Interview with Red Eagle Entertainment
Last August, Variety reported that Universal Pictures and Red Eagle Entertainment had acquired the rights to THE EYE OF THE WORLD and intended to adapt it into a major motion picture. At the time, there was been a pretty intense fan reaction to this news: both excited and hesitant. In order to find out what was really going on, and in order to a clear idea of where things were going, we sat down with Rick Selvage from Red Eagle and asked him some questions that were on everyone's mind.
Here's the complete interview. We'll also be publishing a similar Q&A with Harriet Rigney in the near future where she talks about her involvement and opinion of the situation, as well as what Robert Jordan himself had been hoping for.
DM: First of all, thank you for agreeing to do this interview. So many fans are passionate about the possibility of a movie based on the WHEEL OF TIME that there's a great many questions to be addressed. But first, please tell us about Red Eagle Entertainment and Rick Selvage and Larry Mondragon. Your names were mentioned recently in an article published in Variety, the film industryâ€™s trade magazine.
REE: Larry and I founded Red Eagle Entertainment in 2003 to identify and develop projects for film, television and other media. We had set pretty tough criteria for our projects, and we only pursued properties that we were truly passionate about and that we believed held some special value that were differentiated from all other works in their genre. Just as important, it was imperative that any project we undertook (story, characters, world, etc) could be adapted creatively to film, television and video games. Of course, the WHEEL OF TIME far exceeds all the criteria we set, and as a bonus, is accompanied by a vast and loyal following of fans from around the world!
Between the two of us, we have a combined fifty years of executive experience in the licensing, marketing and distribution of consumer products and services such as electronics, video games, digital television and multimedia entertainment on-line services. We have executive experience that ranges from guiding small entrepreneurial startups to leading the digital efforts of Fortune 500 companies in the film, television, music, publishing, broadcasting, cable, sports and advertising industries. We have been on the boards of companies including a major Hollywood special effects company and have negotiated hundreds of licensing and distribution agreements. In other words, we have been around the block.
Regarding the movie-- and we know this will be frustrating to WOT fans, so we apologize in advance-- but it is too early for us to talk about the details of the movie Larry and I are producing. Those of you familiar with the film business will understand. Please rest assured that when we have something meaningful to share, we will do so as appropriate. We are sure it wonâ€™t be too much longer until we can share some specifics about the movie project.
DM: So regarding some aspects around the movie; weâ€™ve heard about "options" and "purchases". Can you explain the difference for those of us not familiar with how the movie industry works?
REE: Red Eagle Entertainment optioned the WHEEL OF TIME property through a subsidiary about five years ago. Simply put, an option is the right to acquire something at a later time and at terms and conditions that have been agreed upon in advance. In our case, the option gave us the ability to purchase rights to develop, produce and distribute films and television programming based upon the WHEEL OF TIME, and also to license the themes and characters of the story for various applications such as video games and consumer products. We exercised our option and purchased these WHEEL OF TIME rights in February of 2008. And as you know, we are beginning with the adaption of "The Eye of the World", which we intend to develop as a big-budget, live-action film for a theatrical release to a global audience.
DM: How long have discussions with major studios been going on? It appears no studio signed an agreement with you during the first few years that you had the option.
REE: As you can imagine, with nearly 10,000 pages of very complex storytelling and with more than 1,700 named characters, THE WHEEL OF TIME is an extremely challenging story to adapt to a feature-length film. Quite frankly, the project was too challenging for some studios, because of the size of the literary work, its depth, the required budget, etc. The WHEEL OF TIME is an epic on the scale of STAR WARS! What other film project can you put in that category? The point is this is not a $30M romantic comedy. Remember, it took THE LORD OF THE RINGS 40 years to make it to the big screen.
This project is a HUGE challenge for even the biggest and best studios, directors and writers, but it also presents an extremely rare opportunity. In the last several years we considered and pursued many avenues for the development of this project. We have held discussions with many writers, directors and studios regarding how this project ought to be adapted, including such basic questions as: "should the adaptation be a live-action picture, an animated film or a television mini- series?" We have worked hard at identifying the elements needed for success, and we have given special focus to the selection of the most appropriate medium for telling the story and the creative talent needed to successfully adapt Jimâ€™s novels into a compelling screenplay. In addition, it was very important to us to make sure we found a long-term home with a major studio that truly believes in our project.
Today, we think we are on the right trajectory with the project. The adaptation of THE WHEEL OF TIME novels to film is just something that we all need a lot of patience with. More than anything, we want it done right!
