"
If you’d like more info, visit ATP's website acrossthepage.club and make sure to click on the Writer's Room link for a bit of Gloria's screenwriting comedy. If you're an influencer and would like a sneak peek at their upcoming box, go ahead and contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ana Bencomo is an Emmy award-winning journalist and entrepreneur and has no association or business relationship with the Across The Page Club.