The Ability to Learn Something New

I really like telling stories. You may have noticed from the books I’ve written that I’m a fan of telling stories with zombies in them. They aren’t the only stories I enjoy telling, I also like writing about demons.

My goal isn’t to scare but to entertain. I’m a huge horror fan, and I enjoy that zombies force survivors to act and react in their new world, so that is why I often choose them as my catalyst to spur my characters into action. I’m endlessly fascinated with the question of what makes us human, and I think zombies and most other horror do a nice job of attempting to answer that question. The best part is that they often blur the lines of whether the human or the monster is worse.

When it comes to telling my stories, my comfort zone and expertise lies in writing. I know how to structure a story on paper; I know how to navigate from the beginning of the story to the end—even if that journey isn’t in a straight line. But that doesn’t mean I want to limit myself to telling stories on the page.

I’m a huge movie fan. There’s something magical about watching a story unfold on the screen, whether it’s in TV format or film format. There are things that can be done in movies that can’t be done in books (and vice versa). Movies can reach different audiences than a book can (and vice versa).

I’ve always dreamed of having one of my books turned into a movie, which is kind of weird if you think about it. I mean, most movies don’t do the books justice, and most people will say, “The book was so much better than the movie”—I’ve uttered these words myself. I’m totally aware that if I was ever lucky enough to get one of my books made into a movie, it might not live up to my expectations and vision.

Still, that hasn’t stopped me from wanting to break into the film medium. And a lot of the reason for this is because I want my story to reach a larger and different audience. I want people who don’t read to still experience my worlds and my characters. I want them to be entertained by something I created.

I also want to challenge myself.

I want to see if I can take the idea that I put onto the page and adapt it to be shown on the screen and still have it be fun and meaningful. I have the opportunity to take on that challenge.

I’m an indie author who doesn’t have a huge amount of sales. I’m not a household name, I don’t have the backing of a major publisher, and I don’t have a book on the New York Times bestseller list, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get my book made into a movie. It means I have to find a different way to accomplish that goal, but it could potentially get accomplished.

There are so many different ways and places for people to watch movies and shows right now, and those places need content. It opens up avenues for people outside of Hollywood to pitch their ideas and potentially see their work on screen.

For a while now, I’ve been on the mailing list and read the newsletter for Voyage Media. I’ve always been slightly skeptical about what they do, believing that they are out to scam people out of their hard-earned money. I did my research and found others were just as skeptical, but there seems to be good things about the company too.

Unfortunately, for a long time, their price tag to talk to a producer was out of my range. And then, one day it wasn’t. Every so often, the company runs a special so that authors can talk to a producer and Nat Mundel (the founder of the company) at a reduced price. I could justify and was more than willing to spend $149 on the package—even if nothing came of it.

I won’t lie, even after signing up, I was still skeptical about what would happen. I’ve contacted producers and production companies on my own in the past, and the conversations were less than encouraging. I’ve done my research about what it takes and how hard it is to break into the film industry, so I had no delusions that this route was going to get me any closer to my dream. There was hope it would, but I’m a pretty rational and realistic minded person.

But, hey, $149 to talk to a producer, what did I have to lose? The answer is always “no” if you don’t ask, and even if it was no after I asked, at least I could say I tried.

After I paid my fee, I was given access to their site and had to pick a producer and schedule a meeting. There were quite a few producers to pick from. I did a preliminary examination and read their quick blurbs, finding a few that looked promising and were looking for the type of project I was pitching, then I clicked on their links and read their full information.

After that, I picked one I thought would be a good fit and went to their calendar to schedule the phone call—only to discover that there was a glitch and I wasn’t able to view their calendar. I was trying to accomplish this task on a weekend outside of business hours, so I sent a message and figured I’d come back on Monday to see if the issue had been fixed.

On Monday, the issue still wasn’t fixed, so I used the handy dandy live chat feature they have on their site. I was instantly connected with someone, and they asked me about my project and what I hoped to accomplish, then recommended another producer whom they thought would be a better fit. I checked out their profile and figured, “What the hell.” I scheduled my phone call with them, then went on with my life.

The producer I was set up with was Michael Chamoy. When the day of our phone call came, I was only slightly nervous—and it wasn’t about talking to Michael, I was more nervous that the phone call wouldn’t go through and it would become obvious that this whole thing was indeed a scam and I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. But that didn’t happen. My call went through, and I spoke with someone who called themselves Michael who seemed to know what was going on within the movie industry.

I did not go into the phone call with high hopes. In all honesty, I was sure he would tell me that I was wasting my time trying to pitch a zombie story (I’ve been told this by producers before), especially since the market is so saturated with the undead. And while he did say it can be challenging to get my story noticed because of the amount of zombie stories out there, he didn’t say it was impossible. He didn’t say I should give up and find something else to do. He offered advice on how I could accomplish my goal.

The phone call lasted an hour, and it was both encouraging and disheartening. Michael gave me a lot of things to think about and consider, and I mulled things over in my brain for several weeks. I still had a follow-up call with Nat.

For this phone call, I was convinced it was going to be a let-me-sell-you-some-services pitch—and part of it was. After all, Nat owns Voyage, which is a business, and he stays in business by selling his product. I won’t lie, I was probably a little defensive going into the phone call. I wasn’t going to be swindled out of my money.

As a good salesman, Nat was ready for this. He knew exactly how to work through my objections and get to the heart of what I wanted to accomplish. He had read Michael’s report about our phone call and knew exactly what he had to work with. I told him that I was sure my chances were slim to none for getting my story optioned, but he encouraged me to look deeper into my issues and figure out exactly why I felt that way and if there was a way around them.

He pointed out that yes, zombies were an incredibly popular topic at the moment and yes, there were lots of stories and people trying to get their work noticed. However, all it would take would be a focus on something new and intriguing to get noticed. Zombies are popular, which means that’s where the money is because that’s what people will pay for. I could find a story to pitch in an unpopular topic, but there’s no money there. It was an eye-opening argument.

This phone call was only supposed to last 20 minutes, but it went well over. At the end, Nat totally convinced me to consider buying one of their programs, which is expensive ($2,000), but much cheaper than the $15,000 program he first offered.

Side note: Yes, I’m fully aware of the technique he used to get me to consider the cheaper program (I live with a spouse who has dedicated his life to sales, I get to hear about all the tricks of the trade day in and day out). Lead with an expensive option, one that very few people would be able to afford, then follow-up with a more affordable one that still offers high value and the opportunity to pitch my story to producers. He still wins. But you know what, I might win too.

I totally opted for the cheaper program. Have I been swindled? Hard to say. It’s still incredibly early in the process, but I do feel confident in the fact that the entire process was laid out for me in writing (I received a formal proposal and had to sign a contract). I have been given access to Basecamp, a program that lays out all of the steps that need to be followed and has contact information for everyone who is involved. While I’m fully aware this could still be a scam, it seems ridiculously elaborate at this point.

At the end of the day, nothing could come of this process. I might spend thousands of dollars and hours out of my day trying to get my story in front of producers, and they could say no. But they could also say yes. There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to take a chance.

I mulled this decision over in my brain and looked at it from every angle. I talked to my spouse about what his thoughts were, and in the end, we decided to take a risk. If nothing else, I have the opportunity to learn from the process. I can see what it takes to try to get a book turned into a film. I will get information and guidance from a producer. I will get experience—whether good or bad.

I can’t tell you how this journey will end, but I will let you go along for the ride. If you’re so inclined, you can even contribute to my education and opportunity. It doesn’t have to be much, but it will go a long way. Hopefully, I will too.

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