DM: A few years ago, fans of Jim's work became familiar with you because you were involved in publishing the NEW SPRING comic series. Unfortunately, issues 6 through 8 which would have completed the series where never produced and published. Now, of course, there are fans that were not happy about this. What's your reaction to this and what can you tell us about the chances of completing the series.
REE: We share in the disappointment of fans that the NEW SPRING comic was not completed. While the interruption in the publication of the NEW SPRING was beyond our control, we never gave up on trying finding a way to finish the comic series. After several attempts, we believe that we have finally succeeded. We cannot say more at the moment, but we nevertheless expect good news to be forthcoming in the near future regarding the completion of the NEW SPRING comic.
DM: In one of his last blog posts, Jim made a negative comment about Red Eagle Entertainment that fueled a lot of speculation about Red Eagle Entertainment and your intentions with respect to THE WHEEL OF TIME. How will you convince Jimâ€™s fans to trust you and give their full support to Red Eagle Entertainmentâ€™s WHEEL OF TIME projects?
REE: Let us first say that nothing Jim ever said did anything to diminish our great respect for him, his creative energy, and his vision for THE WHEEL OF TIME. He has set the bar very high, and we intend to honor his memory by carefully undertaking our film and other projects so as to meet the same standards of quality that he brought to his authorship of THE WHEEL OF TIME epic.
Of even more importance, we will be working closely with Harriet as a trusted advisor on our movie and other projects. In addition, we are making great efforts to ensure that we incorporate a fan perspective into our thinking. Accordingly, we have established formal relationships with some of the most knowledgeable leaders within THE WHEEL OF TIME community to seek out their views on our film production efforts. We have called on them in the past, and expect to do so more frequently as our film and other projects get ramped up.
Although we are big fans of THE WHEEL OF TIME, we continue to augment our understanding of the series by immersing ourselves in the collective wisdom of THE WHEEL OF TIME fan community. We are thankful for the many top-quality WHEEL OF TIME reference websites, such as Encyclopedia WOT. We also spend much time regularly reading through all of the major fan message boards, including Dragonmount, Tar Valon, WOT Mania, and many others. We are continually impressed at the insights we gain from reading the many thoughtful postings made by the members of the online community. For the time being, WHEEL OF TIME fans should consider these web boards a good way to make their thoughts known to the producers of the motion picture.
Brandon Sanderson had it right when he observed that a book-based movie is much more than the literal filming of the pages from a novel. Not surprisingly, in order to make a compelling motion picture from a lengthy literary work, there are countless trade-offs and creative choices that have to be made, especially when the source material is as voluminous as THE WHEEL OF TIME. And we keenly know that no matter what choices are made, some within THE WHEEL OF TIME community will always take issue with whatever is decided. In fact, it is not lost on us that there are many fans of THE LORD OF THE RINGS that to this day still revile Peter Jacksonâ€™s adaptation of Tolkienâ€™s story.
It is important for all WHEEL OF TIME fans to know that our goal is not to make a motion picture that replaces the experience of reading Jimâ€™s novels. That, be assured, would be an impossible task. Instead, we are aiming to create an entirely new experience that complements, extends and enhances the reading experience. We will do this carefully and with the full benefit of the thinking of Harriet, our group of WHEEL OF TIME subject-matter experts, and the combined wisdom of the entire WHEEL OF TIME community, so fans can rest assured that we will have plenty of help in our task.
Got something to say? Weâ€™re listening!
DM: I am sure the fans appreciate your candor regarding issues that have been out there for a while. Are you planning to communicate in the future with the fan base, and if so, how?
REE: Jason, we will drop by on a regular basis when we have something of significance to share with THE WHEEL OF TIME community. We of course will have some restrictions on what we can say due to our third party obligations, but we intend share as much as we can. In the future, we are exploring several ways to increase our ability to share timely information about each of our projects. While there may be some periods of silence, this will either be because we have nothing new to share or because we canâ€™t disclosure some aspects of our projects due to partner commitments. We should also say that we have seen a lot of misinformation on the message boards claiming to give insight into our film and other WHEEL OF TIME projects. For example, fans would do well to ignore postings allegedly containing second and third-hand â€œinside informationâ€ about our WHEEL OF TIME film project that is currently making the rounds on the message boards. This is going to be a long and crazy journey for all of us, but we welcome everyone along for the ride!
Jason, thanks for giving us an opportunity to answer your questions.
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