Publisher taps producer for film adaptations

HarperCollins is taking a page from Random House Films, inking with Gotham producer Jeffrey Sharp.

Deal essentially amounts to a first-look pact for Sharp, with the producer interacting with editors on new titles with development potential, as well as combing the publisher’s catalog for tomes that could be turned into pics.

The producer will have an office in the News Corp. publisher’s Gotham headquarters.

“As an independent producer, one of the great challenges is to have access to great material. This allow us to do that,” Sharp said.

Though scouts and agents often evaluate or sell tomes before they are fully formed, Sharp said the ability to be inhouse would allow for a greater degree of influence before a book is published. “This offers the ability to interact earlier in the process, so we can develop the material in a more creative way,” he said.

The producer, who is behind indie dramas such as “Boys Don’t Cry” and “You Can Count on Me,” as well as recent Focus release “Evening,” split from longtime collaborator John Hart last year. He has since hung out his own shingle, Sharp Independent, while Hart launched film and legit production banner Evamere.

The HC banner, which will be called Sharp Independent Harper Collins, will encompass all HarperCollins imprints. This includes the flagship Harper imprint, which among others published the bestseller “The Dangerous Book for Boys,” which Scott Rudin is developing for Disney, and the William Morrow unit, which released canine bestseller “Marley & Me,” a Fox 2000 pic starring Jennifer Aniston.

Several books have, in fact, already been optioned by Sharp as part of the deal and will likely be disclosed soon, reps said.

The deal is non-exclusive, parties emphasized; titles will continue to be sold to other producers and studios, while Sharp will develop projects from other publishers’ lists.

And sources said that, unlike the Random pact with Focus Features, Harper has chosen not to finance any projects, though that could change.

While publishers hold few film rights to titles they release, execs said this deal would make Harper more attractive by giving authors a film pipeline. “We’re constantly trying to get our authors to have a competitive advantage by giving them as much exposure as possible. What we’re doing now is expanding it to Hollywood,” said Harper/Morrow prexy Michael Morrison.

Harper had earlier set up television exec Karen Glass in the Harper office to potentially develop TV projects in a manner similar to the Sharp deal. Execs said it was unlikely that a deal would be set up with any other producers in the near future.

The creation of Random House Films with Focus two years ago set a template for collaboration between the book biz and Hollywood. While rights to titles are typically retained by the author and sold to producers by film agents, the move attempted to give publishers a greater role in the book-to-screen process.

The first pic from Random House Films is due later this month when Focus releases “Reservation Road.”

This deal will operate on a smaller scale than Random House Films, since the pact is only with one producer instead of an entire specialty division.

Still, execs said the agreement could pay dividends for both parties. “Anytime there’s a film made for a book, the publisher and the author see a significant increase in sales,” Morrison said. “If we can raise it by two or three per year, that would be really good.”

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