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 Message
    From: J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com>
 Subject: Beyond five years
      To: CIS  
    Date: 2/14/1996 7:26:00 AM  

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(7 messages)


Robt Martin <75663.2701@compuserve.com> asks:
> Does Warner retain any authority to use B5 characters or premises
> in other endeavors (films, novels, action figures, teddy bears)
> without your prior approval after the five-year span? What factors
> would you say put you in a strong position for negotiating such a
> deal?

Warners owns the copyright to B5, just as Paramount owns the
copyright to ST. By contract, if there should be a spin off or sequel
of any kind, I would have to be involved in it. The contract doesn't
say that there cannot be any of these; you're correct, that can't be
negotiated.

But there are a number of common-sense things at work here, as
much as anything involving a studio can be described as common sense.
Given that all our actors/service contracts are deliberately for 5
years not the more traditional 7, continuing B5 per se past year 5
becomes impossible, due to the hideous level of re-negotiation of
contracts that would have to take place. The cost would skyrocket.

I've always said, from the start, that there's a side story
that could go off after B5 is finished, but I just don't think it's
likely for the time being. The numbers have been good enough to
continue the show, but it's not a blockbuster, not a
franchise...primarily due to the fact that we don't have a national,
regular timeslot. (Where we *do* have that, in the overseas markets,
the show is extremely successful.) There've been some small talks here
and there touching on various feature film possibilities, from
direct-to-video to something theatrical -- but, again, due to the
corporate structure at the studio, which is straight out of the pre-
Cambrian period, I doubt anything much will happen on that front for
the time begin. It's nice that they've broached the subject, but to
become a reality takes a bit more.

If I were to engage in predicting the future, here's what I
think is most probable. The show will continue to go on, doing well
enough in the ratings to continue for two more seasons. A comfortable
level. In 1998, after we've finished our first run, we are
contractually already sold to the TNT cable network, which is
*extremely* excited about the show, plans to promote it, and sees it as
a way of breaking into the SF genre. There, for the first time, we
will have a regular, *daily* timeslot on a national network.

Then, I think, suddenly we're going to be "discovered," much
the same way ST was discovered in syndication after it left the
network. Give it about a year or two for WB to notice this (see
pre-Cambrian comment above), then suddenly they're going to start
running around seeing what they can do to capitalize on this.

At that point, I'm not sure which way the runes point.
Certainly they'll start cranking out more merchandise stuff, which by
contract I have to approve, to make sure it's quality stuff. If they
want to do a feature, I'll have to be involved, and they'll have to
negotiate with all the cast members, who by then will have moved on to
other projects and may or may not be available. Ditto for any
spinoffs.

So by the time they get their brains wrapped around the
question, it'll already be the year 2000. By then, much of TV as we
know it now will have changed considerably, as it has already changed
considerably in just the last 10 years. A spinoff or sequel may no
longer be financially viable in the new marketplace. Ditto for any
features. Certainly nothing much could be done until 2002 or 2003 in
terms of development, pre-production, production and post production.

So as you can see, one doesn't need a contract saying you can't
do something...in TV, entropy tends to take care of the problem very
nicely.

jms

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