Vet literary shingle books sci-fi deals

FOUR YEARS after lit agent Ralph Vicinanza hatched a producing company for his stable of scifi/fantasy authors, Created By has inked a first look deal at DreamWorks and several deals.

Operating from Chelsea, Vicinanza reps authors ranging from Stephen King to the Dalai Lama. He has also been a preeminent rep of scifi and fantasy authors from Robert Heinlein to Isaac Asimov.

Vicinanza and his Hollywood-based counterpart Vince Gerardis have set the Jerry Pournelle novel “Birth of Fire” with James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment, and, subject a studio a studio deal, has Ron Bass ready to adapt the Robin Hobb trilogy “Liveship Traders,” and has enlisted “Blade” scribe David Goyer aboard three book projects that includes Robert Sawyer’s “A Flash Forward,” which Goyer hopes to produce and direct.

Created By is fueled by a library of more than 10,000 scifi and fantasy titles dating back 60 years, much of that volume accumulated in deals Vicinanza made over the past 28 years. He founded and funded Created By because he was so frustrated with the treatment those authors got from Hollywood: novels with complicated concepts were being quickly dismissed when sent directly to execs.

He empowered Gerardis to run the shingle after the young agent made two deals for author Gregory Benford with director Jan De Bont (one of them, “Eater,” will become an FX miniseries). They restrategized how to sell scifi, picking out the most makeable properties, then finding scifi-friendly screenwriters with the clout to get high level studio execs to pay attention.

They enlisted “Shrek” co-director Andrew Adamson and cowriter Joe Stillman before selling Terry Pratchett’s “Truckers, Diggers & Wings” to DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg for a CGI film. They brought in “Black Hawk Down” scribe Ken Nolan to write a lengthy “scripment” for the Greg Bear novel “Forge of God” for Warner Bros.

Then there’s Asimov. As the scifi tentpole genre has grown hotter at studios, Vicinanza’s underexploited authors are finding a new appreciation and higher option fees. Take, for example, the deals made posthumously for Asimov. His “The Ugly Little Boy” has taken root at WB with Demi Moore and Denise DiNovi producing; “Caves of Steel” landed at Universal with “Tomb Raider” helmer Simon West and “Basic” screenwriter Jamie Vanderbilt; and Asimov’s biggest selling novel, “Foundation,” is coming together at Fox with director Shekhar Kapur and scribe John Rogers.

Cameron was a longtime fan of Pournelle’s fiction, and both Bass and Goyer sparked to works as well. “I took a look at the list of properties and there were more good ones than I could make in a lifetime,” said Goyer, who is writing an outline for “A Flash Forward” with Jessica Borsiczky.

Bass has the same high hopes for “Liveship Traders.” “This is the genre I’ve always wanted to write for the screen,” He said.

Vicinanza said his authors are too happy with the good treatment they are receiving to be concerned that he might benefit financially as a producer.

“I started Created By because I was sympathetic to the frustration of my clients,” he said. “One said, ‘my option money for the last 10 years was $50,000 and you just made me $500,000 in one deal. Why shouldn’t you make money too?”

Created By has begun to handle movie deals for other Gotham lit agents, and Vicinanza said he only involves his own authors if they need help. “Stephen King’s deals are made by CAA, which does just fine for him and me,” said Vicinanza. “This wasn’t created for Stephen, but rather the substantial numbers of talented writers who’ve been completely untapped.”

“TOWER” RING TASK: While last week’s showing of sample scenes from “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” indicates Peter Jackson’s first film was no fluke, not all was harmonious between the director and New Line. Word is a bonus check that was slow in arriving to Jackson made the director equally slow in screening the pic for a local board which grants film investor tax breaks and was about to adjourn for the year.

Jackson says dustups on films this size are common, that any problems got worked out. It’s a certainty that Fine Line topper Mark Ordesky would have been at the center of the problem solving, because it’s the most important part of the double life he leads running a specialty film unit and running point on New Line’s biggest cash cow.

In four years of “Lord of the Rings,” Ordesky flew to New Zealand as many as 30 times. Last April, he worked nonstop in New Zealand, and homecomings were brief, since Ordesky was ferrying “Towers” to Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne. Those execs and Jackson entrust the footage only to Ordesky (who carries film cans and videos right on the plane). “Mark has given the studio the comfort level it needed while protecting the integrity of the books. I don’t think the films would have this level of quality were it not for Mark,” said Jackson.

Jackson and Ordesky first got tight when the director got hired for scale to write a “Nightmare on Elm Street” sequel and spent a week on Ordesky’s couch. They bonded over late-night games of Risk, and Ordesky eventually helped Jackson convince Shaye to take a gambler’s risk on “Lord of the Rings”; Shaye then tapped Ordesky to oversee it.

For a guy whose most expensive picture was Fine Line’s $6 million “Crash,” it seemed a dream job, and the price was an insane working pace that averages 18 hours a day.

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